KU closes Kansas Relays with double-digit wins on final day

photo by: Carter Gaskins/Special to the Journal-World

KU's Devin Loudermilk clears his high jump to take first place at the Kansas Relays at Rock Chalk Park on Saturday, April 20, 2024.

The Kansas track and field team concluded its strong showing at the Kansas Relays on Saturday with 11 combined first-place finishes, plus even more from unattached and former Jayhawks.

Tayton Klein was one winner on the day, as he repeated as the men’s long jump champion, following a victory in the same event at the Relays the previous season.

“It’s definitely special to come out here with the home crowd and we had a great environment today,” Klein said. “(It) was my goal, I wanted to repeat, and I want to continue to do that until I’m done after all four years.”

Klein won the event on his second jump with a distance of 7.52 meters. Nahshon Houston of Kansas City finished in second place with a 7.34 jump.

Though the win was important to Klein in terms of his personal goals, he also has plenty of other things to focus on as the Big 12 Championships and national preliminaries approach in just a few weeks. Klein, a multi and decathlete, expects to be competing in multiple events come championship time.

“I’m also preparing to run relays, or long jump … whatever it may be. So I’m just preparing to help the team in whatever way I can,” he said. “It’s just more of a mental thing, it’s about what I have to be ready for going forward. As a multi … this (preparation) starts in the fall, starts in the summer, it’s something that you build.”

Devin Loudermilk also wrapped up the day on the field on a high note with his first high-jump victory at the Kansas Relays after he cleared 2.16 on his first attempt. Loudermilk, a Kansas native, recalled his history at Rock Chalk Park and the importance of the Relays for all of its participants.

“I was, I think, 13 when I came to my first big track meet here. I did really, actually, bad, so coming back and winning, it feels nice,” he said. “I talked to a couple of high schoolers, they were wanting to see if they could talk to coach (Tom) Hays and maybe jump here some day, so it’s nice to talk to those kids.”

At the same time, it was also a redemptive result for Loudermilk, who finally claimed first place in the event after coming just shy last year, finishing second.

“I felt very relaxed. Jumping out here every day makes us feel more comfortable in (the real thing), but it was just nice to be in front of all the KU people,” he said. “Every year, I haven’t won yet, so just getting that first win here, it felt amazing.”

Loudermilk’s victory puts him in a good position heading into the final meets of the season, as he cleared the bar on the first attempt in three of his first four jumps, doing so most crucially at the 2.16 height which is what ultimately won him the event.

“Jumping the first bar (on the) first try is very important,” he said. “At Big 12 (Championships), it’s going to take first-attempt clearance at most of the bars to be able to place, so just coming out here and getting some bars first-attempt just felt nice.”

Even facing an hourlong delay for its track events due to the morning’s high school competition, Kansas’ athletes remained ready, putting on an impressive team performance at their first and penultimate outdoor home meet.

Other events with first-place Kansas finishers included women’s 1500 invitational, women’s 100 hurdles, women’s long jump, women’s 800 invitational, women’s 400 hurdles, men’s 3000 steeplechase invitational, women’s 4×400, women’s 4×400 invitational, and the men’s pole vault.

The Jayhawks will be back at Rock Chalk Park for their final home meet of the season next Saturday, when they will celebrate their seniors with the one-day meet.


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