Newcomer Kansas among title challengers
DES MOINES, Iowa -- Tuesday's pre-NCAA track and field national championship news conference featured the usual suspects. Included were coaches from Texas A&M, Louisiana State, Oregon, Florida, Arizona and… Kansas?
Yes, Stanley Redwine, coach of the team that's never won a team or individual title at the national outdoor meet, was invited to sit in with the group of elite coaches. And the invitation was not charity; Kansas enters this week's meet, which runs Wednesday through Saturday, ranked No. 2 nationally -- the Jayhawks' highest mark since rankings were created in 2007.
Kansas, which has never finished higher than 14 at the national outdoor meet, has athletes in 13 of 21 events.
Diamond Dixon, who finished third in the 400-meter dash last year, hopes to become the first Jayhawks women's outdoor champion. She's also part of a 4 x 400 relay team that recorded the fastest time in the nation this season (3:28.10).
If not Dixon, Andrea Geubelle may quench the Kansas title drought. She holds the top mark in the triple jump at 46 feet, 6 inches, seven inches better than the second-best jump. Others that have a shot include Demi Payne who enters the pole vault seeded second, Alena Krechyk, who is third in the hammer throw, and Francine Simpson, who is fourth in the long jump.
Kansas was runner-up to Texas at the Big 12 meet last month. The Jayhawks had hoped to win their first ever conference crown, though, as consolation, they did better Texas A&M, which has won the past three national championships.
The Aggies are ranked fourth and despite their run of titles, coach Pat Henry said Tuesday "I always feel like the underdog at this thing."
Henry said top-ranked LSU, which has qualified in 16 events, and Oregon are threats to end his team's reign, along with Kansas.
"Stanley has done a great job this year and he's got a great group of athletes," Henry said.
Louisiana State has won 14 women's national championships and is this year's favorite, but the sentimental choice at Drake Stadium will be the Jayhawks.
"It's been a long process," Redwine said. "We see high-level competition all the time, and we don't like losing."