At the Big 12 outdoor track championships this weekend, the Kansas State women’s team finished in second place with 156.5 points, just 15.5 points behind Texas.
But the team came oh-so-close to its own #3MAW moment, a third straight Big 12 title, and the disappointment of falling just short of the ring should not color what was a brilliant outing for the women.
Kansas State began the competition in the lead, and for much of the weekend, the Wildcats never looked back. This was mostly due to the team’s near-total domination of the field events.
Not only did Kansas State athletes take gold in the hammer throw (Helene Ingvaldsen), long jump (Taishia Pryce), shot put (Taylor Latimer), and triple jump (Shardia Lawrence), they also finished second in the hammer throw (Shaelyn Ward), high jump (Clare Gibson), triple jump (Konstantina Romaiou) and discus (Ashley Petr), in addition to other podium positions in those events.
Then there was the heptathlon, where Lauren Taubert ended the first day of competition in the lead, and briefly gained it back before finishing second. She was joined by teammates Ariel Okorie and Morgan Coffman, the three combining for a 2-3-4 finish in the event.
So thorough was Kansas State’s control of the field events that the Wildcats actually led by as much as 47 points at one point on the final day of the competition.
(I know what you’re thinking: wait a minute. We’re #HighJumpU, but we didn’t win the high jump? Well, it’s true that Kansas State didn’t take home gold in the women’s high jump, but the team got 12 points and two podium finishes off the event. Plus, Taubert, Coffman, and Okorie went 1-2-3 in the high jump portion of the heptathlon. Besides, we’re actually #HammerThrowU now).
Unfortunately, the lead began to unravel with the track events. Although a 2nd place finish by the 4x100 relay squad (Pryce, Asha Cave, Ranae McKenzie and Akia Guerrier) and decent podium positions for Kassidy Johnson (4th; 1500m), Okorie (7th; 100H), Cave (7th; 100m), and Alex Ferguson (5th; 800m) helped expand Kansas State’s lead, Texas was closing fast.
The Longhorns finished 2nd, 3rd, and 7th in the 400m race, an event that featured no Kansas State runners, and the race to the finish line (pun only partly intended) was on.
Ranae McKenzie and Lauren Taubert made a massive contribution to the Wildcats’ title hopes, going 1-2 in the 400H race to pad Kansas State’s lead. McKenzie, in particular, was on fire, beating the rest of the field by almost 1.5 seconds.
But alas, it was not enough. With only one Kansas State runner in contention, Texas managed to sweep the top three spots in the 200m race for a whopping 24 points, leaving Kansas State with just a two point lead. Then, in the 5000m event, another race with no Kansas State participation, Texas totaled 9 points, took the lead, and then sealed the deal by winning the 4x400 relay, the last event of the championships.
Kansas State’s men’s team finished in fourth place, with 85 points. Texas Tech won the actual title with 164 points, and no other team even got close.
Although the team could not equal its historic performance from a year ago, for a short while on Saturday, a solid outing in the decathlon—where Aaron Booth, Simone Fassina, Max Estill, and Kyle Parr had finished 2-3-4-5—gave Kansas State a lead over the entire field. That was short-lived, and eventually, Texas Tech overtook the Wildcats and never looked back.
Highlights for the men’s team included Tejaswin Shankar’s first outdoor Big 12 title to go with the indoor conference title he won earlier in the year. Shankar is also the defending NCAA outdoor high jump champion, so for now, he has a full complement of titles, which is only fitting at #HighJumpU. (See, I told you we were still doing that. Maybe).
Brett Neelly, competing in his final Big 12 outdoor championships, had a shaky outing in the shot put but still finished third. He bettered that on the final day taking 2nd in the discus event despite beginning his run with a foul. Cameron Lewis and Colin Echols also made the podium in discus, giving the team its most successful event of the day.
Podium finishes in the 4x100 relay (Nick Albus, Jullane Walker, Justin Davis, and Angelo Gordon), 400m (Davis), 100m (Walker), and 4x400 relay (Antoni Hoyte-Small, Davis, Albus, Shankar) made for the rest of the team’s scoring.
The 2018-19 campaign will end for some Wildcats with a trip to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon.