FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Kansas track & field got off to a solid start on the first day of action at the 2014 NCAA West Preliminary Thursday afternoon at John McDonnell Field on the University of Arkansas campus. Four Jayhawks advanced to the next round in their respective events, including sophomore Sydney Conley, who was the first Kansas athlete to punch her ticket to the 2014 NCAA Championships after she took fifth in the long jump.
The Kansas women got their first qualifier to the national meet with Conley's strong performance in the long jump. The Fayetteville native cruised into the finals with a second attempt leap of 6.15 meters (20’2¼”), which sat her in eighth with three jumps still to come. After fouls on her next two trips down the runway, Conley soared to a mark of 6.25 meters (20’6¼”) on her final jump of the day. Her final attempt moved her up to fifth overall, where she eventually ended her afternoon.
With her finish inside the top-12, Conley earned a trip to her second-straight NCAA Championship meet. She will compete in the long jump final in Eugene on Wednesday, June 11 at 6:15 p.m. (CT).
First up on the track for the Jayhawk men was their three-time reining Big 12 400-meter hurdle champion, Michael Stigler. The junior out of Canyon, Texas started the drive to his third-straight NCAA Championship strong by posting the fastest time out of the six first round heats. Stigler cleared the 10 hurdles and crossed the finish in 49.84, to easily earn a trip to the quarterfinals. The win made him undefeated in all eight 400-meter races he has competed in this year. He will run for a trip to Eugene Friday at 7:30 p.m.
A pair of underclassman on the women’s side also extended their seasons be advancing through to the quarterfinals of their respective events. Sophomore Tianna Valentine turned in a solid opening-day performance as he competed in the first round of the 100-meter dash. The St. Louis product posted a time of 11.59 and finished second in her heat, which gave her an automatic pass to Friday’s quarterfinals. Her time was the 11th-fastest of the 24 women to advance. She will look to remain in the all-important top-12 following the quarterfinal heats, which are set for 6:45 p.m., Friday.
Freshman Whitney Adams closed out the day strong for Kansas after she was one of the 24 woman to move on in the 800 meters. Adams used a strong closing kick down the final 100 meters to turn in a half-mile time of 2:08.21. Her mark was one of the six non-automatic qualifying times and was 19th overall. She will look to become the first Jayhawk female to earn an 800-meter spot at the NCAA Championships in a decade as she competes in the quarterfinal Friday at 7:15 p.m.
Other notable Jayhawks who were in action but failed to move on were senior Brendan Soucie, who missed a qualifying spot by just .06 seconds in the 800 meters with his time of 1:50.46, senior Diamond Dixon, who was unable to move on to her fourth-consecutive 400-meter quarterfinal after clocking in at 54.43 and junior Casey Bowen, who tallied a 34th-place finish in the pole vault.
The Jayhawks will return to John McDonnell Field Friday for day two of the NCAA West Preliminary. Action will kick off for KU at 3 p.m., with senior Jessica Maroszek, and sophomores Daina Levy, Anastasiya Muchkayev, Dasha Tsema throwing in the women's discus. Junior Alisha Keys will close out the day on the track at 8:25 p.m., in the first round of the women's 200 meters. For updates and results from the final two days of the West Prelim, log on to KUAthletics.com and follow on Twitter and Instagram at @KUTrack.