Kansas Racks Up Victories at Big 12 Championships

LINCOLN, Neb. - Barrett Saunders, Zlata Tarasova and Egor Agafonov all picked up Big 12 individual crowns Saturday at the Big 12 Outdoor Championships in Lincoln, Neb. Tarasova and junior Ashley Brown both set new school records during the day and Agafonov broke his own Big 12 meet record in the hammer throw. Through day two of the championships, the men are first with 37 points and the women are third with 27 points.

Agafonov repeated as the Big 12 hammer throw champion Saturday, throwing a season-best and Big 12 meet record 230-01 (70.14m). The throw set an Ed Weir Stadium record and is just the second mark in the nation to eclipse 70 meters.

Agafonov is now a four-time Big 12 Conference champion, having one the last two hammer throw and indoor weight throw crowns. He is also a three-time All-American, having finished fifth in the hammer throw at the 2006 NCAA Championships, and was the 2007 NCAA Indoor weight throw national champion.

"Competition is very important to me and my team and I just wanted to come out here and do my best for the team," Agafonov said. "I do not really pay much attention to the other competitors in the event, focusing more on my own technique."

KU picked up 11 points in the men's hammer, as senior Cody Roberts, who placed third in the discus throw on Friday, rallied to an eighth-place finish in the hammer. Roberts had not thrown registered a throw of 183-03 (55.86m) to take home a point and earn a regional qualifying mark.

Junior Barrett Saunders became the first Jayhawk to win the conference title in the men's long jump since 1983 when he cleared 25-08 (7.82m). Saunders entered the competition ranked first in the Big 12 Conference and second in the nation. He cleared the mark on his third jump of the competition.

The competition was very closely contested. Second place finished in 25-07.50 (7.81m) and third place was a leap of 25-07.25 (7.80m).

"I felt great in warm-ups and definitely had the adrenaline pumping," Saunders said. "Anytime you get into a big meet like this, it is important to step up and I did that today. The competition was tough and I feel great to come out on top."

In his final Big 12 Outdoor championships, senior Eric Babb matched a career high on his final jump with a 25-02 (7.67m) leap to take fourth in the long jump. Combined with Saunders' championships, the pair brought home 15 crucial points to the KU men's team.

"Before my last jump, Coach Milan Donley told me to be aggressive because it was my last conference jump and that's exactly what I did," Babb said. "Barrett did a great job and is a deserving champion and I think the two of us represented the University of Kansas well today with our performances."

Sophomore Zlata Tarasova picked up her first Big 12 Conference championships, winning the women's hammer throw with a throw of 206-06 (62.95m). She came from behind in the event and broke her own school record twice in the competition.

"Any time someone can break their own school record twice, they know it is going to be a special day and today was very special for me," Tarasova said. "I am very excited to claim my first Big 12 Conference championship and am excited to head to Midwest Regionals and see what happens there."

After two very successful days, KU throws coach Andy Kokhanovsky humbly deferred any credit to the athletes.

"I only show them the way to get there and then they step up to perform excellently," Kokhanovsky said. "I am very proud of everyone's effort today and am honored to be their coach."

In other scores from the day, juniors Kate Sultanova and Libby Harmon finished third and seventh, respectively, in the women's pole vault. Harmon cleared a career-best 12-09.50 (3.90m) while Sultanova finished with a height of 13-05.25 (4.10m).

In track events, juniors Ashley Brown and Julius Jiles both qualified for their respective hurdles' finals Sunday. Brown, who set a new school record last Friday in Fayetteville, Ark., finished the 100-meter hurdles in 13.36 seconds. Jiles continued his assault on the conference, finishing third in the preliminaries in a time of 13.92 seconds. Jiles also qualified for the 400-meter hurdles with a season-best time of 52.02 seconds.

Also qualifying for the finals was senior Melissa O'Rourke, who was the seventh qualifier in the women's 1500-meter run with a time of 4:29.36. Junior Matt Baysinger qualified for the finals of the men's 800-meter run, finishing in 1:50.18. Freshman Victoria Howard advanced to the finals of the 100-meter dash, finishing in 11.66 seconds.

Kansas junior Ashley Brown added to her record-setting performances later in the day, breaking the school record in the 400-meter hurdles with her preliminary time of 57.54 seconds. Also qualifying for the women's 400-meter finals was senior Janiece Gatson, who ran a career-best 59.16, and sophomore Sha'Ray Butler who ran 1:00.03.

The Big 12 Championships conclude Sunday. Check back with kuathletics.com for all the final results.


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