LUBBOCK, Texas – Event titles from senior Jessica Maroszek and juniors Michael Stigler and Casey Bowen led the Kansas men’s and women’s teams on the final day of the Big 12 Outdoor Track & Field Championships Sunday. The Jayhawk women ended the competition at fourth place in the team standings after amassing 100.5 points, while the Jayhawk men tallied a seventh-place finish with their 67-point total
“I thought we had some great performances this weekend,” said head coach Stanley Redwine following the meet. “Anytime you have conference champions, it’s a big deal and we had four athletes who were outstanding. As a team I thought we did about as good as we could have done today. We had some unfortunate injuries over the weekend and some people who didn’t do as well as expected. We just need to take what we did here and use it at the regional meet in a couple weeks and hopefully we’ll be better because of it.”
Stigler was the man with the target on his back as he entered the 400-meter hurdle final Sunday evening, not only as this year’s NCAA leader, but as the two-time defending Big 12 Champion in the event. The Canyon, Texas native put himself in prime position after he had posted the fastest time in the qualifying rounds a day earlier, clocking in at 50.02.
In the final, Stigler again silenced any doubters early in the race, charging out to a noticeable lead through the first 50 meters. The junior came out of the final curve more than two strides ahead of the field but was faced with a strong charge from Baylor’s T.J. Holmes down the homestretch. Stigler was able to hold off the Baylor freshman by .07 seconds, clocking in at 49.91 to claim his third-straight league title.
“To be able to three-peat is a phenomenal feeling,” said Stigler “It shows a lot how my coach, Alisha Brewer, how tough she is in training and how great of a coach she is. Just to come out and get a Big 12 championship in Lubbock in front of my family and all the people from the Canyon and Amarillo is phenomenal.”
Stigler is still undefeated in seven 400-meter hurdle races this season and has won 11 of his last 15 400-meter hurdle competitions versus collegians, dating back to last season. He also became just the second Big 12 athlete to pull a three-peat in the event and the first Jayhawk to win three Big 12 titles in consecutive years. At the end of the weekend, Stigler contributed a team-high 15 points after his performances in the 110-meter hurdles, 400-meter hurdles and the 4x100-meter and 4x400-meter relays.
Maroszek got the Jayhawk women’s day started on a high note by picking up her second-straight Big 12 discus title. Her first attempt of the competition ended up being enough to win the event as she threw to a distance of 55.76 meters (182’11”), a mark no other athlete was able to come within three feet of. The senior out of Seymour, Wisconsin cruised through the next four rounds but was unable to improve on her first-attempt throw. That is until her final trip into the ring.
With her victory already in hand, Maroszek launched the implement to a new career-best of 60.18 meters (197’5”), which topped her previous best by over seven feet. The two-time All-American’s mark broke her own school record as well as the Big 12 meet record that had stood for eight years. Maroszek now sits at No. 2 in the NCAA rankings as well as 19th in the world standings.
“Going into the meet, I knew it was going to take a lot and I hit a good throw on my last one,” said Maroszek following her win. “Since I (recorded a personal best) and was able to hit the Big 12 record, it’s a pretty good feeling, probably the best meet I’ve had in my career.”
In addition to Maroszek, the Kansas women saw a large point output from the discus as four Jayhawks turned in all-conference performances. With Maroszek’s first-place finish, sophomore Dasha Tsema’s fourth-place finish (52.91m/173’7”), sophomore Anastasiya Muchkayev’s sixth-place finish (49.91m/163’9”) and sophomore Daina Levy’s eighth-place finish (48.96m/160’7”), the KU women combined to score 19 points in the event, the largest out of a single event this year for the Jayhawks.
The men’s pole vault was again a standout event for the KU men as junior Casey Bowen nabbed his first conference title in the event. Bowen was almost flawless on the day after he didn’t record a single foul before the bar he eventually went out on. The Gardner, Kansas native cleared five heights on just five trips down the runway, with his last clearance at a height of 5.49 meters (18’0”). The vault was the second time Bowen has gotten over the prestigious barrier of 18 feet, and was a height that no other competitor could match, giving the junior the title.
“The rest of the guys out here are great vaulters, I was just better on this day,” explained Bowen. “There are tons of guys in the Big 12 that are great, it’s incredible to come out on top.”
Bowen’s win marked the fourth time in eight years a Jayhawk was victorious in the pole vault at the outdoor championships and was the 37th time a KU male claimed the outdoor conference title in the pole vault.
When the team scores were tabulated the Kansas women ended their weekend with a fourth-place finish with their total of 100.5 points. The Jayhawks’ score was the highest ever for a fourth-place finishing team at the Big 12 Championships and would have been good enough for third place in seven of the last 11 outdoor conference championships. The KU women’s total also marked the third-straight year they had topped the 100-point mark. Maroszek was the team’s high point scorer after she accounted for 15 of her teams points through her performances in the discus and the shot put.
With the final regular-season meet in the books, the Kansas men and women look toward the preliminary rounds of the NCAA Championships. The West Region Preliminary meet will be held in Fayetteville, Arkansas May 28-31 inside John McDonnell Stadium and will provide KU athletes with opportunities to advance to the NCAA National Championship meet two weeks later. The Jayhawks will wait to see which competitors will journey to Fayetteville when the qualifier lists are released Monday, May 19. Log on to KUAthletics.com for complete coverage of the Jayhawks' journey through the rounds of the NCAA Championships and follow on Twitter at @KUTrack.