Sophomore Alexis Romero ran to embrace junior Laura Taylor on the pole vaulting pit. Taylor had just recorded a new personal-best and was moving up to the next height in the women’s pole vault event.
The teammate’s embrace was a good showing of Kansas’ strong performance on the second day of the Big 12 Outdoor Track and Field Championship.
The pair of vaulters were two of six Jayhawks to finish in the top-three of their respective events, capping off a successful day for Kansas. The Jayhawks’ men’s and women's team each are in third heading into the third and final day.
Both Taylor and Romero earned new personal records in the event, with Taylor vaulting 4.31 meters and Romero vaulting 4.21 meters. Both athletes finished behind the eventual winner, Baylor senior Annie Rhodes, who climbed into the top of the national rankings with a final height of 4.61 meters.
“It’s a tough competition to do your best on, it’s really unrealistic to come out here and think you’ll PR, and then we had two of us PR,” Taylor said. “That is really good because that’s half the team.”
Senior Sydney Conley was the sole Jayhawk to win an event, as she took gold in the long jump. After taking a year off, Conley came back from injury to claim her first Big 12 Championship title.
Conley recorded her championship-winning and personal-record breaking jump on her first attempt with a 6.76-meter jump, 0.21 meters further than her nearest competitor.
“It feels great, it’s always a blast and I’ve got to thank God for it,” Conley said. “He’s allowed me to come back from last year after sitting out a year and get this title, so I’m just glad I got it for the team.”
Conley also qualified for the women’s 100-meter final on Sunday, as she finished second in her heat, crossing the finish line in 11.27 seconds.
The surprise result of the day came from shot put, where championship-favorite and Kansas junior Nicolai Ceban failed to record a single legal throw in three attempts.
On attempts one and three, Ceban hooked his 16-pound weight right of the landing area. On his second attempt, Ceban stepped out of the circle despite throwing an accurate shot.
“I was sick at the beginning of the week, so that’s what it might be, but I just blame myself,” Ceban said. “I’ve been taking antibiotics, but definitely a poor performance from me.”
Despite Ceban’s absence in the final rounds, junior Brandon Lombardino stepped up to finish in third place, with his best throw of 17.23-meters coming on his second attempt.
Kansas’ two other top-three finishes came in the last two events of the evening, with both sophomore Dylan Hodgson and junior Courtney Coppinger finishing third in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with times of 8:52.68 and 10:19.62, respectively.
While most of the day’s attention was focused on the finals, several track preliminaries also took place. 10 Jayhawks ultimately qualified for Sunday’s finals.
Four of them came from the 400-meter race alone, with freshman Mariah Kuykendoll and sophomore Nicole Montgomery qualifying in the women’s race, and sophomore Ivan Henry and junior Tre Daniels qualifying on the men’s side.
Daniels also qualified for the men’s 200-meter race after finishing in seventh place in the preliminaries with a time of 20.89 seconds.
Senior Dylan Poirier finished in eighth place with 6,532 points in the decathlon, while junior Talia Marquez claimed ninth place and sophomore Morgan Griffiths finished 12th in the heptathlon, as both events finished on Saturday.
The Kansas men have earned 47 points after two days, 3.5 points behind leaders Texas heading into the final day. Meanwhile, the women’s squad is in third place with 36 points, far behind Kansas State, with 67 points.
Sunday’s events begin at 2:30 p.m. with the women’s high jump, while the first men’s event begins at 5:10 p.m. with the 4x100-meter race. Both will be looking to make up ground on first place to claim a first Outdoor Big 12 Championship since the women’s team brought home the trophy in 2013.