The Kansas State women’s track and field team won their second consecutive Big 12 Championship, scoring a program-best 135 points, while the men’s team earned their best finish at the Championship since 1997, in what was a historic Big 12 Championship at Clyde Hart Stadium in Waco, Texas. This is according to a release from K-State Athletics.
“To win the Big 12 title two straight years is very special,” Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Cliff Rovelto said. “It is a tough conference and winning a title isn’t easy, but what both our teams did this weekend, it was one of the best experiences as a coach.”
The K-State women held on to outlast Texas (131 pts.) behind all-around team performances, including individual championships from Ranae McKenzie in the women’s 400-meter hurdles and Janee’ Kassanavoid’s title in the women’s hammer throw on Friday. In total, 22 Wildcat women scored in the meet, including five scoring in multiple events, as the Wildcat women become just the second program in the Big 12 to win the women’s title in back to back seasons.
In the women’s 400-meter hurdles, McKenzie and sophomore Lauren Taubert served as momentum for the Wildcats, as McKenzie fought down the backstretch of Clyde Hart Stadium to capture her first Big 12 Championship and facility record in 56.06, while Taubert set a personal best of 58.52 to place sixth overall. With her championship, McKenzie becomes the first K-State Big 12 Champion in the event since Ryan Krais won in 2011.
“I just went out there and did what I had to do,” McKenzie said after her performance. “I knew Texas would go out hard, but I just stayed composed and ran my race.”
Leading Texas by only four points with two events remaining, senior Morgan Wedekind put together a gutsy performance in the women’s 5,000 meters, where she positioned herself in the top-eight throughout the entirety of the race, before closing in to fifth place with less than 600 meters remaining. Wedekind pulled through to finish fifth in 16:52.13 to give the Wildcats an eight-point advantage with only the 4×400 meter relay remaining.
In the final event, the women’s 4×400 meter relay, consisting of McKenzie, Taubert, Nina Schultz and A’Keyla Mitchell had to finish in the top-six to clinch the Wildcat’s second-straight Big 12 title. Anchored by Mitchell, the senior of Corpus Christi, Texas, the Wildcats were able to finish fifth in 3:37.27, to defeat Texas by a point total of 135 to 131.
Entering the final day of competition, the Wildcats led both the men’s and women’s competitions through eight of 21 events scored. On Sunday, K-State got started in the field events, where they were able to garner valuable points, as the Wildcats placed at least three individuals in the top eight in seven different events throughout the weekend.
Two of those events came in the field events on Sunday, where senior Rhizlane Siba led the women’s high jumpers to three spots on the podium, including her third-place jump of 1.80m/5-10.75. Joining her was Schultz and freshman Clare Gibson each cleared 1.76m/5-09.25 to place fifth and sixth overall, which tallied 13 points in the event.
In the women’s shot put, senior Jess St. John reached her season-best mark in a K-State uniform of 17.10m/56-01.25 on her second attempt, which stood through the finals to place her second overall behind Oklahoma’s Jessica Woodard, marking St. John’s best finish at the Big 12 Conference meet in her career. Freshman Taylor Latimer and sophomore Gabby Lavington helped increase the Wildcat’s point total to 13 points in the event, as Latimer placed sixth and Lavington placed seventh.
In the women’s triple jump, the duo of sophomore Konstantina Romaiou and junior Shardia Lawrence made clutch jumps, including Lawrence’s third jump of 12.52m/41-01 to earn a spot in the finals. In the finals, Romaiou and Lawrence moved up to third and fourth overall, where the duo accumulated 11 points.
On the track, freshman Sydney Collins put together a great race in the women’s 800 meters, finishing in 4:32.41 to place her sixth overall.
Meanwhile, the K-State men earned the team’s best placing at the Big 12 Conference Championship since 1997, tallying 101 points to tie Kansas for third overall.
The Wildcat men rallied behind senior Terrell Smith who placed second in both the men’s 100 and 200 meters, including a school-record tying mark of 20.51 in the 200 meters, which he previously set at the Big 12 Championship in 2016.
Along with Smith, sophomore Travis Hodge scored points for the Wildcats, finishing fifth overall in the men’s 800 meters. Hodge ran a 1:50.56 in a competitive field of runners, as he was able to finish strong in the final stretch to earn an additional four points.
After a second-place finish in the men’s shot put on Saturday, junior Brett Neelly returned back to action in the men’s discus on Sunday. Neelly progressed throughout his first three attempts, before meeting a new personal best of 55.48m/182-00 on his fourth attempt to place him fourth overall.
In the final event of the day, the K-State 4×400 meter relay of Devie Freeman II, Kurt Loevenstein, Tejaswin Shankar and Nick Albus finished seventh in 3:16.74, marking a season-best by nearly two seconds.