AMES, Iowa – Conference season arrived for the Kansas State men’s and women’s track and field teams on Friday and the group did not disappoint as the Wildcats opened the 2020 Big 12 Indoor Championships in Ames, Iowa with a victory in the women’s pentathlon by senior Lauren Taubert followed by numerous other scoring performances.
Closing the door on her final run at the conference indoor championship, Taubert acquired an impressive first-place finish on the afternoon, compiling 4,161 points and earning the first Big 12 pentathlon title in six years for any Wildcat on the women’s side.
“K-State has a great history in the multis and I’m grateful to be a part of it and keep the tradition the going,” said Taubert. “It means a lot to me. It has been a long-time goal of mine and a dream come true. I’m happy I was able to contribute to the team. I was fortunate enough to recover from a disappointing shot put and put together a good long jump mark that put me back into the competition.”
Taubert’s victory cements herself as the sixth Wildcat since 1997 to capture the prestigious victory during the indoor conference meet. The last win in the Big 12 indoor pentathlon by a K-State athlete was Erica Twiss in 2014, who scored 4,708 points en route to the victory.
Trailing through the first three events in the pentathlon, the Casper, Wyoming native turned on the jets and soared through the long jump and 800-meter competitions, boosting herself to the title and placing K-State atop the leaderboard early on.
“I’m very thankful for the coaches, trainers, massage therapists and chiropractors as they have all helped me get to this point,” said Taubert. “I am also fortunate enough to train with such great teammates. They have helped push me and are always supportive of me. K-State was definitely the program for me.”
Senior Ariel Okorie kept up with her counterpart in the event as the Waynesville, Missouri native posted a spot in the top three at 4,078 points, which eclipsed a personal best during her career in the pentathlon.
Both Taubert and Okorie were among 18 Wildcats who made their way up to the podium inside the Lied Recreation Center on Friday. Individual accolades continued to pile on in the weight throw divisions as five K-State athletes on both the men’s and women’s squads placed in the top-five.
The women’s team filled the top of the leaderboard with purple as senior Helene Ingvaldsen, junior Shaelyn Ward and senior Ashley Petr all finished next to each other on the podium at the No. 2-4 spots. Ingvaldsen, who was the reigning Big 12 Indoor Champion in the weight throw event, nearly retained her title on Friday but could not outlast Texas Tech’s Seasons Usual, placing second at a mark of 20.18m/66-2.50. Ward came in right after Ingvaldsen in the standings, throwing a shot of 20.11m/65-11.75 to clinch the bronze medal. Placing fourth was Petr, who launched a shot of 20.07m/65-10.25 to earn a spot in the top-five at fourth.
Waiting for his opportunity to compete on a grand stage such as a conference meet, Echols lived up to the hype and launched a shot of 20.03m/65-08.75 to claim a third-place finish. A seasoned veteran for K-State in postseason competition, Lewis continued the trend for the Wildcats and placed fifth in the weight throw with a mark of 18.50m/60-8.50.
Between the rest of the group on Friday evening, the Wildcats witnessed other key moments at the end of the meet on the track. Turning a corner in the 5000-meter race, junior Ethan Powell latched on to a pack of Iowa State Cyclones and held off the field for the eighth and final spot on the podium. His time of 14:24.28 resulted in a personal record.
Even in the distance-medley relay groups, the Wildcats managed to run well and secure spots in the top eight on the evening. The women’s team, consisting of junior Macy Heinz and the sophomore trio of Lavaun Stephenson, Alex Ferguson and Kassidy Johnson, came in second place at 11:26.46 to finish two seconds behind Texas in the final leg. The mixture of Noah Stevenson, Tim Lambert, Dylan Brenneman and Mike Rohlinger coordinated a great turnaround during the men’s distance-medley relay competition and slid into sixth place at 10:07.09.
Ending the first segment of the conference indoor championship, junior Taishia Pryce hoped to extend her recent hot streak in the long jump event. Leaping 6.36m/20-10.50, Pryce wound up catching fire late in her quest towards the elusive long jump crown. However, the native of Kingston, Jamaica could not gain enough air in her last few jumps to overcome Ruth Usoro of Texas Tech, who flew to the top of the standings after acquiring a mark of 6.54m/21-5.50.
After the first day, the K-State women’s team currently holds a spot at second place out of the ten programs in the conference.
Preliminary rounds began for many athletes in the opening segment of the Big 12 Indoor Championship. Those who competed in the races and qualified to the final rounds such as the 60-meter hurdles, 400 meters, 800 meters, 1000 meters and heptathlon events will complete in those assignments throughout Saturday.
The heptathlon featured quality performances from senior Aaron Booth and rising star Edgaras Benkunskas through four events. Edgaras currently sits in second place with 3,244 points with Booth just behind at 3,203 points, good for third place. Both athletes will compete in three more events to conclude the heptathlon for the weekend.
However, there was a disqualification in the women’s 400-meter race, slowing the Wildcats’ plans just a tad for Saturday.
“I thought we did a good job in the events that were finals today,” said Director of Track and Field Cliff Rovelto. “We competed well. We also did a nice job of qualifying athletes to the finals tomorrow. Definitely, a few moved, that on paper, one would not have projected. Unfortunately, we had a DQ that stings (400m) but that’s the sport. As a group, we will overcome.”
Tomorrow’s schedule features a wide variety of head-to-head matchups on the track while the high jump and shot-put competitions kick off near the afternoon slate.
The Wildcats continue their stay in Ames, Iowa for the second round of the Big 12 Indoor Championship on Saturday, February 29 inside the Lied Recreation Center.
For the latest on K-State track and field, follow @kstatesports and @KStateTFXC on Twitter or Kansas State Track & Field/Cross Country on Facebook.
Source: Kansas State Sports