Kansas University track and field coach Stanley Redwine, his staff and several of his athletes gathered Wednesday in Allen Fieldhouse to discuss their expectations for the 2014 season at the team’s annual media day.
The Kansas women’s team claimed its first national title in May by winning the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Championships, and Redwine believes that success is carrying over into this indoor season.
“We graduated a lot of people from our (Big 12) indoor championship team, but at the same time, we are definitely excited that we can make sure we can try to pick up,” Redwine said. “Our athletes are really ready to step up and pick up where they left off last year. With that said, I think our coaches have done a really good job of getting the right people in that can kind of fill in the spots and help with the team that we have and make it better.”
The KU women’s squad was ranked No. 10 in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s preseason poll and includes several key returners: senior pole vaulter Natalia Bartnovskaya, senior sprinter Diamond Dixon and junior pentathlete Lindsay Vollmer.
Bartnovskaya won the indoor national championship in the pole vault last year and has her mind set on a repeat after finishing as a runner-up at the NCAA outdoor meet. The senior from Krasnoyarsk, Russia, realizes it will be a long process to make it back to the top of the podium.
“The first meet, I didn’t do as well as I wanted to and still got a good result,” Bartnovskaya said of her victory in last week’s Bill Easton Classic at Anschutz Sports Pavilion. “I am leading the NCAA right now and it feels good.”
Dixon also opened her indoor season successfully, setting personal records in three different events. As a sophomore, Dixon garnered national attention as an NCAA champion in the 400-meter dash and a gold medalist in the 4x400-meter relay at the 2012 Olympics. Redwine believes that his star sprinter, a first-team All-American and Big 12 indoor champion as a junior, is looking better than ever at the start of her senior campaign.
“For someone of her talent to PR this early in the season is something special,” Redwine said. “We hope that that continues.”
Dixon, Bartnovskaya and Vollmer were named to the preseason watch list for the Bowerman Award, track and field’s equivalent to football’s Heisman Trophy. The Jayhawks feel honored by the recognition, but Redwine said his team can’t focus on the hype.
“Our job is to do the work we have to do we have to do to get there and let the voting take care of itself,” Redwine said. “As (KU men’s basketball) coach (Bill) Self has done an excellent job with (Andrew) Wiggins and all of the freshmen. It’s the same thing. We’re going to make sure our athletes take care of business first, and whatever people have labeled our athletes to be, we’ll let that take care of itself.”
Junior hurdler and sprinter Michael Stigler received votes on the Bowerman Award’s men’s watch list. He is expected to lead the Kansas men’s team this season along with senior pole vaulter Alex Bishop and senior distance runner Josh Munsch.
Stigler won 60-meter hurdles and 400-meter dash at the Bill Easton Classic and is looking forward to KU’s first road meet, Friday and Saturday at the Holiday Inn Invitational in Lincoln, Neb.
“This is the first meet that we travel, so I want to set the tone for the team and for myself to be able to go away and learn to focus on myself outside of my own home,” Stigler said.