Three track and field Wildcats named conference champs at Big 12 Indoor Championships

Freshman pole vaulter Edgaras Benkunskas vaults at the track and field Steve Miller Open in Ahearn Field House on Feb. 22. Edgaras earned a runner-up finish with a personal record. (Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

In the Big 12 Indoor Championships in Ames, Iowa, the track and field teams had three athletes earn conference titles in addition to several others placing in the top-8 of their respective events.

Senior Lauren Taubert, sophomore Kassidy Johnson and junior Tejaswin Shankar were named conference champions in their respective events over the weekend.

Taubert earned the title for the Wildcats as she won the women’s pentathlon event, recording 4,161 points for the win on Friday. This was the first Big 12 pentathlon title for Kansas State on the women’s side in six years.

In the women’s 1,000-meter race, Johnson ran the event in 2:44.89, claiming her first Big 12 Indoor title.

For the second straight year, Shankar took home the title in the high jump event with a height of 2.23 meters. Shankar beat out Vernon Turner of Oklahoma for the title. This was the fourth time in five years that K-State has claimed the event from the men’s side.

Senior Ariel Okorie earned a top-three spot for the Wildcats behind Taubert with 4,078 points, a person best.

Eighteen total Wildcats were on the podium on Friday with both the men’s and women’s teams finishing in the top-five going into the second day of competition.

In the distance-medley relay groups, K-State came in just two-seconds shy of Texas. Sophomore trio Lavaun Stephenson, Alex Ferguson, Kassidy Johnson and junior Macy Heinz ran the event in 11:26.46 for second place.

In the weight throw, junior Colin Echols and senior Cameron Lewis claimed third and fifth place finishes, respectively. Echols finished with a throw of 20.03 meters and Lewis threw for 18.50 meters.

On Saturday, out of 10 teams, the women’s team finished second for the second consecutive year with 91 total points. The men’s team collected 76 points for fifth place, with 21 of those points coming from those who were in the high jump event.

Senior Ashley Petr recorded a personal best with a throw of 14.71 meters in the shot put event.

Freshman Janique Burgher placed fourth in the women’s high jump event with a height of 1.72 meters.

Senior Aaron Booth placed in the top-five in the men’s pole vault (4.67 meters), the 1,000-meters (2:45.52), and third overall in men’s heptathlon scores with 5,639 points. Freshman Edgaras Benkunskas placed in three events including a first place finish in the men’s heptathlon 60-meter hurdles (8.3) and a seventh place finish in the 1,000-meters (2:50.16). Benkunskas recorded 5,609 points for fourth most in the overall scores for the heptathlon.

The Wildcats will have a weekend off from competition as they prepare for the NCAA Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico, starting on March 13.

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