In track and field, as well as swimming and diving, this past weekend’s Big 12 Championships for both sports was not a gold rush. Nevertheless, there were two golden moments that delighted Laura in Austin with swimming and diving and me in Ames with track and field. Both involved taking down the “great state of Texas,” which is always good.
On Friday night in Austin, KU sophomore Chelsie Miller won the 400 individual medley. Miller’s victory was the first gold medal collected by Kansas swimming since the inception of the Big 12. In doing so, she defeated a favored Texas swimmer seen still in shock as Miller reached over to congratulate her defeated competitor.
The reality is that the Texas program is a beast. It is not unfair to say that going into every Big 12 Championship, the remaining teams are fighting for their own championship, which is to take second overall. Thanks to Miller and peak performances from other swimmers and divers, Kansas went on to win that “secondary championship.” Coach Clark Campbell was named the Championship’s top women’s coach. Miller took home the women’s performer of the Championship honor. That is something to shout about.
Then in Ames on Saturday, sprinter Diamond Dixon did something not totally unexpected, but still a huge surprise. She won the 200-meter dash. Dixon’s speciality is the 400-meter dash. Never known for her fast starts, the dynamic sprinter usually amps up her acceleration in the final 200 as she roars from behind. That late speed helped her win five straight 400-meter indoor and outdoor championships since the spring of her freshman year.
That streak ended in the finals in Ames. Even though she ran a time nearly a half second faster than her last two indoor winning times, Dixon finished third. Redemption in the 200 seemed a challenge until Dixon got a fantastic start, powered through the turn and held off all challengers at the finish line.
Looks of joy and some disbelief flowed. The capper to it all came during the medal ceremony, where the Texas native, overlooked by many during recruiting, once again proved everyone wrong. To her left stood six Texas and one Texas Tech runner, trailing away down the podium just as they did at the finish line.
That fun photograph, though, points to the reality that coaches face going up against Texas in NCAA Olympic sports. Even though Dixon scored 10 points with her victory, the great depth of Texas still overwhelmed those winning points. It might be an uphill battle for Kansas, and other Big 12 schools in sports like these, but the fight is certainly worth the effort.
Miller’s swimming victory signals that it is possible to sling a rock like David and slay the mighty Goliath. That is what track and field did last year by winning both the indoor and outdoor Big 12 Championships. Laura and I are hoping to photograph many more golden moments in the years to come.