COURTESY: KU Sports Information
LAWRENCE, Kan. – For the third-straight year a gathering of the world’s top shot putters helped kick off the Kansas Relays as the 86th running of the historic meet began Wednesday in Lawrence. Ryan Whiting claimed the title in the third-annual Elite Shot Put event, coming from behind to defeat defending champion and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, Reese Hoffa.
“It feels great,” said Whiting following his victory. “I don’t get to do that to (Hoffa) very much. He’s done that to me a lot (come from behind to win), so I kind of turned the tables on him and saw how he liked it.”
With over 1,000 fans lining the shot put sector inside the Community Arena at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, eight of the world’s top throwers went head-to-head in what has become one of the most exciting events in track & field today. Despite being forced inside and away from the streets of downtown Lawrence due to weather, fans again witnessed a thrilling completion. 2012 World Champion Ryan Whiting claimed the event title on a world-leading throw of 21.65 meters (71’0.50”), edging last year’s champion, Hoffa.
Whiting and Hoffa gave the hundreds of fans in attendance quite a show as each heaved the 16-pound iron balls more than 70 feet on multiple occasions. With the field relatively packed through the first half of the event the two quickly separated themselves form the rest of the field in the fourth and fifth rounds of attempts.
On his fourth attempt, Hoffa launched a throw that sailed to a mark of 21.60 meters (70’10.5”) to give himself a commanding lead, however Whiting would not go down without a fight. On his sixth and final attempt of the day, the Harrisburg, Penn. native stepped into the ring with one final opportunity to dethrown the reigning KU Relays Champion. He unwound and uncorked the shot to an enormous distance that measured out to 21.65 meters (71’0.5” ft.), earning the loudest cheer of the day and Whiting’s first downtown crown.
Whitting’s mark makes him the No. 1 thrower in the world as his 2013 outdoor season gets underway, an important distinction to have as he attempts to earn a ticket to the first World Outdoor Championships of his career later this summer.
Hoffa was the runner-up with the world’s No. 2 throw of the year, while Canadian Justin Rodhe propelled himself to his second-straight third-place finish with a throw of 21.12 (69’3.5” ft.).
Hoffa didn’t leave the fairgrounds without a victory though. After the shot put event concluded, he defeated KU senior basketball player Kevin Young in a Rubik’s Cube speed battle. Hoffa was able to solve the puzzle in 1:25 to defeat the KU forward.
The 2013 Relays opened up with the decathlon and heptathlon events Wednesday morning at Hershberger Track inside Memorial Stadium.
John Cord of Simpson College (Iowa) got off to a blazing start in the decathlon, pulling out to a slight lead over Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Dan Simon. Cord’s top scoring performance came in the 100-meter dash where he recorded a time of 11.47 for 759 points. Despite closing the day with the third-best time in the 400 meters (52.15), he will head into the second day of competition with 3,339 points and just an 11-point lead over Simon.
In the Candace Mason Heptathlon, Michigan’s Erin Busbee finished day one leading after four events. Busbee ended the day strong, running the 200-meter title in a time of 25.40 for the top mark in the final event of the day. The junior collected 3,010 points and sits with a 93-point lead over the rest of the field with three events remaining.
The heptathlon will continue Thursday morning at Memorial Stadium, starting with the long jump at 10 a.m. The Kansas Relays will return to the Douglas County Fairgrounds Thursday night for the Invitational women’s long jump at 6 p.m. Follow all the action by logging on to the meet central page at Kansasrelays.com and following on Twitter at U_Relays.