Kansas track legend Billy Mills received a weekend full of honors in Lawrence, culminating in South Middle School’s re-dedication as Billy Mills Middle School.
The South Dakota native’s KU story began at Haskell, and later the University of Kansas, where he was a three-time NCAA All-American. Mills’ running career reached its zenith at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, where his winning time in the 10,000 meter run set a world record and won America’s first gold medal in the event.
After a unanimous vote by the Lawrence School Board in February, South Middle School was approved for a name change to honor Mills and the Native American history of the Lawrence area. Mills spoke at the dedication ceremony on his hopes for the school:
Mills also shared photos from a tour of the school:
The city of Lawrence and the University of Kansas joined in the celebration as well, with Mayor Stuart Boley proclaiming Saturday, Nov. 3, Billy Mills Day and the University announcing that Mills will receive an honorary degree at 2019 commencement.
2016 was an eventful year that marked major milestones and gave cause for celebration. From our Jayhawks in Rio to our 27th Rhodes Scholar, KU alumni had plenty of reasons to be proud of their alma mater in 2016, so we’re recounting the most memorable moments and biggest KU stories of the past year. With help from our crack team of KU experts, a.k.a. your hard-working KU Alumni Association staff, we’ve assembled and ranked the top stories of 2016. So without further ado, we present the best of KU:
…How are we doing so far? Can you guess the biggest stories of 2016? Our final 15 feature some beloved KU buildings–both new and old–a few famous Jayhawks and some fond farewells. Keep reading while we reveal the rest of the best…
We’ve relished the 2016 Olympic Games watching so many talented Jayhawks represent their countries–and their alma mater–in Rio de Janeiro. One Jayhawk, Kyle Clemons, even contributed to Team USA’s historic medal haul in Rio, earning a gold medal for his role running a preliminary heat of the 4 x 400 meter relay.
KU alumni were proud of all of our #JayhawksinRio, sharing social posts throughout the games. Even the athletes got into the act, using the hashtag to chronicle their own Olympic experience and share some of the fun with KU alumni.
Special thanks to Tim Weaver, g’97, who sent us behind-the-scenes stories and photos while working for Team USA track and field as a team manager. He sent the following farewell from Rio, pictured prior to the closing ceremony with Jayhawk and Olympic triple-jumper Andrea Geubelle.
We’ll see you in four years in Tokyo, where KU and Olympic legend Billy Mills made his incredible come-from-behind victory in the 10,000 meters in 1964. Based on what we saw in Rio, alumni can expect more historic feats to connect the Jayhawk nation and make all alumni proud.
Jayhawk Kyle Clemons became the ninth KU track and field Olympic gold medalist on Friday night at the 2016 Olympic Games at Rio. The former KU quarter-miler helped Team USA qualify to the final by running the third leg of the 4 x 400 meter relay in the semifinal, clocking an impressive 44.96. The United States went on to dominate in the final, earning Clemons a gold medal in the same way Diamond Dixon earned gold four years ago in London. With the victory, Kyle Clemons becomes KU’s first male Gold medalist since Al Oerter won his fourth career Olympic gold in 1968 in the discus. Relive the excitement of Clemons Olympic experience in Rio below. Congratulations, Kyle! The Jayhawk nation is proud of you and all of our #JayhawksinRio!
Before I take off I want to thank my strong support system for being in my corner during my road to Rio. I love and appreciate y’all
Nobody likes to watch a rerun, especially sports fans. But at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, we watched a rare rerun of the women’s 4 x 100 meter relay, and it was a first (in more ways than one) thanks to the fast efforts of a Jayhawk. Let’s rewind.
On Thursday night during their preliminary heat of the women’s 4 x 100, the U.S. team was bumped during the second exchange. The Brazilian team inadvertently made contact with American Allyson Felix, running second leg, while attempting to hand off the baton. Trying to recover, Felix awkwardly tossed the baton, which dropped to the track. Dazed and confused, unsure what to do next, Felix suddenly remembered what Tim Weaver, g’97, told her. She recounted to ESPN what happened next.
“At our technical meeting, Tim Weaver really emphasized that if something happens, you have to pick up the baton and finish in order to protest,” Felix recalled. So she did, turning around with sudden urgency to retrieve the baton and hand it off. Once convinced that all was not lost, English Gardner took off after the field that had left the U.S. team far behind. Once finished, the protest was filed.
As we shared on this blog previously, Weaver is working in Rio as a team manager with USA Track and Field, helping advocate for American athletes throughout the process of filing protests. As the former meet director for the Kansas Relays, Weaver has seen it all and understands the idiosyncrasies of international track and field. Once the team had finished and was officially disqualified, Weaver immediately flew into action.
Simply advancing the American team for getting bumped wasn’t possible because the final was based on the top times. And there could only be 8 teams in the final because the track only had 8 lanes around it. Since eight other teams had already established the fastest legal times, a run-off was required, and that left only one option.
A rerun for Team USA, against a single, unforgiving opponent: The clock.
If they could finish among the top 8 times, they’d earn a spot in the final. So, in a never-before-seen relay with one team on the track, running in the exact same lane, and in the exact same order, the four U.S. women ran their relay, turning in the fastest time among all qualifiers, earning them a spot in tonight’s final. The rerun, at least according to USATF, was unprecedented in Olympic history.
After qualifying, Felix gave credit to the Jayhawk who helped save the day by getting the team one more shot, which was all they needed.
“After the race, I was texting (Weaver) saying thank you. I was so grateful.”
Sometimes it helps to have a Jayhawk in your corner.
Tim Weaver, g’97, is in Rio with Team USA, working as a team manager for the United States track and field delegation. And since track and field athletes had to wait an entire week to start their competition, Weaver had time to roam Rio and take some great shots of the unique sights and attractions in and around the Olympic Village. Weaver has shared his Olympic experience with KU alumni before, during the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics. Check out his images and view a slide show below, or go to Flickr.com/photos/kualumni.
The following post was written by Andrea Geubelle, d’14, shortly after qualifying for her first Olympic team. Geubelle will compete for Team USA in the triple jump Saturday at the Olympics in Rio (finals are Sunday). In her own words, she takes KU alumni on the journey of a lifetime by describing what it is like to be an Olympian.
Are there words?
I have been thinking hard about how to be honest with the question “how does it feel.” First I have to say how honored and thankful I am, don’t think twice about that. But as time passes I continue to feel a whirlwind of emotions. Tears flood down my face right now, of happiness right? For the most part yes. But the last 5 days I have gotten to live “normal.” Our lives often get glorified. We don’t work a 9-5, we get to work out everyday and travel the world.
But after July 7th, the day I had trained for for the last 10 years came to a close I was finally able to take a deep breath.
My life along with many others has been dedicated to the sport and a roller coaster ride. From success to injury, rehab to heartbreak and all over again. I can’t speak for others, but what you see on TV and social media is a slight glimpse, you see sheer joy. You don’t see the mental break down after a bad workout, the guilt after putting the wrong food into your body or shortage of sleep after a night out with friends, the nauseating stress that come in the days building up, and the fear of failure if competition doesn’t go as planned. My heart breaks because I have come up just short, like others did, but I know they are strong and will be back better than ever in short time. I envy their strength. The raw emotions are real.
So no matter the athlete, respect the journey, their stories and paths are gold.
I hope you get to know these amazing humans a little deeper, they aren’t “just athletes.” No matter the age or when they once were, this sport is a process and a commitment, and I am honored to have friends (they feel like family) who have paved the way, lifted me when I was down, and knew exactly what to say to keep me going. Sometimes just a simple hug, quick good luck or a 5-hour lunch date.
This adventure has been a long one, and well worth it. Thank you for those who stuck it out and believed in my journey, both athletes and spectators. I’m excited to see what the future holds.
Several Jayhawks will be competing, working and volunteering during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro for Team USA and their respective countries. Many have agreed to share their experience with KU alumni. Throughout the games, we’ll be sharing their photos and stories on our blog and social media accounts, so be sure to follow us during the games as we cheer on our #JayhawksinRio.
More than a number: Andrea Geubelle
For each Olympian, there is a story. For each Jayhawk, a journey.
Andrea Geubelle’s journey exceeded her dreams when she earned a scholarship to the University of Kansas and went on become a ten-time All-American and three-time NCAA champion. However, not all that glitters is gold, as she recalls in this video from KU Athletics, chronicling her time as a Jayhawk. For Geubelle, the road to Rio was paved with adversity and heartache.
Four years ago, and only a few months before the London Olympic Games, Geubelle was on cloud nine having just won the triple jump at the NCAA outdoor championship, before victory was snatched away.
“I just broke down,” Geubelle remembers. “I don’t think I’ve ever hurt so bad over athletics, to go from the highest you could possibly be in college athletics, which is winning a national championship, to finding out that it’s gone, and you’ll never get than opportunity back.”
Geubelle not only bounced back, she committed herself and jumped in with both feet—ultimately landing a spot in Rio. Watch her story here, then tune in Saturday at 7:30am CT at NCBOlympics.com to watch her compete in the qualifying rounds of the triple jump in Rio.
“More than a Number” was produced by Second Wind Creative for KU Athletics, with additional footage provided by Rock Chalk Video, ESPN and Jeff Jacobson.
Mason Finley leads a strong group of Team USA discus throwers in Rio. The former KU track and field student-athlete won the event at the Olympic Trials and looks to be a medal contender if he can qualify through to the finals on Saturday. Although the event has historically been dominated by the United States, thanks in large part to legendary Jayhawk Al Oerter, who won four consecutive Olympic titles, no American has won a medal in more than 30 years. Finley will need to bring his A game, but now that he’s in the best shape of his life, anything’s possible.
That wasn’t always the case, as he packed on pounds as a Jayhawk undergraduate. Believing that bigger was better, Finley took advantage of endless training table meals and put on nearly 100 pounds during his three years at Kansas before transferring to Wyoming. It took a toll on his speed, technique and health. He talked about going beyond the typical “freshman 15” in a recent interview with the Washington Post.
“I’m an eater, man,” he said. “There’s no way around it. I like to eat food.”
Since getting a handle on his nutrition, the results have come quickly and he’s seen steady improvement.
“My technique is far better,” Finley told the Post. “I’m healthy—which was really rare in college—and I’m faster, probably same speed as high school.”
Finley moved back to Lawrence to train with KU throwing coach Andy Kokhanovsky. The move also brought him closer to his family. He told the Denver Post, “I wanted to be closer with my mom and family back there. I figured out that family is a really huge support staff. You definitely need it.”
The support—and the coaching—helped propel Finley to the top of his game and the top of his sport.
“I’m able to hold positions faster, move faster and compete healthier,” Finley says.
By the time he made it to the Olympic Trials, Finley was hardly a dark horse. The former 8-time collegiate All-American and high school record holder knew he could compete at the highest level, but after overcoming challenges with his health, speed and technique along the way, last month’s victory was that much sweeter.
“The very last throw, I knew I had won, so it was crazy. But I was thinking I could still throw further,” Finley told the Post. “I wanted 65 (meters) again. … It was a mixture between, ‘I still want to push it further’ but ‘Oh my gosh, I’m an Olympian.’”
A proud Jayhawk and first-time Olympian, Finley joins other Jayhawks in Rio, including Team USA track and field manager Tim Weaver and triple jumper Andrea Geubelle, pictured above. He will enter the discus ring Friday morning for first round qualifying. Check NBCOlympics.com for schedules.