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.
The walk down the Hill is a cherished tradition for most KU graduates. However, some student-athletes have never known the thrill of walking down the Hill due to competition conflicts. KU baseball players, for instance, are often battling in-state rival K-State as graduates gather on Mount Oread.
Meantime, track and field Jayhawks are typically engaged in the conference championship while classmates are popping champagne in Lawrence. Fortunately, one Jayhawk track family made up for lost time and made the most of their KU Commencement experience.
Crossing the finish line
Greg Dalzell, b’86, followed in his father’s footsteps by running for the KU track team. His father, Art Dalzell, d’55, g’64, helped KU win numerous conference championships and a cross country national title (’53) in addition to earning his two KU degrees. Greg followed suit, contributing to a Big 8 conference indoor title (’83) while pursuing his business degree at KU. Unfortunately, the mid-May timing of the 1986 conference outdoor championship meet cost him his opportunity to participate in KU’s time-honored Commencement tradition of walking down the Hill.
Fast forward to 2018, when Greg’s daughter Dorie–a third-generation Jayhawk track team member–was ready to walk, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make it a family affair. While many of her Jayhawk teammates were still competing in the Big 12 outdoor track & field championships in Waco, Dorie was able to cross a more meaningful finish line with her father by her side.
“Dorie’s time in Lawrence has been a great experience for both of us, and I cannot believe how fast it went,” Greg shared. “Commencement was so much fun. I can’t imagine I would have had a better time 32 years ago.”
A family affair
The Dalzells share a rare distinction of having three generations of KU track & field captains in the family. When Dorie was awarded the honor for the 2017 season, joining her father and grandfather in holding the title of KU track captain, it was one of the highlights of her KU career.
“It was really overwhelming,” she admitted in an interview for KU Athletics’ Rock Chalk Weekly. “I knew my grandpa and dad had both been captains, so I always kind of wanted to be one, but I didn’t want to express it outwardly. To be a captain, and know that I had kept that going in our family, it felt amazing.”
Dorie had planned to be competing with her teammates in Waco on Sunday during Commencement. However, fate intervened, and a graduation celebration that was thought to be put off for a later date suddenly became possible.
“After Dorie’s track career ended prematurely, the Commencement walk was a great way for the two of us to cap off our shared KU experience,” Greg reflected after a memorable weekend. “Neither of us will ever forget walking through the Campanile together.”
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
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.
Michael Cain has put his two degrees from KU to use helping Team USA get to Rio.
Cain, j’98, l’01, was a KU track and field student-athlete as an undergraduate but realized his speed might not be enough to take him to the Olympics. After arming himself with a degree from the KU School of Law, he set his sights on a volunteer opportunity at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games in 2002. Soon after, opportunity knocked with USA Track & Field, which took him to back to the Olympic Games at Athens in 2004. Working as part of the Team USA Track and Field delegation, he had the opportunity to march in the Opening Ceremonies, bumping into Team USA basketball coach and fellow Jayhawk, Larry Brown. He shared the memorable exchange with KU Law Magazine in this 2012 profile.
After his stint with USA Track & Field, Cain joined the Walt Disney Company, managing sports events at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. He also was able to put his broadcast journalism skills to work for ESPN3 and others, providing lead commentary, sideline reporting and emceeing for a variety of sports events, including the Pop Warner Super Bowl, spring training baseball, MLS soccer and multiple track and field events. He often returned to Lawrence to volunteer at the Kansas Relays, broadcasting interviews with Olympians competing at the Relays.
Today, Cain is director of business development for the Olympic Training Centers. Based in Colorado Springs at the US Olympic Committee headquarters, Cain still manages to employ his broadcast background, hosting a web series that takes viewers inside the OTC. Admittedly, the gig isn’t always fun and games. Cain frequently takes a beating for his craft at the hands of Olympians like Team USA super heavyweight boxer Marlo Moore, taekwondo champion Steven Lopez and Paralympic Judo bronze medalist Dartanyan Crockett (episodes below, plus more at youtube.com/teamusa). Look for Mike broadcasting online during the Olympics, and join us in celebrating our #JayhawksinRio!
Legendary KU track and field coach, Bob Timmons, d’50, g’50, died August 4 at age 91. Timmons, affectionately known as “Timmie,” might be most famous for coaching Jim Ryun, the first high school boy to run under four minutes for mile, before the duo came to the University of Kansas, where Ryun set World Records and Timmons coached for 22 years. In addition to Ryun, Timmie’s athletes achieved remarkable success for KU. To date, Timmie has won more national championships than any coach in KU history. His coaching career at Kansas produced:
4 NCAA Championships
16 World Record holders
31 Conference Championships
24 NCAA Champions
Later in his career, Timmie purchased land north of Lawrence where he created Rim Rock Farm, one of the most challenging–and beautiful–cross country courses in the country.
Former athletes paid tribute to their beloved coach when news of his passing spread. Comments and articles have been gathered here in memory Coach Bob “Timmie” Timmons.
A public memorial service is being planned for a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent in his name to the Williams Education Fund – Track and Field, Mustard Seed Church or the American Red Cross and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary.
You might know her as the trainer on NBC’s hit show “The Biggest Loser,” or recognize her from the January 2015 cover of Health magazine. But did you know that Jen Widerstrom is also a Jayhawk?
Now a prominent fitness expert, the Chicago native arrived at KU eager to try a new sport. She originally joined the rowing team at KU and admits she was “so bad.” Late in her sophomore year, however, fate intervened when another coach spotted her lifting weights and persuaded her to try throwing hammer.
“To have people believe in me, and really support me in that transition, it really turned my life around at KU,” says Jen, d’05.
Watch our video below to learn more about how Jen stays connected to KU, what helped her make the decision to take on “The Biggest Loser” and why she’s a proud Life Member of the KU Alumni Association. Rock Chalk, Jen!
Homer Floyd, d’61, KU’s first African-American football team captain, and Ernie Shelby, f’59, KU’s first African-American track team captain, returned to Mount Oread for Martin Luther King Jr. Day events Jan. 19 in Lawrence.
After a program in Strong Hall, the two participated in a candlelight walk with about 125 students and faculty members to the Kansas Union for a Social Justice Celebration. Later that evening, Floyd and Shelby were honored during the Jayhawks’ rousing 85-78 victory over Oklahoma.
Floyd was an all-conference running back, and Shelby was a national-champion long jumper. In 1957, the two, along with All-America men’s basketball team captain Wilt Chamberlain, ’59, and All-America sprinter Charlie Tidwell, ’61, met with Chancellor Franklin Murphy to ask for his help in changing the discriminatory practices of Lawrence businesses.
At their urging, Murphy, c’36, convinced local businesses to provide equal service and access to African-Americans.
Floyd (left in photo below), who now lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, led the football team as co-captain in 1958 and went on to a distinguished career as a civil rights leader. Shelby (right), of Los Angeles, led the track team as captain in 1959, when the men’s team won the NCAA Outdoor National Championship. He won the national championship in the long jump in 1958 and ’59 and earned All-America honors. Shelby is a jazz composer and singer.
Tim Tays, c’83, came to Kansas in the late ’70’s looking to become one of the greatest distance runners in the storied history of Kansas Track & Field. Was that too much to ask? In his first book, Wannabe Distance God: The Thirst, Angst, and Passion of Running in the Chase Pack, A Memoir by Timothy M. Tays, PhD, the alumni author reveals in excruciating detail the mindset of an aspiring college distance runner competing against the greatest of his era and the legends of KU’s past. The book, available in paperback and for Kindle at Amazon.com, features memorable accounts of famous figures in KU track history, such as Jim Ryun, Billy Mills and Coach Bob Timmons. In this excerpt provided by the author, Tays introduces us to Coach Timmons by recounting a typical cross country workout. As a former KU track runner, I can personally attest to the anxiety produced by that bumpy drive into the country for a distance run, leaving Fraser far in the distance.
The Sag Wagon
“Lock an’ load, men!” Coach Timmons barked as he slid behind the steering wheel of the truck. “We’ve got four new tires and sunny weather! Hee! You get to run again today!”
In the face of yet another overwhelming workout, Timmie often held the enthusiasm for all of us. We clustered behind his rear bumper and waited to climb into the bed. Gnats stuck to my skin like pepper and collected in the corners of my eyes as I stepped into the truck. My quads felt the usual fatigue, so it’d feel good to sit, even if just for the time it took Timmie to drive us out of town. Since the good spots along the sides of the truck were already taken, I waded between the gauntlet of bare knees and plopped beneath the rear window. I was lucky; the last three guys had to stand.
“Hold on!” Timmie yelled. The truck lurched forward, and the guys standing clutched at our shoulders.
With my knees pulled to my chest and my arms around my shins, I was one of nineteen squeezed into the truck as it groaned out of the Memorial Stadium parking lot. My teammates joked with each other, and I envied their fellowship. They thought I was a shy freshman, but I saw myself as psyching up for the workout. On the bubble I ran fifth-to-seventh man, so my position on the team was tenuous. It was almost too much to bear as Timmie daily x’d out a square on a calendar in the locker room, counting down to the Big Eight Cross-Country Championship, proclaiming varsity runners must finish each interval of every workout in the top seven or risk losing their position.
So I approached workouts like a race.
My goal was to letter just as it had been four years earlier as a freshman in high school. This time, though, besides exceptionally talented older runners, I also faced overwhelming academics and homesickness. So I resisted the handful of guys on the wrong side of the bubble who had the same goal as me. They too sat stoic as paratroopers, looked down at their hands, and rested their foreheads on their knees. They knew it would hurt; it always did.
We crested a hill and were weightless for a moment. The standing guys sank into deep squats, their eyes wide.
“Yee-haw!” Timmie exclaimed in front. “It’s a bee-yew-tiful day in God’s country!”