The Lawrence Journal-World wrote an editorial as the Kansas Relays got underway this week in its brand new facilities called Rock Chalk Park. The LJW was wishing that these world class facilities would mean the Kansas Relays is "primed" to return as one of the nation's best track and field competitions. It pains me to report that it's not and I doubt whether it will ever be again.
I blogged a few weeks back about K.U.'s decision to pull its budget to bring elite professional track stars to the meet. It took a herculean effort to salvage the downtown shot put competition and that was the only one with nary a pro in sight. The meet has become a sensational high school meet. The college competition is tepid at best.
The university portion of the meet began to fall about nearly 40 years ago when Arkansas stopped coming. The bleeding of top collegiate teams never ended. I only saw one other top tier Division 1 school with athletes at the meet, Nebraska. There were a handful of athletes from other lesser D1 lights like Rice, but consider this. The two other D1 schools in the Sunflower State, Wichita State and Kansas State were nowhere to be found.
The university portion will never recover. Mt. Sac now falls on the same weekend as the Relays and if you're a decent distance runner, you're going out to California to run fast. Heck, even K.U. has sent its best runners in the past out to this meet, much to my consternation. And there are a handful of other meets spread across the country that now compete against the Relays including one that Oklahoma hosts and one at Ohio State.
K.U. will have to put some serious manpower and money behind the Relays if it ever expects it to land on a par with Drake. Don't even think that it can share the same spotlight as the Penn Relays. No, unless The University of Kansas decides that the Relays deserves first class treatment it is destined to be nothing more than a great high school track and field meet. And maybe that's okay.
Those of us who love the Relays will always have memories of such great athletes as Jim Ryun, Stacy Dragila, Mike Boit and Maurice Greene. But I feel gypped that the city to build these facilities only to have K.U. pull the rug out from underneath the meet by cutting a big chunk of its budget.