Heritage - Kansas Relays Background
Plaque name: Kansas Relays
Location: University of Kansas Track and Field, Rock Chalk Park, Lawrence, KS 66049, USA
Plaque awarded: 13/04/2023
Reason: Plaque Category – Competition
The award marks the 100th anniversary of the Kansas Relays, hosted by the University of Kansas, which were founded on 21 April 1923. The relays have been held every year since, except for 1943-1945 (World War II), 1998-1999 (stadium renovations) and 2020-2022 (COVID-19).
The Kansas Relays came to fruition thanks to Kansas University’s football coach Dr. John H. Outland who, while studying medicine in the University of Pennsylvania, had been impressed with the Penn Relays (1895).
Outland’s dream was shared by Kansas University’s Director of Athletics Forrest C. ‘Phog’ Allen and, with the completion of the Memorial Stadium in 1922, they found an appropriate venue to make the relays a reality. The following year, ably helped by the university’s track coach Karl Schlademan, Outland and Allen staged the first Kansas Relays. More than 600 athletes, played out to a crowd of around 7000.
Over the decades an illustrious cast has been drawn to Lawrence. Jim Bausch, Glenn Cunningham, Al Oerter, Bill Neider, Billy Mills, Jim Ryun, Nawal El Moutawakel, Kenny Harrison, Jearl Miles Clark, Nick Hysong, Maurice Greene, Stacy Dragila, Joanna Hayes, Trecia Smith, Bershawn Jackson, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Allyson Felix are but a few of the long list of great names to have graced the Kansas Relays.
In 2005, to help attract spectators ‘The Gold Zone’ was created by Tim Weaver, then the meet director, effectively a three-hour world class meet within the three-day meet, an elite window which the following year attracted a headline crowd of 26,000.
Further innovation occurred in 2011 when the shot put was moved out of the stadium and held in downtown Lawrence, to engage the meet directly with the local population. Since 2014, after the removal of the track from the Memorial Stadium which became solely a football field, the meeting’s home has been in the new stadium of Rock Chalk Park.