Texas Tech's Kayli Johnson wins shot put title at Big 12 track and field championships

·7 min read
Texas Tech graduate student Kayli Johnson won the Big 12 championship in the women's shot put Saturday with a school record mark of 58 feet, 4 3/4 inches. Johnson graduated with a master's degree the day before.
Texas Tech graduate student Kayli Johnson won the Big 12 championship in the women's shot put Saturday with a school record mark of 58 feet, 4 3/4 inches. Johnson graduated with a master's degree the day before.

Kayli Johnson's younger brother is just beginning his college football career as one of the nation's top recruits and an early enrollee at Michigan.

Kayli Johnson wants a career in college football for herself, which is why she's spent the past school year working in the recruiting department for Texas Tech coaches Matt Wells and Joey McGuire.

Before she plunges into a football operations department full-time, however, Johnson still has to finish up her college career in track and field. She's going out with a bang, if Saturday is any indication.

Johnson won the women's shot put at the Big 12 outdoor championships, breaking an 11-year-old Texas Tech record with a mark of 58 feet, 4 3/4 inches.

The senior from Detroit achieved first-team all-America status at last year's NCAA indoor championships. Saturday was her first time to win an individual conference title, either in the Big Ten — she transferred to Tech from Michigan State — or in the Big 12.

She just keeps getting better and better.

"That's what I came here for," she said. "First time ever winning conference. New PR (personal record), new school record. I'm just thanking God and I'm blessed that this happened at the right moment, my last chance to ever do it at a conference championships, and I got it done."

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Johnson never came close to winning a Big Ten title as a young thrower at Michigan State.

"I think that's why this moment means so much," she said, "because looking back, at Michigan State, I don't think I ever even made a final. I might've made top 10 or missed it by a couple of spots, but I never made a final, was never a contender. No one ever thought about me."

Saturday was day two of the three-day Big 12 meet at Tech's Fuller Track Complex and throws field. Johnson was one of two winners for the Tech women.

Monae' Nichols went 22-10 1/2 in the lon, tying for the third-longest mark all-time in the NCAA, according to the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Jackie Joyner-Kersee, competing for UCLA, had the record at 22-11 1/4, set in May 1985, until Tara Davis from Texas went 23-5 1/4 in March 2021.

Carol Lewis also jumped 22-10 1/2 in 1984 for Houston, and Davis matched that three other times last year.

Nichols' victory led a 1-2-5 finish in the long jump for the Tech women, good for 22 points. Ruth Usoro (22-3) was second and Ruta Lasmane (21-0 3/4) was fifth. All were wind-legal jumps.

Tech's Callie Jones, who finished second on Friday in the women's javelin, took second on Saturday in the heptathlon with a personal record 5,864 points.

On the men's side, Tech high jumper Caleb Wilborn matched his third-place finish from this year's Big 12 indoor with another third-place finish at the outdoor. He went 7-0 1/2, his outdoor personal best.

"I'm always grateful," Wilborn said. "I'm very happy, proud of myself for pulling myself out of a little bit of a rut there in the first half of our outdoor season. But I put it together when I needed to put it together."

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Wilborn was a 2019 state champion as a senior at Coronado. On Friday, he graduated from Tech, three years after he started, with a psychology degree.

Johnson, meanwhile, went through the Texas Tech commencement for her master's degree. She got it in sport management, and she wants to put that degree to work in a college football operations department.

Why football, rather than track and field or another sport?

Her father, Deon Johnson, was a cornerback at Michigan. Her brother, Will Johnson, is going to play the same position at the same school. He was a five-star recruit and the nation's No. 5 rated prospect overall by Rivals for the class of 2022.

"If I didn't do track and I could choose a sport, it would probably be football," Kayli Johnson said with a laugh, "and girls could play. It's just where my passion aligns and I love seeing high-school football players thrive in college.

"Seeing my brother, in his career in high school and how he's been able to capitalize on that ... It kind of reaffirmed, when he was taking his visits, 'This is what I want to do. This stuff is fun every day.' It's hard work and it never stops, but it's fun."

Johnson began as a recruiting intern on the Wells' staff. When the internship ended, she said she recently was hired by the McGuire staff as a student assistant.

"So it's been a tremendous amount of growth," she said. "I've been able to see and find a career path that I'm really passionate about and I can see myself doing and being great at.

"Coach Wells's staff welcomed me in, and then the transition to coach McGuire's staff, they've all taken me in and given me that experience, and I've seen tremendous growth and kind of shined in what I've been able to help out with, so it's been really fun."

The Big 12 meet climaxes on Sunday. Remaining field-event finals are scheduled between noon and 6:30 p.m., and running-event finals are scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 9:10 p.m.


at Fuller Track Complex

Friday-Saturday results

Event finals only


Combined Events

Heptathlon: 1. Kristine Blazevica, Texas, 6,064 points; 2. Callie Jones, Texas Tech, 5,864; 3. Bailey Golden, Oklahoma State, 5,802; 6. Aria Tate, Texas Tech, 5,344.

Field Events

Hammer throw: 1. Lauren Jones, Oklahoma, 222 feet, 1 inch; 2. Emma Robbins, Kansas State, 217-1; 3. Antonella Creazzola, Iowa State, 205-1.

Javelin: 1. Rhiley Fritz, Texas, 164-9; 2. Callie Jones, Texas Tech, 162-9; 3. Sydney Juszczyk, TCU, 159-11; 4. Maria Sotomayor, Texas Tech, 146-3.

Shot put: 1. Kayli Johnson, Texas Tech, 58-4 3/4; 2. Payden Montana, Oklahoma, 56-6 1/2; 3. Marilyn Nwora, Texas, 56-5 1/4.

Pole vault: 1. Olivia Lueking, Oklahoma, 14-7 1/2; 2. Tuesdi Tidwell, Baylor, 14-1 1/4; 3. Kasey Staley, TCU, 14-1 1/4; 7. Ryleigh Redding, Texas Tech, 13-7 1/4.

Long jump: 1. Monae' Nichols, Texas Tech, 22-10 1/2 (wind: 1.0 meters per second); 2. Ruth Usoro, Texas Tech, 22-3 (wind: 0.8 mps); 3. Tyra Gittens, Texas, 21-6 3/4; 5. Ruta Lasmane, Texas Tech, 21-0 3/4.

Running Events

10,000 meters: 1. Gabby Hentemann, Oklahoma State, 34 minutes, 18.58 seconds; 2. Dana Feyen, Iowa State, 34:19.80; 3. Winrose Chesang, Iowa State, 34:44.44.

3,000 steeplechase: 1. Ceili McCabe, West Virginia, 10:12.87; 2. Lona Latema, Kansas, 10:20.75; 3. Janette Schraft, Iowa State, 10:30.85.


Combined Events

Decathlon: 1. Kristo Simulask, Oklahoma, 7,926 points; 2. Alexander Jung, Kansas, 7,606; 3. Tejaswin Shankar, Kansas State, 7,592; 5. Denim Rogers, Texas Tech, 7,520; 7. Gary Haasbroek, Texas Tech, 7,149.

Field Events

Hammer throw: 1. Bayley Campbell, Oklahoma, 230-2; 2. Kade McCall, Kansas State, 220-10; 3. Edward Jeans, Oklahoma, 219-9; 5. Gabriel Oladipo, Texas Tech, 211-0.

Javelin: 1. Chinecherem Prosper Nnamdi, Baylor, 255-10; 2. Markim Felix, Texas Tech, 232-0; 3. Garrett Wade, Texas Tech, 218-2.

High jump: 1. Vernon Turner, Oklahoma, 7-3 1/4; 2. Kason O'Riley, Oklahoma, 7-2 1/4; 3. Caleb Wilborn, Texas Tech, 7-0 1/2; 6. Jack Scarborough, Texas Tech, 6-11.

Long jump: 1. Johnny Brackins, Baylor, 26-5 1/2 (wind: 0.9 meters per second); 2. Jalen Seals, Texas Tech, 25-8 (wind: 1.5 mps); 3. Stacy Brown, Texas, 25-5 1/2.

Shot put: 1. Adrian Piperi, Texas, 69-9 3/4; 2. Jalil Brewer, Texas, 62-8 3/4; 3. Cooper Campbell, Oklahoma, 62-5 3/4; 6. Gabriel Oladipo, Texas Tech, 59-7 3/4.

Running Events

10,000 meters: 1. Haftu Knight, Texas, 29 minutes, 21.90 seconds; 2. Ryan Ford, Iowa State, 29:22.99; 3. Thomas Pollard, 29:28.11.

3,000 steeplechase: 1. Ryan Smeeton, Oklahoma State, 8:47.87; 2. Will Muirhead, Oklahoma State, 8:53.36; 3. Victor Shitsama, Oklahoma State, 8:57.62.

This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Texas Tech shot putter Kayli Johnson wins Big 12 title with record mark