Today KU officials announced that the KU Relays would be postponed for the 2022 track season, "due to continued Covid19 concerns but assured everyone they would return for the 2023 season which will mark the 100th Anniversary of the relays. The last time the high school division ran at KU was in 2019
The KU Relays debuted in 1923, the brainchild of then KU head football coach John Outland. Outland's inspiration for the KU Relays came from the Penn Relays, which he first saw as a student at Penn. In 1920, Outland collaborated with then-athletic director and KU legend Phog Allen and three years later the Kansas Relays were born.
Cancellation of the 2022 KU Relays marks the third consecutive year they have been canceled, equaling the longest cancellation of 1943-1945 for World War II. The KU Relays were previously held through pandemics in 1957-1958, 1968, and 2009.
For decades, the KU Relays were the highlight of the season for both high school and collegiate track and field athletes, interspersed with open events that drew world-class fields and often drawing crowds in excess of 20,000 people. Hundreds of current and future American and world record holders and Olympians have competed at what was once a flagship meet on the U.S. track and field calendar. The all-time Kansas Relays records include performances in many events that would still be internationally significant today.
In 1983, the KU Relays even served U.S. diplomacy.
At the height of the Cold War, and three years after the United States boycotted the 1980 Olympics held in Moscow, a contingent of athletes from the Soviet Union were invited and competed in several world-class events at the Relays. Much like the current situation in North Korea, the Soviet Union was at the time a closed society whose citizens had little contact direct with the outside world. The presence of Soviet athletes on American soil in the heartland once again drew national attention to the Kansas Relays.
A spokesperson for the KU athletic department referred to the cancellation as the "financially responsible decision" without citing any specific figures. In March, KU athletics paid out just under $2 million to former football coach Les Miles, and the year earlier paid out $2.55 million to former football coach David Beatty.
New, high-quality events have sprung up around the area (the 2021 Trials of Miles Kansas City Qualifier) and the nation (Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Nationals). If they return as scheduled in 2023 for the 100th anniversary, the Kansas Relays will bring something to the table that these upstart events don't : a history of legendary performances and profound influence on the sport.