By Mark Janssen
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State track and field coach Cliff Rovelto says of this weekend's Big 12 vs. SEC Challenge, "It will be comparable, and in some areas even more competitive, than the Big 12 Championships. That's how good this meet is. In several events there will be four or five people that will be in the finals at the national meet. It is a really, really quality meet."
The competition will take place Friday and Saturday on the campus of Texas A&M University. Representing the Big 12 Conference will be K-State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. From the SEC will be Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi.
Teams were selected to try to put strengths versus strengths, so it should be a tremendous competition," said Rovelto.
As examples of just how good some events will be, Rovelto predicted that there will be four or five 60-meter hurdlers that will reach the NCAA finals, and that four or five men will be in the heptathlon that have already reached All-American status during their careers.
"There is no question that these are the best two conferences in the nation," said Rovelto. "If you go over the 14-year history of the Big 12, the SEC is No. 1 and the Big 12 No. 2. If you include only the last two years, the SEC is No. 1 and the Big 12 No. 2 with the men, and the Big 12 is No. 1 and the SEC is No. 2 with the women.
"Honestly, it's not even close," Rovelto said. "If you look at individual All-Americans over the last few years, there are more All-Americans on some teams in the Big 12 and SEC than are in some overall conferences around the nation."
Competing to Win
In picking possible K-State event winners this weekend, Rovelto mentioned the names of Erik Kynard in the high jump (7-5 ¼), Deszo Szabo in the pole vault, Jeffrey Julmis in the hurdles, and Moritz Cleve in the multi-events.
In the women's division, Rovelto listed Nina Kokot in the long jump, Martina Tresch in the 3000, Sydney Messick in the 5000, TiAra Walpool in the triple jump, and Ryann Krais in the multi-events.
Running; Not Running
Rovelto said that Mantas Silkauskas would not run due to a hip injury, but said Julmis would return to action after a knee injury and blood clot. Silkauskas tied the school record in the 60-hurdles last weekend at 7.80.
New to the Lineup
Rovelto said two semester transfers from Germany would be competing for the first time for the Wildcats. That's long jumper Patrick Stumpp, plus Stephen Stoll, who will compete on a relay.
Stoll was third in the intermediate hurdles in the German Championships last year.
Men, Women Ranked
K-State's men's indoor track and field team enters the season No. 20 in the nation, while the women are No. 36.
Overall, there are eight men's teams from the Big 12 in the Top 25 and six women's teams.
"No other conference in the nation has more ranked teams," said Rovelto.
While saying it is his hope that both K-State teams can be in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 Conference, he adds, "I honestly think that on the men's side you will have two or three teams place higher in the national meet than in the Big 12 Championships."