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Kynard Soars to New Heights

By Mark Janssen

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Erik Kynard appears to be a quiet, mild-mannered young man ... for the most part.

But if something goes against this K-State high jumper, he can be verbally lashing.

"I can say not nice things to a high jump bar," Kynard said, adding a soft chuckle. "I'll keep it PG, but I don't say nice things. That high jump bar wins more times than not. When you one-up the bar, that's a big deal because that bar wins most of the time at the end."

Visualize, if you will, standing in your home doorway, and then look another seven or eight inches above that opening. It's up there, isn't it?

That's how high Kansas State's 6-foot-4 sophomore high jumps ... some 15 inches over his head ... at 7-07.75 indoors, which this year ranks best among collegians and third in the world heading  into this weekend's NCAA Indoor Championships at Texas A&M.

The leap came last month at the Tyson Invitational hosted by Arkansas with Kynard honestly not knowing how high he was jumping.

"Coach (Cliff Rovelto) told me to put the bar at 2.33, but I honestly didn't know exactly how high it was when I jumped it," Kynard said. "He's the coach ... he's the general, so that's where I put the bar. All I knew was that it was higher than I had ever jumped before."

Kynard's previous personal record had been 7-6, so perhaps it's best that he didn't know what height 2.33 was in feet and inches.

"High jump is so much in the mind. It's a very mental sport and high jump is a very cruel event," said Kynard, who has won each of his five competitions helping him earn the Midwest Region Men's Field Athlete of the Year Award. "The bar really does always win (with the third miss) unless you choose to stop, and that's not the idea of the sport. You have to be strong mentally. That's what you have to develop first."

That, and coach Rovelto will say, the proper fundamentals.

"At that point of the season we weren't into the height, but only looking at things you need to do to be better. That's what enables you to jump higher, but you don't dwell on the height, itself," Rovelto said. "Erik has a really good work ethic and desire to do the things that allow you to jump higher. I'm not surprised that he jumped that high because he's doing all the right things he needs to do to jump that high."

Kynard has always been a high jumping high jumper. A native of Toledo, Ohio, he cleared 5-10 in eighth grade, and then 6-6 as a freshman, and then 7-0 as a sophomore.

"That's when I thought, 'I guess I'm going to be a high jumper'," laughed Kynard, who went on to clear 7-4.25 as a senior. "It's been a gift from God that I had to do something with."

Kynard was so intent on improving, that he switched high schools going from Roy C. Stark to Robert S. Rogers to get better coaching.

As a high schooler, he was a two-time Ohio state champion, twice won the Nike Indoor National meet and once outdoors. He was also a two-time USA Junior National runner-up, competed at the 2008 USA Olympic Trials at the age of 17, and was runner-up at the 2009 Pan American Games.

It was at those national competitions that one name kept coming up as being a premier track and field coach in the nation.

"I'd never looked at Kansas on a map in my life, but when I was 16 and thinking about where I wanted to go, the one name that people talked about was Cliff Rovelto," Kynard said. "I visited Arkansas and Ohio State, but I chose K-State because of coach and the history the school had in the event.

"A lot of people were talking to me, but I wasn't listening that much," he said. "I didn't want anyone selling me any dreams. Coach isn't a man of many words, but he gave me the hard facts."

While Kynard was all-star quality as a prepster, he laughs about the changes he made at K-State in his freshman season when he was an All-American indoors and outdoors with respective NCAA finishes of 11th and sixth.

Kynard said of the experience, "We went through a time of taking me apart and putting me back together. He treated me like getting a used car. He had to tune me up and customize me a little bit."

While having coached Olympic high jumpers in Ed Broxterman, Nathan Leeper and Connie Teaberry at K-State, plus Jaime Nieto, Matt Hemingway and Jesse Williams who have come to Rovelto for personal training, the Wildcat coach calls Kynard "special stuff."

But he says he has to remind Kynard "... that his you know what still stinks. Now it's how he deals with the psychology of the event. As soon as anyone starts thinking about a height, they're in trouble ... they're not concentrating on what's important."

Kynard's current goal is to consistently clear 7-5 and 7-6 in competitions, or, do what it takes to win, which he did at the Big 12 Indoor Championships clearing 7-4.25.

To the layman, that's quite a goal for someone who ... get this ... really can't jump very high. Even he admits that by basketball-athlete comparison, "I'm not very good at all ... 28 inches. But I am very, very, fast. I guess it's all physics of applying force to the ground at a high rate of speed, which gets you off the ground."

Coming from the left side and jumping off his right foot, Kynard says what he does is "jump off the momentum" of a 10-stride approach that covers 70 feet, 10 inches.

As for limits to what Kynard can do, neither jumper nor coach are saying: "All I can say is that he can jump higher than he is," Rovelto said. "There are just too many variables to predict what someone is going to do."

KSU INDOOR BESTS
7-7.75 - Erik Kynard, 2011 (Big 12 champion, All-American)
7-6 - Scott Sellers, 2008 (4-time All-American, NCAA champion, Big 12 champion)
7-5.25 - Kyle Lancaster, 2006 (3-time All-American, Big 12 champion)
7-5.25 - Percell Gaskins, 1993 (NCAA champion)
7-5 - Itai Margalit, 1993 (NCAA All-American, Big Eight champion)


We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen at mjanssen7@cox.net, or Kansas State Director of Athletic Communications/SID Kenny Lannou at klannou@kstatesports.com. For those who would like to share Sports Extra with a friend or family member, or change your current email address, click here.