K-State's Merryl Mbeng exchanges the baton with Sarah Kolmer in the women's 4x400 meter relay during the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships West Preliminaries at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas on May 31, 2014. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)
June 11, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
Fourteen Wildcats are set to compete on collegiate track and field's highest stage this week as the NCAA Championships begin today in Eugene, Oregon.
"It's a great group of kids, this year, both teams have been achieving at a high level in everything that we value," said K-State head coach Cliff Rovelto. "This spring, they had the highest GPA we've ever had as a group, so they've done everything at a very high level. It's a very good group, I love being around them. They're good kids."
On the men's side, perhaps the highlight of K-State's roster is sophomore Devin Field, who enters the competition ranked No. 2 (according to the NCAA Men's Championship performance list) in the triple jump and No. 15 in the long jump.
"I felt really good about my performance in the triple jump, but in the long jump I wasn't too happy about it, but I am happy that I made it in both," said Field. "I don't want to go there to lose, I want to go there to win, but I'm also looking forward to the experience because I've never been to a meet at that high level."
The Port Author, Texas, native placed first in the triple jump at the NCAA West Regional Preliminaries with a jump of 16.30m and sits just behind Florida's Marquis Dendy (16.32m) going into the event.
"Devin is really good and I don't know if people realize how good he was in high school," said Rovelto. "Now, you're seeing what he is, and he's a really talented guy. He won the Junior National Championship in the long jump as a sophomore in high school, he was beating college freshmen; he's just really good."
Also spotlighting the K-State men's team will be senior Devin Dick. Dick is ranked at No. 5 in the men's decathlon after an outstanding 7,792 point first-place finish at the Big 12 Championship.
Not far behind Dick though is teammate sophomore Reinis Kregers. Kregers finished second to Dick in the Big 12 Championship last month and is ranked at No. 9 going into this week's meet.
Also competing for the K-State men are junior Zack Riley, ranked No. 12 in the high jump, senior Ryan Hershberger, ranked No. 19 in the shot put and junior Ivan Hartung, ranked No. 21 in the javelin.
Riley will continue the Wildcats' success in the high jump as his NCAA Championship berth marked 12 consecutive years the K-State men will be represented in the event.
While the tradition in the high jump runs deep at K-State, Hershberger hopes to write his own history in the shot put. He is the first Wildcat to represent K-State in the event since T. J. Staab in 2005 and is excited for his first opportunity to compete in Eugene.
"There's definitely a lot of excitement," began Hershberger. "I'm excited that we had so many people qualify, and I'm excited to go there and not just go and compete, but go an actually try and make something out of it. I'm feeling strong; I've had three meets in a row that I think are pretty good and I know from practice that I can do even more."
Jumping up an impressive 11 spots since ranking No. 29 going into the Big 12 Championships on May 16, 2014, the K-State men's team will enter the NCAA Championships ranked No. 18 nationally.
On the women's side, the Wildcats rank No. 24 in the nation and have eight student-athletes competing this week in the NCAA Championships.
Sitting at No. 10 in the women's hammer throw, sophomore Sara Savatovic is one of only five underclassmen in the event and, though the Crvenka, Serbia, native is young, she has only continued to improve in the event.
"It's very exciting because I've been preparing for this all year," said Savatovic. "Hammer is my main event, so I've been working a lot. I've been working at practice both physically and mentally because in prelims, it was a mental battle."
Coming down to her third throw of the event, Savatovic placed fifth at the NCAA West Regional Preliminaries in an intense fashion and she was one of only five throwers to register a throw of 200 feet or more as well as the lone underclassman in the West to move on to the national championship.
"It's a good thing for me because I'm meeting older girls," explained Savatovic. "I like that because I like to see and try to figure out what they are doing better than I am. I like to watch people who have experience."
It will be her first trip to the NCAA Championship, but Rovelto is confident in the thrower and said it won't be her last.
"Sara has really improved a lot," said Rovelto. "We've got, arguably, one of the best coaches (Greg Watson) in the world in that event, so we have every confidence that she is going to just continue to get better."
Also taking on her first NCAA Outdoor Championship, after a successful jump that tied her for first in the NCAA West Regional Preliminaries, sophomore Alyx Treasure will represent K-State in the women's high jump.
"I'm really excited for NCAAs," said Treasure. "I feel like I'm really prepared for it this year. I'm excited to prove myself and hopefully get a PR, that's the goal. I've competed against a lot of the girls at (the NCAA Indoor Championship), so I've seen them and I kind of know what to expect. It's kind of an even keel for the top 12 in the country. The top three are pretty consistent then after that, really anybody could place."
Going into the NCAA Championship placed at No. 14, Treasure is tied with 15 of the 24 qualifiers with a jump of 1.77m. The first seven competitors in the women's high jump field qualified with a jump of 1.81m.
Along with Treasure and Savatovic, also competing at nationals is sophomore Sonia Gaskin, ranked No. 11 in the women's 800m run, senior Erica Twiss, ranked No. 23 in the women's long jump, freshman Danie Plank, ranked No. 21 in the women's javelin and the K-State women's 4x400 team, ranked No. 15 and made up of Gaskin, junior Sarah Kolmer, sophomore Tia' Gamble and senior Merryl Mbeng.
For Twiss, among the few seniors representing K-State, it will be her final outdoor competition of her K-State career, and, regardless of her performance, it will be a time filled with bittersweet memories.
"I haven't really come to terms with it yet, but after the preliminary rounds in Arkansas I was like, 'Wow, this is going to be my last outdoor meet,'" said Twiss. "Luckily I have another indoor season, but outdoors is the fun season for me, so it's going to be sad."
For the complete schedule of events and times for the 2014 Outdoor Track and Field NCAA Championship, click here.
Also, be sure to follow @kstatesports on Twitter and Instagram for social media updates throughout the week!
K-STATE TRACK AND FIELD SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
*All times noted in Pacific Time and are subject to change
Wednesday, June 11:
1:30 p.m. - Sara Savatovic, women's hammer throw
4:15 p.m. - Erica Twiss, women's long jump
4:45 p.m. - Sonja Gaskin, women's 800m semifinal
5:15 p.m. - Danielle Plank, women's javelin
5:30 p.m. - Ryan Hershberger, men's shot put
6:40 p.m. - Sonja Gaskin, Sarah Kolmer, Tia Gamble and Merryl Mbeng, women's 4x400 relay semifinals
Devin Dick and Reinis Kregers - Decathlon events
11:30 a.m. - 100m
12:15 p.m. - long jump
1:30 p.m. - shot put
2:45 p.m. - high jump
6:00 p.m. 400m
Thursday, June 12:
4:30 p.m. - Devin Field, men's long jump
Devin Dick and Reinis Kregers - Decathlon events
11:00 a.m. - 110 hurdles
12:00 p.m. - discus
2:00 p.m. - pole vault
4:30 p.m. - javelin
7 p.m. - 1500m
Friday, June 13:
3:20 p.m. - Zack Riley, men's high jump
5:25 p.m. - Sonja Gaskin, women's 800m final
Saturday, June 14:
12:30 p.m. - Devin Field, men's triple jump
12:35 p.m. - Ivan Hartung, men's javelin
12:45 p.m. - Alyx Treasure, women's high jump
3:55 p.m. - Sonja Gaskin, Sarah Kolmer, Tia Gamble and Merryl Mbeng, women's 4x400 relay final