K-State Sports Extra Top 10 Moments of April 2016

At the end of every month during the athletic year, K-State Sports Extra glances back at the best plays, victories and moments. April 2016 was an exciting month filled with big wins, individual highlights and student-athletes coming together for a cause. 

Here are the moments K-State Sports Extra recognizes as April’s best: 

10. Track and Field Solid at John McDonnell Invitational 
K-State track and field traveled to Fayetteville, Arkansas, on April 22 and 23, to compete in the John McDonnell Invitational and finished the weekend in dominating fashion. Over the course of the weekend, the Wildcats won a total of 12 events, three on the meet’s opening day and nine more on the second day of competition. 

The meet opened with freshman Brett Neely winning the men’s discus throw with a toss of 50.86m/166-10, while Shadae Lawrence took home first place in the women’s discus throw with a mark of 54.90m/25-05.50. The first day of competition was capped with Akela Jones first-place finish in the long jump (6.55m/21-06.00). 

The following day, the women’s team picked up seven first-place finishes with stellar performances from A’Keyla Mitchell in the 400 meter dash (52.34, PR), Sonia Gaskin in the women’s 800 meter run (2:10.39), Shardia Lawrence in the women’s triple jump (12.75m/41-10), Ally Zerbe in the women’s javelin throw (49.62m/162-09, PR), Dani Winters in the women’s shot put (17.06m/55-11.75), Janee’ Kassanavoid in the women’s hammer throw (57.31m/188-00), and the women’s 4x400 relay placed first with a time of 3:33.57. 

The men’s team saw two athletes earn first-place finishes with Brett Neelly in the men’s shot put (18.62m/61-01.25, PR) and Tyler Merkley in the men’s hammer throw (61.09m/200-05). 

For more information on the John McDonnell Invitational, please click here

9. Baseball Takes Back-to-Back series vs. West Virginia, Baylor
For the first time since the 2013 season, K-State baseball won back-to-back Big 12 series as the team won two of three on the road at West Virginia before taking two of three at home against Baylor. 

Against the Mountaineers, K-State picked up wins in the first two games. In game one on April 15, Josh Ethier’s two-run triple in the top of the ninth helped K-State to an 8-6 victory, while the following day, K-State scored its most runs in a Big 12 game in three years by defeating the Mountaineers, 15-2. 

Despite dropping the first game against Baylor, the Cats came back with a vengeance. In game two, K-State downed the Bears, 11-7, on April 23, while in the series finale, K-State pounded eight extra-base hits to finish with 13 total hits and a 10-4 win. 

For more on K-State’s series win over West Virginia, please click here. For a full recap and box score from the Bat Cats series victory over Baylor, please click here.  

8. Tennis Defeats Iowa State in First Round of Big 12 Championship 
K-State advanced to the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Women's Tennis Championship for the second year in a row by defeating Iowa State, 4-0, last Thursday and earning its 11th win of the season, its most since 2011. 

The No. 9 seeded Wildcats (11-13) jumped ahead of the No. 8 Cyclones (14-10) early, capturing the doubles point with wins at the No. 2 and 3 positions. The momentum carried over to singles as all six Wildcats won the first set of their respective matches before straight-set victories by Palma Juhasz, Carolina Costamagna and Sara Castellano clinched the contest. 

"Our doubles were great today, from all teams," explained K-State head coach Danielle Steinberg. "No. 3 doubles probable played their best match of the year and to do that in the conference tournament was great to see. I think doubles gave us a lot of confidence going into singles play, and we carried it to win all the first sets." 

For more on the Wildcats’ Big 12 victory, please click here. 

7. Quarterbacks Shine in Purple/White Spring Game 
K-State’s quarterbacks combined for 582 yards through the air on 46-of-64 attempts, as the Purple topped the White, 35-21, at the annual Spring Game held April 23, at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. 

The trio of signal callers alternated between the two teams with senior Joe Hubener leading the way with a combined 319 yards on 21-of-25 attempts and two touchdowns. Junior Jesse Ertz also tossed a touchdown on 12-of-18 passing, while redshirt freshman Alex Delton posted strong numbers, finishing 13-of-21 for 139 yards. 

“I thought they played well for the most part. I thought we took some sacks in the ball game that we should not have – that is not a positive thing for us. But, aside from that, I thought they did a nice job. If you are always playing with the purple, you will probably have a little bit better chance, so we want them to play with both.” 

For stats, photos, quotes and more on this year’s Spring Game, please click here

6. Student-Athletes Celebrate 2015-16 Seasons at Powercat Choice Awards 
K-State student-athletes showed up in style on April 25 and walked the purple carpet at the annual Mark A. Chapman Powercat Choice Awards. 

Trading in their sneakers and cleats for dress shoes and high heels and their purple uniforms for dresses, suits and ties, last night was an evening spent celebrating the many successes of K-State Athletics in 2015-16. 

“It’s great to celebrate all the student-athlete accomplishments, all the teams and everything that has gone on throughout the year,” said men’s basketball senior Brian Rohleder. “Seeing everybody dressed up, that’s probably my favorite part about it. You always see them in their sweaty uniforms and things like that, so this is a lot of fun.” 

To continue reading and to view a photo gallery from the event, please click here.  

5. Cody Whitehair Selected by Bears in NFL Draft 
One of the best offensive linemen in program history, Kansas State’s Cody Whitehair was selected with the 25th pick of the second round, No. 56 overall, in the 2016 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears on Friday evening. His selection extended K-State’s Big 12-leading streak with at least one player selected in the NFL Draft to 23 straight years. 

Whitehair is the ninth player in K-State history to be selected by the Bears and the first since defensive back Joshua Moore in 2010, while he is the first offensive lineman selected by the organization since Lynn Larson in 1970. Whitehair’s selection is the 53rd under the tutelage of Hall of Fame head coach Bill Snyder, including the 19th to be selected in the first three rounds. 

To continue reading, please click here. 

4. Jones Named Big 12 Female Athlete of the Week 
Track and field senior Akela Jones was named Big 12 Female Athlete of the Week on April 20 after her record-breaking performance in the heptathlon at the Mt. SAC Relays in Azusa, California, on April 13 and 14. 

The award is her first outdoor Athlete of the Week honor this season and her second overall honor after earning the award once during the indoor season. She was also named National Athlete of the Week by the USTFCCCA three times during the indoor campaign. 

Jones won the Mt. SAC Relays heptathlon with a final score of 6,307 points – the sixth-best score in collegiate heptathlon history and tied for best in the world this year. The competition was her first heptathlon of the season and her first since winning the 2015 NCAA Outdoor National Championship in the event. 

To continue reading about Jones’ most recent award, please click here

3. Gandon Ties for Fourth in Big 12 Championship 
K-State men’s golfer Jeremy Gandon matched the second-best finish ever by a Wildcat at the Big 12 Championship after his 1-over par 73 during Sunday’s final round tied him for fourth place at the Whispering Pines Golf Club. Gandon’s 72-hole score of 3-under par 285 is the best score versus par by a K-State golfer in the Big 12 Championship era. 

Gandon, who became the 10th Wildcat to earn a spot on the Big 12 All-Tournament team and the first freshman to earn the honor, helped K-State move up one spot to finish in a tie for sixth place at 33-over par 1,185. 

Gandon birdied his opening hole, the 10th, to start his day and would go bogey-birdie-par-birdie his next four holes to get to 2-under through five, positioning him in first place on the individual board at 6-under. However, the Charpey, France native was unable to birdie another hole down the stretch and dropped back to 1-over par on the day after back-to-back bogeys on holes four and five. He made five consecutive pars to end his round as he tied Matt Van Cleave (2005) for the second-best finish by a Wildcat in a Big 12 Championship and finished one place shy of tying Robert Streb (third in 2009) for the top spot in school history. 

To continue reading about Gandon’s outing, please click here. 

2. Talley Places Fourth at Big 12 Championship 
K-State junior women's golfer Madison Talley fired her second under-par round of the 2016 Big 12 Championship on April 24 as she finished in fourth place with a 54-hole score of 2-under par 214 at Dominion Country Club. Talley’s performance marked the first time a Wildcat has finished in the top 10 at the Big 12 Championship and subsequently earn a spot on the all-tournament team since Christine Boucher tied for seventh in 2004. 

“The first round, when I was in the lead, I felt like I was floating around the course,” said Talley after the tournament. “I didn’t really remember much, but they always say that’s what happens when a good golfer has a good round.” 

Talley, who carded a 1-under par 71 in the final round, also earned the best finish by a K-State golfer in the Big 12 Championship since Boucher finished second in 2002, while it marked her fourth top-five finish this season. Additionally, her 54-hole score of 214 was the best ever by a Wildcat at the Big 12 Championship by 10 strokes and tied for eighth in K-State history overall. 

To read more about Talley’s performance at the Big 12 Championship and her thoughts on the upcoming NCAA Regional tournament, please click here

1. Student-Athletes Host Special Olympics 
On Sunday, April 10, K-State student-athletes got together with Special Olympic teams from around the area for a morning of cheers, laughter and lasting memories. From obstacle courses to putting competitions to touchdown dances, just like every year, the Wildcats’ indoor football training facility was filled to the brim with smiling faces. 

“The Special Olympic Clinic is one of the coolest events that SAAC puts on,” said K-State women’s basketball senior Kelly Thomson, vice president of K-State’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). “With this event, you get to see your impact and you get to see how happy you make them. Everyone has a blast when they’re out here. They don’t stop smiling, we don’t stop smiling; it’s just a really fun event for us to be able to give back and be able to spend time with the kids. They love us and they look up to us, so it’s a cool opportunity for all of us as athletes.” 

The annual Special Olympics Clinic is completely led by student-athletes each year. Spearheaded by Thomson, K-State student-athletes involved in SAAC have spent the past few months working together to set up the clinic. 

To continue reading K-State Sports Extra’s Wildcats Give Back: Special Olympics, please click here.