SE: Track and Field Sets Goals High for 2016

Following a short break at home for the holidays, K-State track and field is back in Manhattan and ready to compete in tomorrow’s Wildcat Invitational. The meet, taking place in Ahearn Field House, is set to begin with field events at 11 a.m., followed by track events at 2 p.m.

“I’ve been training really hard over the winter break, so I’m very excited for this weekend,” said senior sprinter and long jumper Ifeanyichukwu Otuonye. “Also, there’s less pressure when we compete at home because it’s where we practice and is an area we’re familiar with. The other schools need to be really scared because this is what we’re used to. You feel relaxed at home, and you compete well when you’re relaxed.” 

Otuonye, the 2015 Big 12 Outdoor men’s long jump champion, just returned to Manhattan this week after a two-week trip home to sunny Turks and Caicos. He said keeping up with his training while home on break took discipline, but he stayed the course.

“When you’re home you have to sacrifice some things, but you have to look at the bigger picture,” he explained. “It’s good to go home and have fun, but you have to stay on practice, make sure you lift and make sure any time you do practice that it’s worthwhile and that you’re not just going through the motions. We have a meet as soon as we get back, so if we didn’t do anything, coach is going to know right away.”

Heading into this 2016 indoor track and field season, the Wildcat women’s team earned a preseason ranking of No. 4 in the nation – its highest ranking ever – with 120.25 points, while the men’s team also broke into the top 25 polls at No. 20 with 43.19 points.

“Right now we have a great team,” said five-time Big 12 Champion senior thrower Sara Savatovic. “I knew we were going to be very highly ranked because we have so many champions. We have so many great athletes and hopefully Olympians. I knew we had a great team and I think we can do a lot this season.”

Along with the high preseason rankings, this year’s Wildcat squad has even more to be excited about. This year, 2016, is an Olympic year, and track and field athletes around the nation are hard at work preparing to compete at their very best. 

“I don’t know what happens on the Olympic year, but every Olympic year everyone just steps up,” said Otuonye. “People who have been injured, magically they’re good again. The competition level has really increased. Being an Olympic year, for me, that’s the big goal. This indoor season is a huge stepping stone for the outdoor season, so I’m trying to really get the most out of the indoor season and do the most that I can. I’m going to try and get some big marks.”

Right now, K-State track and field is clicking on all cylinders. Along with having some of the top athletes in the nation looking to make an even bigger splash this season, both the men’s and women’s teams enter this season with a tight bond. 

“This team is really strong, they’re stronger than I’ve ever seen,” said Otuonye. “The upperclassmen came together and we’re trying to do activities to bring the team together, and I think that’s been helping a lot. We’re more united, we’re more of a family, and with the team being stronger and being more of a family, that’s going to help push us to do great.” 

On the women’s side, along with Savatovic’s dominance in the weight throw, the Wildcats will be led by seniors Akela Jones (heptathlon) and Dani Winters (shot put), as well as junior Kim Williamson (high jump). Jones, the 2015 Big 12 Indoor Outstanding Performer of the Year, is coming off of a Big 12 title in long jump and earned high-point scorer in the Big 12 Championship meet. Winters and Williamson are also defending Big 12 champions in their respective events.  

“Sometimes I think, ‘Wow, these people are so good and so dominating,’ about my team and it makes we want to be like that. It’s inspiring. I really respect everybody on my team; we really have a great team bond and I think we all give each other a lot of motivation.”

On the men’s side, the team will look to Otuonye as well as the 2015 Big 12 Freshman of the Year and Second Team All-American sophomore Nate Gipson (high jump).

“The team is looking really good this year,” said Otuonye. “I think it’s the best the team has looked in a long time. Everybody is doing really well with testing and practice – you can see a big difference from the other years – and that’s going to be big in an Olympic year.”

K-State competed in its first event of the season, the Winter Invitational on Dec. 12, in Ahearn Field House, where both the men’s and women’s teams came out on top (you can check out the team’s results from the Winter Invitational by clicking here).  

The Wildcats hope for a similar outcome tomorrow at the Wildcat Invitational.

Also see:
Track and field junior Akela Jones was named to the 2016 Preseason Bowerman Trophy watch list, the USTFCCCA announced on Wednesday. 

With the recognition, Jones becomes the first Kansas State female track athlete to be named to Bowerman Trophy watch list since the award was established in 2009. 

To continue reading about Jones, please click here

K-State men’s basketball (10-4, 0-2 Big 12) concludes its two-game road swing tomorrow afternoon in Norman, Oklahoma, as it faces the No. 2/1 Oklahoma Sooners (21-1, 1-1 Big 12) at a sold-out Lloyd Nobel Center at 3:30 p.m.

“There are a lot of good teams in this league,” said K-State head coach Bruce Weber. “You just have to get refocused every day. Every game is going to be the biggest game of the year, so we just have to claw along and see which ones we can get.”

Both K-State and Oklahoma enter tomorrow’s matchup coming off of Big 12 road losses. K-State dropped its matchup at Texas on Tuesday evening, 60-57, while Oklahoma is coming off of a crazy 109-106 triple-overtime loss to the No. 1/2 Kansas Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse on Monday evening.

The Sooners are led by one of the nation’s most talented guards, senior Buddy Hield. Hield averages a Big 12-best 26.3 points per game and has scored a conference-best 47 three-pointers. On Monday evening against Kansas, Hield scored a career-high 46 points. 

“Every team is going to present itself with a new test,” said freshman guard Barry Brown, “but I don’t think we’ve played a player like Buddy. We haven’t played someone who is going to keep coming at you and tries to get a shot off constantly. I don’t think we’ve played anyone like that.” 

A win on Saturday would mark the Wildcats’ first Big 12 victory of the season as, along with the loss to Texas, K-State opened Big 12 play with a heartbreaking, 87-83, double-overtime loss to No. 19/17 West Virginia. 

Putting the losses behind it, the team’s focus is to improve and take the season one game at a time. 

“You can’t do anything about it. Where did the Chiefs start? They were awful. Now they’re one of the hottest teams in the NFL,” said Weber. “You just have to get better. We just have to worry about the next game and keep getting better, that’s all we can do.” 

For more information on tomorrow afternoon’s men’s basketball game, please click here.  


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