Four Punch Ticket in Day One of Prelims

AUSTIN, Texas -- Four Wildcats earned a trip to Eugene, Oregon, for NCAA Outdoors thanks to solid qualifying efforts at the NCAA West Preliminary Round in Austin, Texas. The first of three days of action for K-State Track and Field, the Wildcats saw four out of six athletes secure NCAA bids in finals competition, while also going three-for-three on the track in quarterfinal qualification.  

Head coach Cliff Rovelto was pleased with the overall showing, emphasizing the main goal at this meet in particular is qualifying regardless of actual mark or place.  

"This meet is the preliminaries of the NCAA meet, so all that matters is moving on, marks don't carry over. Everyone but two that were in a final today moved on and all the others qualified for the quarterfinals -- which again doesn't make a difference whether they're first or 24th, as long as you're there tomorrow that's all that matters.

"With that said, there was some really great performances. You don't take what they accomplished for granted because all you need to do is look at every single event today and see that there were people that did not get through that were really, really good. It's easy to not take what our athletes accomplished today for granted because it is not easy to finish in the top-12."

Savatovic Secures Second-Straight Trip

Two weeks removed from winning her third-straight Big 12 hammer throw title, Sara Savatovic kept another streak alive today, placing fifth in the event to qualify for NCAAs for a second-straight season. Competing in the third of three flights overall, Savatovic fouled on her first throw before marking 63.23m/207-05 on her second attempt to move into fourth-overall and eventually place fifth.

For Savatovic, along with clinching a second-consecutive trip to Eugene, Oregon, she will attempt to become the first Wildcat since Loren Groves in 2009 to earn hammer throw All-American honors in back-to-back seasons.

Otuonye Flies to Fifth in Long Jump

Ifeanyichukwu Otuonye continued what has amounted to a career year for the junior, leaping a personal best 7.87m/25-10 to secure a trip to NCAAs. Placing fifth in the event, Otuonye shined marking PRs on his first two attempts of the afternoon -- he opened the event leaping 7.81m/25-07.50. Along with building off of his previous PR of 7.69m/25-02.75 that won him the Big 12 title in Ames, Iowa, two weeks ago, Otuonye's latest effort adds to his already held Turks and Caicos national record and moves him to No. 5 in school history.

The NCAA long jump bid is also his first-ever in the event and he will head to NCAAs for the first time since running a leg on the 4x100 relay squad as a freshman in 2013. Otuonye will look to continue a streak of three-straight seasons the Wildcats have had a men's long jumper earn first team All-American honors.  

Bryan and Gipson Move On

In the men's high jump, the freshman duo of Christoff Bryan and Nate Gipson secured qualification with eighth and 11th-place finishes, respectively. Two of seven jumpers to clear the bar at 2.17m/7-01.50, Bryan didn't record any misses before bowing out after three tries at 2.20m/7-02.50, while Gipson earned qualification thanks to clearing 2.17m on his second attempt -- Trey Culver of Texas Tech (12th), Cameron Ostrowski of Iowa State (13th) and Grant Anderson of Nebraska (14th) all cleared the bar on their third attempt.

Rovelto said struggles for both athletes aside, qualifying in a stacked field that included nine of the top-10 high jumpers in the country was very impressive.

"I thought the freshman high jumpers, part of it is maybe they're freshmen, part of it is maybe the long year. But leading up to [Big 12s] I thought they were in a good place physically and emotionally and performed that way at the meet. Since then it has not been as solid, and it showed today," Rovelto said. "But you look at the competition today, there were two or three guys in my mind that I think are unbelievably dangerous if they're at the NCAA finals and they didn't make it today. So that's why even though with our two guys, even if they didn't jump extremely well today, there's 48 guys here and only 12 move on and they did it as freshmen. So they did a good job to accomplish that."

The duo join Culver and Randall Cunningham of USC as the only freshmen to qualify out of the West Region in the event. As for Eugene, Bryan and Gipson will attempt to become the first pair of teammates for K-State to earn All-American honors in the high jump since Scott Sellers won the NCAA title and Kyle Lancaster placed fourth-overall in 2007.  

On the Track...

Tia' Gamble motored her way to second in her 400-meter hurdles heat to automatically qualify for a spot in the event's quarterfinals. Clocking 59.38, Gamble was one of four runners to finish with a sub-58 second time. She will compete tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.

• The first round of 800-meter heats saw Sonia Gaskin and Kain Ellis each earn spots in the quarterfinal for the women and men, respectively.

Gaskin, who is seeking NCAA qualification in the event in back-to-back seasons, finished third in 2:09.48 in a heat that saw first through fourth separated by a tenth-of-a-second. Ellis, meanwhile, used a solid push in the final 200 meters to earn automatic qualification to the quarterfinals, placing third in his heat in 1:50.18 -- the sophomore entered the meet ranked 50th in the West Region.

Both Wildcats will be in action tomorrow, starting with Gaskin at 7 p.m. and Ellis following in the men's quarterfinals.

Laura Galvan finished her K-State career with a spirited effort in the women's 10K. Clocking 34:56.02, the senior Wildcat narrowly missed a trip to NCAAs by placing 13th-overall. Galvan, who entered the meet ranked 51st in the West Region, placed less than six seconds behind 12th-place finisher Bronte Golick of UCLA (34:50.54).

Said Rovelto, ""Unfortunately, Laura was 13th. I thought she competed really well, never gave up and it's a shame to end up just shy. Somebody has to and it's unfortunate, but she finished up this last year -- her last two meets, in my opinion, have been the best meets of her career from a track and field perspective. She's performed at a different level these past two meets. She's obviously had some great cross country races, but on the track I thought this was a great way for her to end her career."

What's Next?

Day two of the West Prelims for K-State gets underway at 6 p.m. with the women's high jump and at 7 p.m. in the 800m. Along with the aforementioned quarterfinals qualifiers, Akela Jones, Kim Williamson, Alyx Treasure and Rhizlane Siba in the high jump, A'Keyla Mitchell and Terrell Smith in the 200-meter dash and Morgan Wedekind in the 3,000-meter steeplechase are all set to compete. To follow K-State's efforts on day two, updates will be provided on Twitter via @kstate_gameday under #KStateTF.


NCAA West Preliminary Round (Day I)
Mike A. Myers Stadium
Austin, Texas

800m (First Round)
Men
21: Kain Ellis, 1:50.18q

Women
20: Sonia Gaskin, 2:09.48q

10K
Women
13: Laura Galvan, 34:56.02

400H (First Round)
Women
14: Tia' Gamble, 59.38pq

High Jump
Men
8: Christoff Bryan, 2.17m/7-01.50q
11: Nate Gipson, 2.17m/7-01.50q
34: Zack Riley, 2.08m/6-09.75

Long Jump
Men
5: Ifeanyichukwu Otuonye, 7.87m/25-10q (1.5) -- Personal best, 5th-best in school history & Turks & Caicos record

Hammer Throw
Women
5: Sara Savatovic, 63.23m/207-05q