Gaskin and Riley nab NCAA berths in Day Two of Prelims

May 31, 2014

Photo Gallery  K-State AthleticsFAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – K-State Track and Field continued NCAA West Regional action in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with day two performances highlighted by Sonia Gaskin and Zack Riley earning NCAA Championship berths. In all, along with the NCAA-clinching performances, the nine Wildcats that competed combined for four personal bests and one quarterfinal-qualifying effort.

Sonia Gaskin recorded a personal best in the 800 meter run for the second-straight day, finishing fourth overall to earn her first career trip to the NCAA Championships. Clocking in at 2:04.79, Gaskin placed fourth in her heat, as the top-four finishers in her heat were also the top-four finishers overall. The sophomore’s time bested her previous PR set last night of 2:06.43, as well as moved her up to fourth all-time in school history.

For Gaskin, she entered this week’s meet ranked 31st overall in the West Region and had not ran the event since April 18, this season. The St. George, Barbados, native became only the fourth Wildcat to record a sub-2:05.00 time in the event and it was  also the fastest mark registered by a Wildcat since Boglarka Bozzay ran 2:04.50 at the Mt. SAC Relays in 2012 – second-best in school history.

Head coach Cliff Rovelto said Gaskin’s performance during this outdoor season has been impressive.

“Obviously, Sonia qualifying with that PR was significant,” Rovelto said. “What she has been this year was everything we thought she could be when we recruited her. She’s just been great the whole outdoor season.

“Some might be a little surprised, because it appeared she might be moving away somewhat from the [800m]. But one, that’s not the case and, two, in my mind, there was no question coming into this meet that this is what she should do. Clearly that’s her event.”

Gaskin will be the first Wildcat to compete in the event outdoors nationally since Bozzay in 2012.

Zack Riley kept an impressive streak alive for the Wildcats, qualifying for the national championships with an 11th-place finish in the men’s high jump. Along with being the junior’s first career appearance on the national stage, Riley’s qualification now makes it 12 straight seasons K-State has had a men’s high jumper at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Riley was one of 11 jumpers to record a height cleared of 2.16m/7-01.00, failing to clear the bar only three times out of his seven total attempts. The effort was an outdoor season best, as well as tied his indoor best.

Rovelto said Riley performed at a level he has expected from the junior.

“I think the competition today was in a way kind of a microcosm of what the year has been for him,” Rovelto said. “He’ll have jumps where the casual observer will say, ‘Where did that come from?’ but, for us, that’s what it should be. He’s blessed with some great natural ability and when he can put it all together, he’s going to jump pretty decent.”

Rovelto added that the high jump is an event that can be volatile from week to week and that Riley and Miles Bearden showed up in a solid way for today’s competition.

“Guys can look like a million bucks one week and can look like did they ever do this before the next, it’s very up and down,” Rovelto said. “For the most part, we’ve been very fortunate about our guys being ready to jump physically at their best, when it matters most.

“I think with him and Miles both, you saw they both looked pretty good. And that’s kind of a reflection of what our plan is, but at the end of the day it’s about them getting it done and both of them did a really good job.”

Also in Action…

• Fresh off an NCAA bid in the long jump, Erica Twiss kept busy in day two, recording a PR in the 400 meter hurdles and moving onto the quarterfinal in the 100 meter hurdles.

In the 400H, Twiss ran sub-58 seconds for the first time in her career, clocking in at 57.95. The time was the 11th-fastest overall in the event, but she was unable to nab an automatic qualifier, placing fourth in her heat. Texas’ Melissa Gonzalez earned the 12th and final bid to Eugene finishing the event in 57.94 seconds.

Despite the close finish, the senior recorded a PR in the event for the second time this season. Twiss’ latest effort surpassed her previous best of 58.32 set at the Beach Invitational, as well as moved her into third all-time in school history.

In the 100H, Twiss took 20th overall in a time of 13.81 seconds to qualify for tomorrow’s quarterfinal.

Rovelto said Twiss, who he cited as battling an illness for the past couple weeks, has performed admirably.

“Honestly, I didn’t even know if she was going to be able to compete in this meet,” Rovelto said. “What’s she been doing has been pretty good. I think she has a good chance of qualifying [in the 100H] tomorrow and has been a part of the [4x400] relay too, so she’s done all that we could have expected to this point.”

• Joining Twiss in the 400H was Tia' Gamble, who also registered a PR in the event. The sophomore clocked in at 58.61 seconds, improving upon her previous best of 58.96 set in last night’s preliminary heats and finished 17th overall in the event.

Said Rovelto on both the hurdlers’ performances, “Erica and Tia’ both ran great. Time-wise, I don’t know you really could expect much more. It just wasn’t enough, that race was a lot faster this year than it was last year.”

• In the triple jump, Alyssa Kelly leapt a career-best 12.37m/40-07.00 to finish 21st overall. It was an impressive showing for the sophomore, as she entered this week’s meet 42nd in the West Region.

For Rovelto, Kelly has shown solid improvement in her sophomore year.

“Alyssa has definitely made progress,” Rovelto said. “She is showing signs of not just incremental progress in terms of how far she jumps, but she is gaining a better perception of what the event is and what you have to do to get better at it.”

• In the men’s 800 meter, Kyle Hanson closed out his K-State career finishing 18th overall. His final time of 1:50.18 was the second-best showing of his career. Like Kelly, Hanson’s season-ending performance was notable, as he entered this week’s meet ranked 56th in the West Region.

Rovelto said Hanson’s performance was impressive.

“It’s all about racing,” Rovelto said. “A lot of those guys are fit and, when you talk about the 800 and 1500, a lot of these best guys’ times come in time trials where you have perfect conditions and all you have to do it follow along and get pulled to fast times, as opposed to racing and learning how to race head-to-head.

“Well, what I think [coach Mike Smith] has done well with our athletes over time is we do give them an opportunity to do that, but throughout the year there is an emphasis on learning how to race and not just competing in time trails, but rather learning how to be competitive off of different paces.”

• Competing alongside Riley in the high jump was freshman Miles Bearden, who put in a season-best performance, clearing the bar at 2.12m/6-11.50 and finishing 18th overall.

Said Rovelto on Bearden’s performance, “I thought it was the best he has looked all year.”

• And lastly, Martina Tresch closed out day two action, as well as her K-State career in the women’s 3000 meter steeplechase. The senior All-American finished the event in 11:07.84, placing 44th.

Even with the tough finish, Rovelto praised Tresch for what has been an impressive Wildcat career.

“Martina has had a great career,” Rovelto said. “It was a tough way to end, but she has contributed so much in all three sports – cross country, indoor, outdoor track –, she’s been an All-American and conference champion. She’s had a tremendous career.”

K-State will finish up West Regional action tomorrow starting at 10 a.m., with Sara Savatovic and the women’s hammer throw. For more information, visit  

NCAA West Regional Preliminary Round
John McDonnell Field
Fayetteville, Ark.

K-State Results

18: Kyle Hanson, K-State, 1:50.18

4: Sonia Gaskin, K-State, 2:04.79q – Personal best & 4th-best in school history

3000m Steeplechase
44: Martina Tresch, K-State, 11:07.84

100m Hurdles (Prelims)
20: Erica Twiss, K-State, 13.807
46: Merryl Mbeng, K-State, 14.399

400m Hurdles
11: Erica Twiss, K-State, 57.95 – Personal best & 3rd-best in school history
17: Tia' Gamble, 58.61 – Personal best & 5th-best in school history

High Jump
11: Zack Riley, K-State, 2.16m/7-01.00q
18: Miles Bearden, K-State, 2.12m/6-11.00.50

Triple Jump
21: Alyssa Kelly, K-State, 12.37m/40-07.00 (0.8) – Personal best