Kynard Headed to Olympic Games

Erik Kynard

June 25, 2012

EUGENE, Ore. – Erik Kynard, K-State's two-time NCAA high jump champion, secured his place on Team USA and a chance to compete for gold at the London Olympic Games this summer by finishing second at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials Monday evening at Hayward Field.

“I’m happy for Erik. It’s tough for a young guy to do what he’s doing,” K-State Head Coach Cliff Rovelto said. “But there is also a significant amount of relief because I believe he is one of the best.”

Kynard cleared 7-05.75 (2.28 meters) on his first attempt and claimed second place based on number of misses at previous heights. Four athletes cleared the height. Kynard also cleared the opening height of 7-00.50 (2.15m) on his first attempt and took two tries at 7-02.50 (2.20m) and 7-04.50 (2.25m) each.

It was also a big day for Rovelto, who coaches all three members of the Team USA high jump squad headed to London. 

In addition to Kynard, Rovelto had three professional jumpers competing on Monday. Jamie Nieto was victorious, clearing all four bars on his first attempt, and 2011 world champion Jesse Williams took fourth. Nieto and Williams will join Kynard on the Olympic team. Jim Dilling missed the opening height on Monday. At age 35, Nieto will be the oldest American ever to wear the Red, White and Blue in the men’s high jump at the Olympics.

“Honestly, I am extremely happy for the guys, Jamie in particular,” Rovelto said of having all three Olympians under his tutelage. “We’ve been together for so long there is a lot of history there. With Jesse, it’s all relief. He could have jumped 2.35 and it still would be relief. These guys have done what they needed to do to put themselves in this position. I’m proud of all of them and feel very fortunate and privileged to be their coach.”

Williams was at risk of not making the team if Arizona’s Nick Ross and unattached jumper Ed Wright cleared 7-07.00 (2.31m) and Williams failed. However, none of the competitors cleared the Olympic A Standard of 2.31m during the competition, putting Williams on the team based on previous performances this season. The only other jumpers to already clear the A Standard were Kynard and Nieto.

Zach Riley, a future Wildcat, also competed in the final. The NJCAA national champion, who has signed a National Letter of Intent to join K-State this fall, was one of the 13 finalists but failed to clear the bar at 7-00.50.

Kynard is the first Wildcat to make an Olympic team with remaining collegiate eligibility since Nathan Leeper made Team USA in 2000. The Toledo, Ohio, product will now begin preparing for the Olympics, set to start on July 27 with opening ceremonies. He will return to Manhattan, Kan., following the Trials.

Cool temperatures and rain just prior to the start of competition made the conditions less than ideal for jumping, but Kynard managed to come up with a big jump when he needed it to all but guarantee his spot on the Olympic team. With his clearance of 7-05.75 on his first attempt, he moved into second place. With a wet runway, the five remaining jumpers in the field were unable to clear 7-07.00.

Rovelto predicted there could be poor weather conditions at the Trials during an interview session before leaving for Oregon last week. He said he was confident in Kynard if there were rains after seeing Kynard win his first NCAA crown last year during a downpour in Des Moines, Iowa, when he jumped 7-06.00 (2.29m).

The Wildcats have one more current student-athlete, Ryann Krais, set to compete in the women’s heptathlon. Two former assistant coaches and current volunteer coaches, Kasey Hill and Bettie Wade, will also be in the heptathlon beginning Thursday.

Former Wildcat Amy Mortimer will run in the first round of the women’s 1,500 meters on Thursday.

Wednesday marks the start of the Canadian Olympic Trials, and freshman women’s high jumper Alyx Treasure will compete in the qualifying round on Thursday with the final set for Friday evening in Calgary.

U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials – K-State Connections
Men’s High Jump
1: Jamie Nieto, NYAC: 2.28m (7-05.75) – Team USA
2: Erik Kynard, K-State: 2.28m (7-05.75) – Team USA
4: Jesse Williams, Nike/Oregon TC Elite: 2.28m (7-05.75) – Team USA
NH: Jim Dilling (unattached), Zack Riley (SwampFox Track Club)