Wildcats Ready to take Jayhawk Challenge

Samantha McKnight

Jan. 9, 2013

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State track and field team begins the bulk of its schedule on Friday when the Wildcats travel to Lawrence to participate in the Jayhawk Challenge. Action is set to begin at 3 p.m. from Bill Easton Track at the Anschutz Sports Pavilion. K-State will take on host KU, UMKC, Kansas City Community College and Montana at the meet. This will mark the first time K-State has participated in an indoor meet hosted by KU since the 2003 KU-KSU-MU Triangular.

The Wildcats opened the indoor season in December when they hosted the Carol Robinson Winter Pentathlon and KSU All-Comers. Both the men’s and women’s teams posted strong numbers at the meet, including a pair of school records for the women.
K-State will have approximately 25 Wildcats in action for both the men and women on Friday, providing an early taste of competition for the newcomers to the team. Some of those newcomers include January additions to the men’s squad in Jharyl Bowry and Zack Riley. Bowry is the Canadian junior national champion and Riley won the NJCAA Division II national championship in the high jump last year. A strong group of veterans will also be competing at the Jayhawk Challenge

Live results will be available from the meet at blacksquirrreltiming.com. Fans can also keep up with the action on Twitter by following K-State’s live events handle @kstate_gameday and the hashtag #KStateTF.

Wildcats Ranked No. 22 in Preseason
Last season, K-State track and field had a successful campaign highlighted by high jumper Erik Kynard’s silver at the London Olympics and second straight NCAA outdoor title. With the indoor season getting underway this weekend for much of the nation, the Wildcats men and women are ranked among the top teams in the nation in the USTFCCCA Indoor Preseason Rankings as the men come in at No. 22 and the women are No. 35.

The USTFCCCA rankings formula takes into account performances from athletes in each event and awards points based on their ranking in the event and on the strength of the performance from last season. K-State’s men have eight athletes ranked in a total of six events to open the year led by Kynard. His jump of 7-07.00 (2.31m) last season ranks No. 2 in the event behind Indiana’s Derek Drouin by just two centimeters.

This year juco transfer Zack Riley joins Kynard at K-State to give the Wildcats one of the top 1-2 combinations in the high jump. Riley comes is tied at No. 6 along with Arizona’s Edgar Rivera-Morales and Nick Ross. Kris Kornegay-Gober of NC State also is tied for sixth. Another junior college transfer in Jharyl Bowry gives K-State one more ranked in the top 10 in their respective event as Bowry comes in at No. 9 in the long jump.

On the women’s side, combined events specialist Merryl Mbeng is ranked fourth after scoring 4,069 points in the pentathlon to finish second in her debut as a Wildcat in December at the Carol Robinson Winter Pentathlon. She is one of five Wildcats currently ranked in an event. She is joined by sophomore high jumper Alyx Treasure at No. 7 in the high jump. Treasure leapt 6-00.00 (1.83m) last season.

Three School Records Fall in Opening Week
It was a successful start to the track and field season for the K-State Wildcats as they broke three school records while hosting the KSU All-Comers in December. K-State saw its newcomers shine on the women’s team and prove why this recruiting class was ranked No. 6 in the nation by Track & Field News.

Freshman Jasmine Gibbs opened her day with a win in the women’s long jump. She leapt 18-06.00 (5.64 meters) for the win on her second attempt of the competition. Perhaps most impressive of her showing in the long jump was she did it on a shortened approach for training purposes.

Gibbs backed that victory with another in the 60 meter dash to open the running events with a school record. Gibbs crossed the line in 7.41 seconds winning the race by three-tenths of a second over K-State’s Samantha McKnight. With that time Gibbs breaks the previous record time of 7.46 seconds held by Karissa Stewart and set in 1997.

The next record to fall was the women’s 300 meter dash. This time it was another freshman setting the new standard at K-State. Ashley Williams finished in 39.65 seconds, dominating the race by nearly half a second. She breaks the record set last year by Sophia Alonso.

Yet another freshman for the women’s team tallied a victory as Tia Gamble took first in the 600 yard run with her time of 1:22.76. That time would rank ninth in school history. Gamble just edged out freshman Sonia Gaskin with Gaskin finishing second in 1:23.19.

The victories and impressive performances were not limited to the women’s team, however. Carlos Rodriguez sped to a win in the 60 meter dash with his time of 6.78 seconds. He also took home a victory in the 300 meters, where he set a new school record in 33.64 seconds. In second place was freshman Jay-J Parks with his time of 34.77, which ranks second in school history as well. Sophomore Chris Campbell was third, improving his personal record in the event to 35.09 and ranking third in school history.

Wildcats Dominate Winter Pentathlon
K-State track and field got its season underway in early December with the annual Carol Robinson Winter Pentathlon. A small group of Wildcats were in action along with athletes from some other area schools, and K-State came away with some strong performances to open the season. Seniors Devin Dick and Tomas Kirielius led the way in the men’s competition and newcomer Merryl Mbeng finished second for the women with one of the best scores in school history.

Mbeng finished second behind former Wildcat Ryann Krais as she won with 4,159 points for her new personal best score in a pentathlon. Krais completed her eligibility last year and is enrolled in grad school at K-State while continuing to train with head coach Cliff Rovelto post-collegiately. Mbeng is a junior transfer from France and put together an impressive list of numbers in her career debut as a Wildcat as her score of 4,047 points ranks sixth in school history.

Mbeng ran the 60 meter hurdles in 8.66 seconds, which ranks fifth in a pentathlon in school history. She backed that up with a high jump among the top 10 as well. Her worst mark of the day came in the shot put, but she responded with a long jump of 19-05.25 (5.92m) for third in school history in a pentathlon. Her time in the 800 meters to close the day ranked second for a pentathlon, giving her a top 10 mark in four of the five events.

Freshman Shannon Parr also had a good day for the Wildcats in her debut finishing third in the women’s pentathlon with her score of 3,136 points. She opened the meet with her two best showings scoring more than 800 points in the hurdles and just missing that threshold in the high jump.

On the men’s side, Dick won with his score of 3,861 points while Kirielius was not too far behind in second place with 3,721 points. Both posted one personal record on the day with Kirielius opening the meet with his fastest time in the 60 meter hurdles at 8.47 seconds. Dick was not far off his PR in that event, but posted his big mark in the high jump clearing 6-09.00 (2.06m).

Big 12 Presence Felt in Top 25
The Big 12 Conference has long been a force in track and field, and again the league is among the best when examining the USTFCCCA Rankings. A total of three men’s teams and four women’s teams are in the USTFCCCA Preseason Top 25. The four women’s teams trail the SEC (6), Pac-12 (5) and Big Ten (5) for the most by a conference, with the four power conferences combining for 21 of the Top 25 teams. The ACC’s only women’s team in the Top 25 is No. 1 Clemson.

Texas is the top-ranked men’s team from the Big 12 coming in at No. 3 in the preseason rankings followed by K-State at No. 22 and Oklahoma comes in at No. 24 to open the year. The women are led by Kansas at No. 2, with three event No. 1 listings. Iowa State gives the conference another team in the Top 10 at No. 8. Texas (14) and Baylor (15) round out the Big 12’s women’s rankings, giving the conference all four of its ranked teams Top 15 standings in the preseason.