Wildcats Host KSU Invitational

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- The Kansas State Wildcats begin the meat of their indoor season as the month of January welcomes three events beginning with the KSU Invitational on Saturday. K-State will look to build off its solid start in December at the Carol Robinson Winter Pentathlon and KSU All-Comers.

K-State returns all three of its All-America team members from last season as the team hopes to build off its success from a year ago.

Results will be posted on www.k-statesports.com following each day’s action.

Returners Provide Strength for K-State
The Wildcats return a number of athletes on the men’s and women’s side who contributed strongly to their teams’ success last year. The men return three who qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships in their respective events -- two of which earned All-America honors.

Senior high jumper Scott Sellers placed second in the NCAA Championships narrowly missing his second national title after claiming the Big 12 title. This year he is also expected to increase his contribution to the Wildcats participating in multi-events as well.

Sophomore combined events specialist Rok Derzanic earned All-America honors after finishing eighth at the NCAA’s in the pentathlon. Derzanic also proved to be one of the top in the conference in his event finishing third at the Big 12 Championships. Another sophomore -- Moritz Cleve -- came on strong for the Wildcats in his first year. He finished second in the Big 12 in the heptathlon and came in 12th at the NCAA’s. Senior Adam Fretwell adds to the depth in the combined events for the Wildcats as he finished eighth in the Big 12 last year.

On the women’s side, senior thrower Loren Groves looks to add to her illustrious career with another Big 12 title. Groves has won two consecutive weight throw conference titles and earned All-America honors last year with a sixth place finish at the NCAA’s.

She is not alone as a strong competitor for the women. Junior Beverly Ramos brings experience in the distance events and looks to build off her most successful cross country season of her career this fall. Ramos won three races this fall and finished fourth at the Big 12 Championship. Ramos was joined by senior Liliani Mendez on the All-Big 12 Cross Country Team after Mendez finished 15th to round out the honorees. Mendez also will bring experience to the distance events for the women’s team. The women’s team will also have depth in the distance events to create opportunities to score points for the Wildcats.

The women will look to be strong in the jumps this year with TiAra Walpool looking to build off her freshman campaign. She will also compete in sprints. Nina Kokot will participate in her first indoor season after redshirting last year and making a strong showing in outdoor in the jumps.

Combined events should be another strength for the women’s team along with the men. Stephanie Hejde finished 10th at the Big 12 Championship last year in the pentathlon as a sophomore. Annika Schoenebeck came in just ahead of Hejde in eighth place for the Wildcats last year.

Youth Movement
The Wildcats boast a lot of experience returning for 2009, but the upperclassmen have some younger teammates with their eyes set on contributing to the team’s success this year.

Six of the Wildcats’ All-Big 12 performers last year were underclassmen. And with another year of preparation under their belts, those athletes are ready for an even better year.

The addition of a number of fresmen will make the depth of the K-State squad even better. The coaching staff is hoping for big things out of those underclassmen this year to push the Wildcats.

Opening Their Eyes
After a successful season in 2008 and with a number of the key part returning this year, the K-State men’s team begins the season ranked among the top teams in the country.

The United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association ranks Kansas State No. 18 in its preseason rankings. The Wildcats are among seven teams ranked in the Big 12 Conference. Texas A&M (6) and Texas (7) both crack the Top 10 for the conference. Texas Tech (12), Baylor (14) and Nebraska (15) round out the top 15 spots in the poll, and Missouri closes out the Big 12 teams at No. 23.

The women’s team was not  in the preseason rankings, but the Big 12 was still strongly represented. Texas A&M opened the year as the No. 1 team on the USTFCCCA poll. Texas Tech ranked ninth with Texas coming in at No. 12. Nebraska completed the Big 12’s teams in the preseason ranking at No. 24.

The USTFCCCA uses a points system taking into account performances in the NCAA Championship from returning players among other considerations.

Starting Strong
In the opening weekend of the season in December, a number of Wildcats started the track and field campaign off on the right foot.

Scott Sellers won the Carol Robinson Winter Pentathlon and in the process posted an NCAA provisional qualifying mark in the high jump at 7-02.25. In the next day’s KSU All-Comers, fellow high jumper Michael Healey posted a provisional mark at 7-00.25.

The tandem was not alone in posting provisional marks. Senior women’s thrower, Loren Groves began her final season with a strong mark. Her throw of 67-09 was enough for a provisional mark.