K-State Track to Host Wildcat Invitational

Carlos Rodriguez

Jan. 18, 2013

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – Saturday will be another day full of exciting track and field action at Ahearn Field House where K-State will host the Wildcat Invitational. The Wildcats will be taking on Oklahoma State, Tulsa and UMKC in a triple dual meet with each team going head to head in a scored meet. Action gets underway at noon with field events and running events begin at 2:30 p.m.

High jumper Erik Kynard will be competing for the first time since the London Olympics when he won a silver medal. The senior is ranked No. 2 in the NCAA for indoor heading into the season and is the defending back-to-back outdoor champion. The men’s high jump is anticipated to begin by 1 p.m. following the women’s competition.

The Wildcat Invitational will feature some of the top athletes and teams in the nation. Oklahoma State’s men and women both have strong distance programs, and Tulsa’s distance runners also are among the top. The Cowboys are currently ranked No. 29 by the USTFCCCA while the Cowgirls are No. 40. Tulsa’s men are No. 48 and have the No. 3-ranked runner in the mile in Chris O’Hare, who will be competing in another event in Ahearn.

K-State boasts some top talent as well. Sprinter Carlos Rodriguez is ranked among No. 19 in the 60 meter dash according to the USTFCCCA preseason rankings and newcomer Jharyl Bowry is in the top 10 in the long jump and will be making his K-State debut on Saturday.

Admission to the meet is free and fans are asked to sit in the balcony seating above the track for viewing. Fans unable to attend can keep up with the action on Twitter by following K-State’s live events handle @kstate_gameday and the hashtag #KStateTF.

Kynard Named to Bowerman Watch List
Kansas State high jumper Erik Kynard is entering his senior year with the Wildcats as the back-to-back NCAA outdoor champion and an Olympic silver medalist. For that he was named to the initial 2013 Bowerman Watch List by the USTFCCCA, making the list of 10 athletes to keep an eye on during the 2013 indoor and outdoor seasons. The Bowerman is considered the Heisman Trophy of track and field and has been awarded to the top male and female athletes in NCAA track and field since its introduction in 2009.

Kynard is currently ranked No. 2 in the NCAA for the indoor season, trailing Indiana’s Derek Drouin by just two centimeters. Drouin tied for bronze at the London Olympics after taking second place behind Kynard at the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship. Kynard also has swept the Big 12 Championship the last two seasons and looking to become the second athlete to win six men’s Big 12 high jump crowns.

Last season, Kynard spent most of the year on the Watch List after being promoted to the official watch list midway through indoor season from the list of others receiving mention. He also was a semifinalist for the award in 2012. The USTFCCCA will update the list throughout the year with the finalists announced this summer.

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.

Newcomers Shine at Jayhawk Challenge
K-State came away with eight victories from the Jayhawk Challenge with a number of strong showings from veterans, but it was a group of newcomers that made the most noise at the meet for the Wildcats.

A tandem of freshman ran neck-and-neck with one of the fastest women’s 4x400 teams in the nation. K-State put four true freshman up against three of KU’s top runners and held the lead for the first three legs. All the grouping of Tia Gamble, Ashley Williams, Jordan Matthews and Sonia Gaskin lost by half a step to the Jayhawks, it was one of the highlights of the meet.

Gaskin had her own fireworks as she battled Olympic gold medalist Diamond Dixon on the anchor leg and did not yield any ground. The two also tangled in the 600 yards with Dixon just edging out the freshman there as well.

Junior college transfer Zack Riley made his debut as a Wildcat and came away with a win in the men’s high jump. Riley cleared 2.20 meters (7-2.50) for the win and narrowly missed breaking the facility record at KU’s home track. Riley won NJCAA championship as a freshman before redshirting his sophomore year and coming to K-State. He made the final at the Olympic Trials this summer in Oregon.

Another highlight of the meet came in the hurdles with K-State sweeping. Richelle Farley improved her personal best time to 8.51 seconds for the win. Tarique Hill ran well for the men, coasting to a win in 8.11 seconds.

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. Freshman Jasmine Gibbs sprinted her way to a new school record in the 60 meter dash as she 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 broke the previous record time of 7.46 seconds held by Karissa Stewart from 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.

The victories and impressive performances were not limited to the women’s team. 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. The Wildcats came away with some strong performances to open the season as seniors Devin Dick and Tomas Kirielius led the way in the men’s competition and newcomer Merryl Mbeng finished second for the women.

Mbeng finished second behind former Wildcat Ryann Krais as she won with 4,159 points for her new personal best score in a pentathlon. 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.

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.