Cats Travel to Lincoln for Conference Challenge

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State will team up with fellow Big 12 members Missouri and Nebraska for Saturday’s Conference Challenge in Lincoln, Neb., where the trio will compete against the Mountain West programs of Air Force, BYU and Colorado State. The event from the Devaney Sports Center will start at 11 a.m. with the women’s weight throw and K-State’s NCAA qualifiers Loren Groves and Laci Heller.

As 40 Wildcats compete in the Conference Challenge, Nebraska Wesleyan will host the NWU Invitational at the same complex afterwards. K-State has put together nine entries for the meet that begins with running at 3:30 p.m. and field events starting 30 minutes after the completion of the Conference Challenge throws.

A complete recap will be made available following the completion of the events.

Last Time Out
Kansas State completed its January home slate last weekend with the Wildcat Invitational that hosted a men’s invite on Friday and the women’s portion on Saturday. The biggest news of the weekend was the opening event of Saturday as junior Loren Groves recorded a school record in the women’s weight throw. Her toss of 69-11.50 added nine inches to the previous 10-year-old mark. She became the second Wildcat to have a guaranteed spot in the 2008 NCAA Indoor Championships, joining junior Scott Sellers. Sellers finished Friday’s high jump invitational with his second automatic mark in the event with a clearance of 7-04.25, as he finished second to former USC standout Jesse Williams.

After the weekend was through, K-State earned 10 event titles, including seven on the men’s side. Three Wildcat men captured their first wins: Eric Thomas took first in the weight throw (54-10.75), Emmanuel Neizer won the long jump (23-09.00) and Michael Healey took the high jump title (6-08.25).

Conference Challenge Format
The Conference Challenge will pit the Big 12 Conference against the Mountain West with three member schools from each competing for points. Each event will have two athletes from each school competing for a total of six entries per conference. Relays will have one team from each for a total of six squads running.

The top two individuals for each conference will score with a point scale of 5-3-2-1 for individual events and a 5-3 scale for relay events.

Groves, Sellers Named Big 12 Athletes of the Week
After finishing the weekend with automatic qualifications to the 2008 NCAA Indoor Championships, juniors Loren Groves and Scott Sellers were named the Big 12 Athletes of the Week as announced by the conference office Tuesday. The honors are the first for K-State track and field athletes during the 2008 indoor season.

Groves earned her first automatic bid during Saturday’s Wildcat Invitational after tossing a school-record 69-11.50 in the women’s weight throw. She broke the 10-year-old KSU record set by Renetta Seiler at the 1998 NCAA Indoor Championships by nine inches. Groves’ previous season best was a provisional mark of 66-10.00 on December 8th at the KSU All-Comers, while the top throw of her career was 68-03.75 at the KSU Open on Feb. 15, 2007. The award marks the second for Groves during her Wildcat career, as she was the Women’s Athlete of the Week the final week of the 2007 season.

Sellers receives the Big 12 Men’s Athlete of the Week accolade for the first time in his K-State career, after he took second during Friday’s portion of the Wildcat Invitational. The junior from Katy, Texas, reached his second NCAA automatic height of 7-04.25 during the short 2008 season. Sellers competed in the high jump invitational that brought in six additional competitors that have each cleared 7-00.00 in their indoor career, including three Division I and two Division II All-Americans. Sellers finished second in a jumpoff with Jesse Williams, former USC jumper and 2007 USA Indoor runner-up. Each cleared the 7-04.25 bar, while Williams passed over the 7-05.75 height on the fourth attempt to take first.

Groves in a Groove
Wildcat thrower Loren Groves has put herself into a groove of performing well as the junior has thrown nothing short of an NCAA provisional mark since starting the season with a victory in the women’s weight throw at the KSU All-Comers. The native of Scott City, Mo., won the event with a top toss of 66-10.00 to earn a provisional mark. In the second meet of the year, the KSU Invitational, she added a second provisional mark at 64-05.75 to earn her second victory of the year. Her career performance came at the Wildcat Invitational when Groves launched a school-record mark of 69-11.50, adding nine inches to the previous record by Renetta Seiler in 1998. As a sophomore, Groves threw for six NCAA provisional marks, including a previous top mark of 68-03.75 at the KSU Open on Feb. 15, 2007.

Selling his Championship Case
After capturing an outdoor national title, the question to start the indoor season was if junior Scott Sellers could add an indoor championship to his resume. The native of Katy, Texas, has now twice cleared the NCAA automatic height for the NCAA Indoor Championships set at 7-04.25. Sellers also received a good preparatory trial during the Wildcat Invitational as he jumped against six well-qualified and decorated leapers during the high jump invitational. Against three Division I and two Division II All-Americans, Sellers took second in a jumpoff with Jesse Williams, former USC jumper and 2007 USA Indoor runner-up.

Over the Top
Kansas State might have known the potential that transfer Alexandra Gonzalez held, but being the Puerto Rico record holder might make her potential apparent. Gonzalez proved her worth in the first meet as a Wildcat, as she recorded an NCAA provisionally-qualifying height in the pole vault with a clearance of 12-11.50. The height marks the first time for a K-State female vaulter to pass over 12 feet since the 2006 season. During her first competition away from Ahearn Field House, Gonzalez set a personal best at the Arkansas Invitational. The young Wildcat cleared the bar at 13-02.25 to mark the third-best height in school history. Although it was her first loss, it marked a PR by nearly three inches.

Dual Threat
Freshman Tiara Walpool was seen on the track in the first three competitions for the Wildcats, but displayed her talent on the field when she entered the triple jump at the Wildcat Invitational. In her first competition, Walpool placed second to former Wildcat Chaytan Hill after recording a mark of 39-10.50. In running events, the Dallas, Texas, native has recorded times of 7.89 in the 60M while also having a mark of 25.21 in the 200M. While at Plano East in Plano, Texas, Walpool qualified for the 200M, 400M, triple and long jump as a junior and senior, while she advanced to state in the 200M in 2007.

Correct Combination
The Wildcat men have been searching for the right combination for their 4x400M relay squad. With each meet, the quartet has knocked seconds off of the previous relay time and sits with a top mark of 3:16.57 this season. The relay of Mike Myer, Scott Sellers, Adam Fretwell and Jason Collett finished the KSU Invitational with a time of 3:24.38, four seconds faster than the KSU All-Comers mark. The combination of Myer, Sam James, Sellers and Collett took off eight seconds from that clocking, as they ran a time of 3:16.57.

Polydorou Shatters PR
Senior Thomaida Polydorou sat with the same personal best in the triple jump since January 2005 when she recorded a leap of 40-00.50. She matched the mark in February 2006 when she placed fourth at the Husker Invitational. At the 2007 Arkansas Invitational, the Limassol, Cyprus, native shattered that mark, deciding it had been around long enough. She finished with a top jump of 40-04.25 to earn her a fourth-place finish.

Another Week, Another Improvement
Freshman Moritz Cleve’s chance to be one of K-State’s next great decathletes improves with each passing week, as the Wildcat continues to erase time from running marks and add inches to his throws and jumps. Cleve debuted in his Purple and White uniform at the Carol Robinson Winter Pentathlon in December and finished with an 8.51 in the 60M hurdles, 20-10.00 in the long jump and a throw of 41-05.25 in the shot put. Cleve improved his first shot put mark at the second meet, the KSU Invitational, with a throw of 41-10.75. The Arkansas Invitational found improvements in the long jump with a 22-00.75 mark and a run of 8.25 in the hurdles. During the Wildcat Invitational, Cleve added the pole vault to the list of his marks, finishing in second with a height of 14-01.25.

Waiting in the Wings
Two-time Big 12 600Y champion Morgan Bonds has been somewhat conservative in her appearances thus far this indoor season. The senior team captain has only competed in one individual race in three possible competitions. She ran a time of 1:22.56 in the 600Y at the KSU Invitational in early January to take first. The win marked her 10th victory in the event. Her top time of 1:20.05 earned her the conference title in 2007.

Pent of Emphasis
After the completion of the Carol Robinson Winter Pentathlon, Kansas State’s top 10 list changed with the rotation of three new names being added to the standings. In his first ever combined events competition, junior Scott Sellers tallied the second best pentathlon mark in school history with 4,046 points. He finished with first-place finishes in both the high jump (7-04.25) and long jump (23-08.25).

Freshman Rok Derzanic took third place after notching 3,839 points to mark the fourth top mark in KSU history. He ran a time of 8.31 in the 60M hurdles, while also finishing at 6-05.50 in the high jump and 22-06.25 in the long jump. Freshman Moritz Cleve also had a top 10 mark, earning 3,792 for the eighth best mark all-time while placing fourth in the meet. Cleve ran the fastest mark in the 1000M with a time of 2:42.21, while also leading the K-State competitors in the shot put with a throw of 41-05.25.

Just Outside
The men’s and women’s teams each missed the cut for the preseason top 25 from the USTFCCCA, but each is knocking at the door of the listings. Each team sits just outside as the women are ranked 31st with the new scoring system in place, while the men are at 38th.

The LSU women open the season with the coveted first-place ranking, while the Florida State men sit atop on the men’s side by a slightly smaller margin. LSU leads Arizona State by nearly 45 points as Florida State has an approximate nine point edge over Washington for the men’s lead.

Big 12 schools listed for the women are Texas Tech at seventh with Texas A&M only 0.13 of a point back in eighth. Texas enters the polls at 11th as the only other women’s team in the top 25. For the men, Baylor paces the conference at 10th with Kansas and Nebraska trailing at 11th and 12th, respectively. Reigning Big 12 outdoor champions Oklahoma sit at 17th with Texas in 18th. Texas A&M and Missouri round out conference foes in the top 25 as they enter the season 21st and 23rd, respectively.

The Wildcat women sit out of the top 25 by 8.75 while the men are 10.91 back of 25th Virginia Tech.