Wildcats Team Up for Big 12-SEC Challenge

Martynas Jurgilas

Jan. 26, 2011

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MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Kansas State Wildcats will join forces with some of their fellow Big 12 Conference members to take on four members from the Southeastern Conference for what will be one of the most anticipated meets of the weekend and indoor season. The Big 12-SEC Challenge will be hosted by Texas A&M on Friday and Saturday and pit four teams from each conference against each other in a team scored meet to determine which conference is best in a meet K-State coach Cliff Rovelto said is full of talent.

“This is a meet that as soon as we knew what other teams were competing we thought was going to be a really good meet,” Rovelto said. “This is the meet of the weekend. This is going to be one of those meets people will get online to see what happened. I think it’s going to be one heck of a track meet.”

The Big 12 and SEC have been considered the top two conferences in track and field by followers of the sport, and this weekend’s meet will highlight some of the top teams in both the leagues. K-State will team up with host Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Oklahoma to take on Florida, Georgia, Ole Miss and South Carolina in a full slate of events.

On the men’s side, six of the eight teams are ranked in the Top 25 and four of the women’s teams are in the Top 25 as well. The Florida Gators are the men’s defending national champions while the Texas A&M Aggies tied for second a year ago at the NCAA Championship. The Aggie women finished fifth last season one spot behind Florida.

Rovelto said he is paticularly excited to see the sprints. Five of the top 10 times run this season in the men’s 60 meter dash will be represented at the meet and four in the women’s race. Five of the fastest women’s 200 times will run and three of the men’s top 400M runners. The hurdles will also boast some of the fastest athletes in the NCAA, including K-State’s Jeffrey Julmis making his season debut this weekend.

K-State sophomore high jumper Erik Kynard is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation, and he will see Ole Miss sophomore and current No. 1 Ricky Robertson in the competition, who bested Kynard’s season-high by just one quarter-inch last week to claim to the top spot.

The excitement begins with a Friday night full of combined events and distance action with the women’s pentathlon and the first day of the men’s heptathlon. K-State will have four Wildcats in the pentathlon and two in the heptathlon displaying their strength and depth in the combined discipline. Senior Moritz Cleve is currently ranked third in the heptathlon, and junior transfer from UCLA Ryann Krais is seventh in the pentathlon.

Rovelto added that having so many elite athletes, all who will have legitimate shots at winning NCAA titles in February, makes the meet exciting and one to watch. Having eight programs with such high reputations in the track and field world competing against each other at this point in the season, he said, it is a rarity and will be exciting to see the results.

“This meet will be equal to or better than the Big 12 Championship in terms of what it will take to win events,” Rovelto said. “Other than a conference championship meet, you don’t see this many good teams at the same meet. All of these teams strive to be good, complete teams, and I’m looking forward to it.”

The heptathlon will resume at 11 a.m. Saturday with running events beginning at 12:30 p.m. and field events starting an hour later from Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium, where this year’s NCAA Championship will be contested. Team scoring will follow the standard championship meet format with 10 points awarded for first place, eight points for second, six for third place and on down to one point for eighth place.

Results will be posted online at kstatesports.com upon completion of each day’s action. Free live video streaming will be available through aggieathletics.com for fans wanting to watch the action live online from Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium. Live results will be provided by flashresults.com and also available at aggieathletics.com and kstatesports.com. Fans can keep up with the action by following @kstatesports on Twitter as well.

Silkauskas Sets Record
Junior heptathlete Mantas Silkauskas ran his way to the top of the record book at K-State winning the 60 meter hurdles at the Wildcat Invitational. Silkauskas crossed the line in 7.80 seconds to tie the school record. He also tied his own Ahearn Field House facility record set in December during the Carol Robinson Winter Pentathlon when he competed unattached. The time also was a meet record.

Baker Cooks up Meet Record
Senior hurdler Denise Baker won the women’s 60 meter hurdles at the KSU Invitational crossing the line in 8.55 seconds. The time was her fastest of the season to date and also set a new meet record for the KSU Invitational. She bested the previous record of 8.58 seconds set by Nebraska’s Shelley-Ann Brown in 2001.

Haberman Claims two Wins
Kim Haberman had a strong showing at the KSU Invitational winning both events she was entered in. Haberman started her day with a dominant win in the long jump with her leap of 19-04.00. She beat the field by more than four inches and improved her personal best by seven with the win. Haberman also ran her way to a win in the women’s 60 meter dash clocking in at 7.84 seconds for another personal best. She out-ran her heat by nearly two-tenths of a second and beat out K-State sophomore Samantha McKnight by just .01 seconds.

Zeiner Wins in Debut
In her debut as a Wildcat, freshman Julia Zeiner won the annual Carol Robinson Winter Pentathlon. Zeiner scored 3,495 points in her first pentathlon with strong marks in a number of the events. Zeiner jumped 5-04.50 in the high jump and posted a leap of 18-07.00 in the long jump to help bolster her score.

Sophomores Lauren Garrott and Cenarda Jackson each posted personal bests in four of the five events to improve their pentathlon scores from a year ago. Garrott finished third in the pentathlon with her score of 3,388 points while Jackson claimed fourth with 3,331 points.

Kynard Flies High in Opener
The track and field season opened with a number of Wildcats posting impressive numbers in their first competition at the KSU All-Comers. The meet was highlighted by sophomore Erik Kynard’s high jump of 7-05.25. The mark is an NCAA automatic qualifying height and is currently the tied for the top jump in the nation thus far.

A total of six Wildcats posted new personal bests, including Kynard, at the meet. Some newcomers also showed well for K-State. Transfer Ryann Krais showed she can make an impact for the Wildcats winning the 60 meter hurdles with her time of 8.66 seconds. Krais transferred from UCLA where she was an All-American in the pentathlon and heptathlon.