Wildcats Take on Rivals at Big 12 Championships

Boglarka Bozzay

Feb. 23, 2011

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MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Kansas State Wildcats are set to take on the rest of the conference this weekend when the Big 12 Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships head to Lincoln, Neb. The two days of action get started Friday morning from the Bob Devaney Sports Center with some of the nation's top teams competing for the league title.

The Big 12 boasts six men's and six women's teams ranked among the Top 25 in the nation according to the latest USTFCCCA Rankings. Both genders have three teams in the Top 10, guaranteeing a weekend full of exciting action on the track and in the field.

K-State enters the Big 12 Championship with a number of Wildcats looking to claim individual titles in their respective events and another looking to re-claim his stake after finishing second last year.

Erik Kynard is ranked No. 1 in the nation in the high jump with his leap of 7-07.75 two weeks ago at the Tyson Invitational. The jump ranks third in collegiate history and is 3.5 inches higher than any competitor in the Big 12 this season.

Boglarka Bozzay also is tops among the Big 12 in her event heading into the championship standing No. 1 in the 1,000 meters. Bozzay ran the fastest time in Big 12 history at the Devaney Center earlier this season winning the Husker invite setting meet and facility records while doing so. Her time of 2:45.01 is more than 1.5 seconds ahead of No. 2 on the list.

Senior combined events specialist Moritz Cleve won the heptathlon two years ago in College Station, Texas, with the second-best performance in school history. Last season at Iowa State, he finished second in this meet and looks to bring the title back to Manhattan. Head Coach Cliff Rovelto said he anticipates the heptathlon to be one of the most competitive events at the meet with possibly six competitors at the meet likely to move on to the NCAA Championship.

The women's squad has two Wildcats ranked second in the conference heading into the meet giving K-State more opportunities for first-place finishes. Nina Kokot broke the school record earlier in the year and is not only second in the conference but third in the NCAA in the long jump. Transfer Ryann Krais is No. 2 in the pentathlon among Big 12 competitors and seventh in the nation. The junior from Pennsylvania was an All-American at UCLA in the event before coming to K-State. TiAra Walpool is fifth in the conference in the triple jump and has had much success at the Big 12 meet finishing sixth last season and third in 2009.

The Wildcats are full of athletes capable of scoring at the Big 12 Championship this weekend. Jeffrey Julmis looks to improve on his seventh-place finish last season and continue his strong running this season. Denise Baker ranks fourth in the Big 12 in the women's 60 meter hurdles after her impressive run a week ago, and Martynas Jurgilas stands fifth in the league in the men's 60-meter dash as well.

K-State anticipates scoring some major points in the weight throw again as the women have had at least two finishers in the top eight each of the last six years. This year Chelsie Bonds, Ali Pistora, Jessica Carter and Ammina AgBoga all have to potential to score with all four of them ranked 14th or higher in the league. The men's squad has two throwers capable of scoring as well with Tomaz Bogovic heading into the meet following his best throw of the season last week. He ranks sixth in the Big 12 and Jordan Bauer is right behind him at seventh.

Fans can watch the action live at the Devaney Sports Center with reserved tickets available for $12 and general admission just $10. For those unable to attend in person live results will be at huskers.com as well as big12sports.com. K-State fans can keep up with the action on Twitter as well with updates throughout the two days of action on K-State's Twitter feed @kstatesports. Action begins Friday with the pentathlon and heptathlon at 10:30 a.m. Running events are slated to start at 2 p.m., and the first field event action of the meet starts at 3:30 p.m.  The meet resumes Saturday with the final three events of the heptathlon at 11 a.m. Field events begin at 1:30 p.m. and track events start at 2:30 p.m.

Baker Keeps on Cooking
Senior hurdler Denise Baker started the season strong with a meet record in her second race of the season winning the KSU Invitational. Two weeks after that she finished second at the loaded Big 12-SEC Challenge hosted by Texas A&M. The she improved her personal record to 8.42 seconds at the Husker Invitational, and the PRs have kept coming since. Baker tied her PR in the semifinals of the Tyson Invitational, then bested it by .01 seconds in the final. She followed that performance with a blistering time of 8.32 seconds in K-State's final home meet of the season to set another meet record at the KSU Open. The time shed nearly a full tenth of a second off her personal best and was nearly three-tenths ahead of the entire field with second place crossing in 8.61 seconds.

This season has been a constant series of improvements for Baker as she heads into the Big 12 Conference Championship ranked fourth in the conference looking to build on her eighth-place finish from a year ago.

Kynard Flies to Athlete of the Week, Record
Sophomore high jumper Erik Kynard won the special invitation high jump competition at the Tyson Invitational this weekend with a new school record jump of 7-07.75 (2.33m) besting the field by two bars to be named Big 12 Athlete of the Week. The win was the fourth straight for Kynard this season, which ranks as the longest current high jump streak in the nation. In continuing his streak he snapped the 10-meet winning streak of NCAA defending champion Derek Drouin of Indiana.

Not only was Kynard's jump a school record; it places him first in the NCAA for the season and fifth in the world. The mark of 7-07.75 also is third in collegiate history. Only two other collegians have jumped higher than Kynard during the indoor season with both marks occurring before he was born in 1991.

Going Long
Junior Nina Kokot has improved upon her own school record in the women's long jump leaping an impressive 21-01.25. Kokot made the jump to finish fourth in a special invitational competition at the Tyson Invitational last week where she was the top finishing collegiate in the field. The native of Slovenia added 2.25 inches to her record that she set last season at the Big 12 Championship. She has leapt over 20 feet in two of her three competitions this season and currently ranks third in the NCAA and second in the Big 12 for her jump at the Tyson Invitational.

He's the Man-Tas
Junior heptathlete Mantas Silkauskas has used his speed to score big points in the combined events throughout his career, and now he's using that speed to set records. Silkauskas has twice set the school record this season in the 60 meter hurdles, most recently at the Tyson Invitational. He crossed the line in 7.74 seconds in the semifinals to advance to the final round shaving six-hundredths of a second off the K-State record he tied earlier in the season.

Silkauskas ran 7.80 seconds to win the Wildcat Invitational. Silkauskas in January. His time then also set a meet record and tied his own Ahearn Field House facility record set in December during the Carol Robinson Winter Pentathlon when he competed unattached. He currently ranks seventh in the NCAA in the hurdles and second in the Big 12 Conference.

Bozzay Runs to Athlete of the Week
Junior mid-distance runner Boglarka Bozzay tallied the first Big 12 Conference Athlete of the Week for the Kansas State track and field team this season receiving the honor for her performance at the Husker Invitational. Bozzay ran away from the field in the 1,000 meters en route to the award she shared with Nebraska's Chante McMillan.

Bozzay won the women's 1,000 meters at the 36th Annual Sevigne Husker Invitational with a blistering time of 2:45.91 to shatter the meet record by nearly four seconds. She also broke the Bob Devaney Center facility record by .05 seconds. Bozzay's time is the fastest in the Big 12 era on a regulation 200-meter track. Two times rank slightly faster but were run on oversized tracks. She also now ranks second in school history in the event placing an even second behind Anne Stadler, who set the record at the 1985 NCAA Championship.

Sprinters Fly at Husker Invite
K-State came away with a number of wins and personal records at the Husker Invitational from its sprinters. Martynas Jurgilas ran away from the competition in the men's 60 meter dash final with an impressive 6.65 seconds to rank him 13th in the nation. More impressive for Jurgilas was him running the time after two false starts in the field.

Jeffrey Julmis ran his way to another win and PR in the 60 meter hurdles. Julmis crossed the line in 7.81 seconds for the win. Denise Baker posted another fast time in the women's hurdles finishing second in a tight race with her time of 8.42 seconds. She cut .04 seconds off her PR and still remains second in school history.

Kynard Soars to School Record
Sophomore high jumper Erik Kynard ended up head-to-head with Ricky Robertson from Ole Miss at the Big 12-SEC Challenge and came away the winner in a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2. Robertson surpassed Kynard for the top spot on the NCAA list a week prior to the two meeting up in College Station, Texas, and the pair made up the final two competitors standing. Kynard cleared 7-06.00 on his final attempt to win the event and reclaim the No. 1 spot while also tying the K-State school record.

Wildcats Help Big 12 Down SEC
The Kansas State track and field teams joined forces with three fellow members of the Big 12 Conference to take on four teams from the SEC in a conference vs. conference meet in College Station, Texas, with the Big 12 coming away the victor. The Big 12 women dominated the meet for a 441.50-257-50 win over the SEC. The men's competition was considerably closer with the Big 12 edging out the win 363-312.

During the two days of action, K-State had a handful of impressive performances in a number of different events. Ryann Krais won the women's pentathlon with a point total of 4,021 points. The mark ranks fifth in school history and was just 20 points off her personal best set during her two years at UCLA. She shattered her personal record in the 800 meters by four seconds to help boost her score. In distance events, the women's team saw strong showings from Martina Tresch finishing fourth in the 3,000M with a personal best and Sydney Messick dominating the field by more than 40 seconds to win the 5,000M. Boglarka Bozzay won the women's mile as well with a personal best that ranks sixth in school history.

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.

K-State Men Ranked Among Nation's Elite
The Kansas State men remain ranked in the latest USTFCCCA Rankings climbing one spot to No. 19 this week. The Wildcat men opened the season at No. 20 in the preseason rankings and have hovered around that spot all season. The men's team has five athletes contributing to the ranking with Erik Kynard currently the No. 1 high jumper in the nation. Mantas Silkauskas is ranked eighth in the hurdles after running 7.74 seconds, and Jeffrey Julmis joins Silkauskas in the hurdles rankings at No. 21. Silkauskas also is ranked 18th in the heptathlon based on his best performance last season. Also ranked based on preseason data is Moritz Cleve in the heptathlon at fourth. Martynas Jurgilas joins the group ranked 12th in the 60 meter dash after his time of 6.65 seconds at the Husker Invitational.

The women's squad is currently No. 32 in the rankings jumping one spot this week after a big jump last week thanks to strong performances by Nina Kokot and TiAra Walpool. Three Wildcats are receiving points based on the USTFCCCA formula. Nina Kokot is now ranked third in the long jump after leaping 21-01.25 at the Tyson Invitational. TiAra Walpool improved to 42-02.25 in the triple jump to rank 16th this season. Ryann Krais is ranked eighth in the pentathlon based on her previous high score from last year. Denise Baker makes her first appearance on the list this week standing 24th in the 60 meter hurdles after running 8.32 seconds.

The Big 12 Conference remains one of the nation's top leagues for track and field with six men's teams in the Top 25. Texas A&M leads the way at No. 4 followed by Texas No. 8. Oklahoma (9), Nebraska (13), and Texas Tech (18) are the only other Big 12 teams ranked ahead of K-State. Baylor holds steady at No. 30 this week, and Kansas moves up to No. 36.

On the women's side it is much the same story. Six Big 12 teams are in the Top 25 with Texas standing at No. 3 and Texas A&M close behind at No. 5. Oklahoma (8) gives the conference three teams in the Top 10. Nebraska (11), Texas Tech (17) and Baylor (20) and  complete the rankings for the league. K-State's significant climb last week in addition to its one-spot jump this week make the Wildcats the closest team outside the Top 25 at No. 32. Iowa State is closed behind at No. 35.