Wildcats Eyeing NCAA Championships in Idaho

Mantas Silkauskas

March 6, 2012

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State track and field team heads to the mountains this weekend as six Wildcats will be taking on the best of the best in their fields at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships from Nampa, Idaho. The two-day meet gets underway Friday, and the Wildcats are ready for action with a strong group going to compete at Jacksons Indoor Track.

The men’s team is sending three members to Idaho with one doubling and competing in two events. The women have three women going as well with each competing in just one event. Three athletes for each team may sound small, but with a limited number of spots available in the field and some of the best athletes missing out, K-State Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Cliff Rovelto said it is an opportunity to show what his Wildcats truly can do.

“I’ve said before that going to the NCAA Indoor meet is more about opportunities to score, and the good thing is we have seven opportunities to score,” Rovelto said. “It’s not just about getting to the meet, but what you do once you actually get to the meet. It will by no means be easy for all of our kids to score. They all have to perform well, but I think they are all capable of being there.”

All three of the men competing for the Wildcats have earned All-America status in the past and scored points at this meet. Junior high jumper Erik Kynard is currently ranked No. 8 in the world and finished third last year in the NCAA. He is looking to win back-to-back NCAA titles after winning the outdoor crown last year. Senior hurdler Jeffrey Julmis finished fifth last year and set his sights on a Big12 and NCAA title in his last year as a Wildcat. He accomplished his first goal two weeks ago, and now he is looking to represent K-State on the podium in Idaho. Senior Mantas Silkauskas will also compete in the hurdles along side Julmis as he has posted the No. 4 time in the nation this year. Silkauskas main event is the heptathlon where he finished seventh a year ago with a school record score of 5,822 points. It was the highest score to finish seventh in NCAA history as a display of how deep and talented the event was.

The women’s squad boasts one NCAA champion and a pair of Big 12 champions. Senior Ryann Krais won the women’s heptathlon outdoors last year and will look to improve on her sixth-place finish in the pentathlon from last year at this meet. She is joined by senior Boglarka Bozzay, who is competing for the first time at the meet as an individual in the 800 meters. Two years ago, Bozzay ran a leg of the distance medley relay that finished 11th. The final female Wildcat competing is freshman high jumper Alyx Treasure. She is the No. 6-ranked jumper in the field and is looking to be the first women’s high jumper to score at the NCAA indoor meet since 2007 when Kaylene Wagner finished eighth.

Action gets started with Silkauskas in the heptathlon at 10 a.m. mountain standard time on Friday. He will compete in four of the seven events on Day One and then run preliminaries of the 60 meter hurdles with Julmis at 5:30 p.m. Bozzay will run her preliminary heat at 7 p.m., and Treasure will jump at 8 p.m. Then, on Friday the final three events of the heptathlon and the entire pentathlon will start the day at 10:30 a.m. Kynard will jump at 3 p.m., and running finals will be 6:35 p.m. and 7:35 p.m., respectively for the hurdles and 800 should the Wildcats advance.

The competition at the NCAA Indoor Championship is guaranteed to tight as teams will be looking to knock two programs off the top. Florida’s men and Oregon’s women both have won back-to-back national titles and are looking for three-peats.

The Wildcats are hoping to improve on last year’s 18th-place finish on the men’s side. In 2011, K-State scored a total of 12 points. The women tallied three points with Krais coming in sixth to put the team 45th. The women narrowly missed having two Wildcats score last year with Nina Kokot taking ninth in the long jump. The women will be looking to have more than one score for the first time since 2007.  K-State’s women also have not reached 10 points since scoring 15.5 in 2005 and finishing 14th overall.

As mentioned before, the fields in the NCAA Indoor Championship are limited. That makes qualifying a difficult task in many events, and Rovelto said that makes it one of the elite meets year in and year out. With multiple Olympians under his tutelage, Rovelto has seen track and field at its best, and he believes this NCAA meet is one of the most challenging.

“I believe this meet is the hardest meet in the world... the world... to get into in terms of how hard it is to just get into it because of the limited numbers,” Rovelto said. “The indoor world championships are going on the same time as the NCAA meet, and you can look at the women’s hurdles as an example, there will be times at this meet that would medal at the world championships.

“I think the best meet in the world is the US Olympic Trials because that’s the hardest team to make, but I think the hardest meet to get into is the NCAA Indoor Championship. There will be people that have already hit the Olympic qualifying standard in their event to go to the trials, and they did not qualify for this meet. It’s that good and deep.”

Live coverage of the meet will be available in multiple places online. ESPN3.com will webcast coverage from 6:30-10:45 p.m. CST on Friday and again on Saturday from 7-10:15 p.m. What is not covered live by ESPN3 will be available at ncaa.com and broncosports.com beginning at 11 a.m. Friday and 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Live results will be provided by flashresults.com as well. Fans can get updates on Twitter by following @kstate_gameday.

Points of Note
•  K-State is one of only 3 teams to send high jumpers in both men’s and women’s competitions: Arizona, Florida
•  K-State is one of only 5 teams to send athletes in the men’s and women’s mutli-events: Arkansas, Florida, Northern Iowa, Wisconsin
•  Only 18 men’s teams are sending more athletes the K-State, and 26 women’s teams.
•  K-State’s women have never won an individual NCAA indoor title
•  The Big 12 ranks second in total entries combining men and women with 38 men and 43 women for a total of 81. The SEC is No. 1 with 108 (53 men, 55 women)

Wildcats Ranked No. 14 in USTFCCCA
Heading into the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships this weekend the Kansas State men’s team slips one spot in the latest USTFCCCA Rankings to No. 16. This week’s rankings take into account only the athletes competing at the championship meet, and the Wildcats have three athletes traveling to Idaho for the men to compete in four events. The K-State women also have three Wildcats competing and stand at No. 41 in the rankings.

There was not much movement near the top of either the men’s or women’s rankings as only one dropped out of the Top 10 on each side. The biggest move for the men came from Wisconsin with the Badgers climbing nine spots to No. 22. Mississippi State cracked the Top 10 at No. 6 climbing six spots from a week ago. For the women, BYU fell out of the Top 10 to No. 13, and Texas made a big move up nine spots to No. 9. Baylor also made a large jump in the rankings to No. 23, up 11 spots.

Two of K-State’s men are ranked in the Top 10 in a total of three events as Erik Kynard holds the No. 1 spot in the high jump. Mantas Silkauskas is No. 4 in the 60 meter hurdles and No. 9 in the heptathlon. Jeffrey Julmis is just outside the Top 10 in the hurdles as well. For the women, Alyx Treasure and Ryann Krais are in the Top 10 in their events. Treasure is sixth in the high jump field, and Krais stands at eighth in the pentathlon. Boglarka Bozzay completes the women’s field for K-State and ranks 13th in the field of the 800 meters.

Kynard Adds Two Awards
High jumper Erik Kynard received two prestigious honors  as he was named Big 12 Conference Indoor Track and Field Co-Outstanding Performer of the Year following the Big 12 Championship. He also was named USTFCCCA Midwest Region Field Athlete of the Year for his indoor efforts. Kynard was joined by Texas A&M’s Ameer Webb as winners of the Big 12 award nominated and voted on by the conference head coaches. It marks the second straight year Kynard has been recognized by the USTFCCCA as its Indoor Midwest Field Athlete of the Year.

Kynard won the Big 12 men’s high jump with his leap of 7-05.25 (2.27 meters) for his second straight indoor title and third straight overall. He dominated the competition with no other jumper clearing seven feet. The victory marked his fourth of the season as he is undefeated heading into this week’s NCAA Championship in Nampa, Idaho. Kynard currently holds the No. 1 jump in the NCAA this year at 7-07.00 (2.31m), which also stands eighth in the world for the year. The last time the Wildcats had a Big 12 Performer of the Year was 2008 when Scott Sellers won the men’s high jump with his clearance of 7-06.00 (2.29m)

Wildcats Claim 5 Titles at Big 12 Championship
Coming into this year’s Big 12 Indoor Track and Field Championships, Kansas State Head Coach Cliff Rovelto believed his men’s and women’s teams had the opportunity to score significant points and put together their best performances in a while. He was correct in his projection with the women’s team posting their best finish in three years, while the men had their best showing seven years.

K-State’s men finished fourth in the team standings with 64 points. The fourth-place finish was the best for the men since taking third in 2005. The women finished seventh with 56 points, and the last time the women finished seventh or better was 2009. Rovelto said he was happy with how his teams performed and praised the effort against some of the best teams in the country in arguably the deepest league in the country.

K-State came away from the conference championship meet with a combined total of five titles, as K-State continued to show its dominance in the combined events and the high jump. This year was the first time since 2005 the men had multiple champions and the first time for the women since 2007. It also marked the first time since 2009 the women won an event after a brief hiatus since the last time the meet was held in College Station. After Ryann Krais won the women’s pentathlon on Friday to mark the fourth Big 12 title in the event with her score of 4,079 points, the Wildcats bested the field in the high jump on both sides.

The Wildcats helped solidify their chance to claim K-State as High Jump U with a sweep of the men’s and women’s titles along with adding another scorer in the event. Erik Kynard successfully defended his title clearing 2.27 meters (7-05.25) with no other competitor clearing seven feet. He failed his attempts at clearing 2.34 meters (7-08.00), which would have tied for the second best mark in NCAA history. Freshman Alyx Treasure won the women’s high jump with her clearance of 1.83 meters (6-00.00). The mark puts her in fourth on the NCAA list this season. Fellow freshman Joslyn Barnes finished fifth jumping 1.75 meters (5-08.75) to give the women’s team 14 points in the event.

The running finals had a bit of a delay after an electrical malfunction with the timing equipment. The delay forced the men’s 60 meter hurdles runners back to the warm up area until the problem could be corrected. When the malfunction was fixed, it was senior Jeffrey Julmis who came out of the blocks to get the win for K-State. Julmis was neck and neck with defending champion Keiron Stewart of Texas midway through the race. With the two even with two hurdles to go it would be the final sprint after the last hurdle that would determine the winner. Julmis pulled away to get the win in 7.75 seconds. Stewart ran 7.77, and Julmis said he also did what coach Rovelto told him in order to get the win.

Julmis is the first Wildcat to win the 60 meter hurdle title in the Big 12 era with the last hurdle champion coming in 1993 when Travis Livingston won the 55 meter hurdles. Mantas Silkauskas also ran in the final for the Wildcats placing sixth with his time of 7.96 seconds to give the men 13 points in the event.

Then the success started rolling in for K-State in the mid-distance events with another title. Senior Boglarka Bozzay continued her undefeated season crossing the finish line first in the 1,000 meters in 2:47.02. The Hungarian was the favorite coming into the competition and she defended her No. 1 ranking in the conference and accomplished her goal of winning her first Big 12 title. It was the first 1,000 meter title for K-State since Korene Hinds went back-to-back in 2000 and 2001.

Kynard Added to Bowerman Watch List
Junior high jumper Erik Kynard each claimed his first NCAA title during outdoor season last year and is undefeated thus far in the 2012 indoor season. He was recognized for his efforts by the USTFCCCA as the organization added him to the pre-NCAA Championship update of the official Bowerman Watch List. Kynard had previously been listed among the others receiving mention for the award since the preseason Watch list was released. He is now among the Top 10 athletes being considered for the prestigious award.

Senior Ryann Krais remains on the women’s list of others receiving mention as she is one of the nation’s top multi-event athletes. She won her first NCAA title outdoors last year winning the heptathlon. She also finished third in the 400 meter hurdles, to complete a rare double All-American campaign in two of the sports most grueling events. For her efforts and anticipated success in 2012, Krais has been recognized as one of the top collegiate track and field athletes to watch this season as well.

The men’s list has three distance runners on the list of 10 and a group of sprinters. Kynard joins a group of five total Big 12 athletes listed as also receiving mention. Texas long jumper and sprinter Marquise Goodwin is the only other Big 12 male athlete among the 10 on the official Watch List for the 2012 award at this time. The Big 12 has only one female on the official Watch List with Texas A&M’s Kamaria Brown being added to the most recent update.

The Bowerman is awarded annually by the USTFCCCA to the top male and female collegiate track and field athletes in the nation. The award was created in 2009 and is named for legendary Oregon track and field and cross country coach Bill Bowerman. It is considered the Heisman Trophy of track and field.

High Jump U
K-State high jumper Erik Kynard has made a name for himself in the track and field world winning his first NCAA title last year and qualifying for Team USA at the IAAF World Championships as well. This season, the Wildcats have a female high jumper that is already jumping among the best in the collegiate ranks to further plead K-State’s case to be known as High Jump U.

Freshman Alyx Treasure opened the season with a leap of 1.78 meters in December. She followed that performance witha clearing of 1.82m to rank seventh in school history and tie for fourth on the NCAA performance list so far this season. She currently is tied for eighth on the list and cleared 1.83m to win her first Big 12 Conference championship, marking the first time the Wildcats have swept the high jump titles at the Big 12 meet.

With Kynard’s clearing of 2.31m and Treasure’s jump of 1.83m, K-State is one of only two schools with a male and female high jumper ranked in the top 10 on the NCAA list this season. Arizona is the other school challenging K-State for the High Jump U name this season with defending NCAA champion Brigetta Barrett atop the list women’s at 1.97m. The Arizona Wildcats also have a pair of jumpers on the men’s list with Nick Ross and Edgar Morales-Rivera tied for sixth.

Multi U
Just like the high jump, the Wildcats can make the claim to having one of the best multi-event programs in the nation. Long a contender for conference and NCAA titles on both the men’s and women’s side, this year K-State is one of three schools with an athlete ranked among the Top 10 in the NCAA in the pentathlon and heptathlon. In 2009, the Wildcats became the first men’s team to have three athletes post the NCAA automatic qualifying score in the decathlon at the same meet to lay claim to the name Multi U that year.

Senior Ryann Krais showed she has what it takes in winning the NCAA outdoor title in the heptathlon. This year she is currently No. 8 in the pentathlon with her season best score of 4,079 points at the Big 12 Championship. Senior Mantas Silkauskas is No. 9 in the heptathlon after posting 5,780 points at the Bill Bergan Invitational.

Only Arkansas and Wisconsin can claim Top 10 athletes in the multis along with the Wildcats. Arkansas has Makeba Alcide ranked No. 4 in the pentathlon and two men are among the elite. Freshman Gunnar Nixon is No. 1 and Kevin Lazas stands fourth. For the Badgers Dorcas Akinniyi is No. 9 among the women, and Japheth Cato is third on the men’s list.

Almost Perfect Bogey
Senior mid-distance runner Boglarka Bozzay is dominating the competition this season as the Hungarian was undefeated in eight races heading into last chance weekend. At the ISU NCAA Qualifier, Bozzay lost for the first time this season, but it was to professional runners as she came in third in the 800 meters. She improved her best time of the season to 2:05.11 but did not break her own school record set two weeks earlier at the Nebraska Tune-Up due to Iowa State’s oversized track. At Nebraska, Bozzay ran in 2:05.16 to break the record held by Lysaira Roman-Del Valle. The time also was a Devaney Center facility record, giving her two such records after claiming the 1,000 meters facility record in 2011. She has taken first place in the 800 meters and 1,000 meters four times and twice in the mile . At two meets she pulled the double winning the 800 and mile at Bill Bergan Invitational and the mile and 1,000 at the KSU Invitational. Bozzay has been winning in commanding fashion as well with her average margin of victory of more than six seconds in her wins thanks to some crushing wins of more than 11 seconds in the 1,000 meters.

Bozzay won her first Big 12 title two weeks ago taking home first in the 1,000 meters. She also was recognized as Big 12 Athlete of the Week for her win at the Nebraska Tune-Up.

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 five women’s teams are in the USTFCCCA Top 25 Rankings heading into the NCAA Championships.

The league is one of the most competitive with four of the five ranked women’s teams coming in at No. 14 or higher. Texas A&M leads the way at No. 5 with Kansas standing close behind at No. 6 this week. Texas climbed nine spots this week to No. 9. Iowa State (14) follows the Longhorns, and Baylor comes in at No. 23 after climbing 11 spots to give the Big 12 the second-most ranked women’s teams along with the Pac-12 and just behind the six of the SEC.

The men dropped one ranked team from the Top 25 this week with three still among the best teams in the nation. Texas A&M ‘s men held their spot at No. 3 in the nation heading into the NCAA Championship. Texas fell one spot to No. 7, and K-State also fell one to No. 16 to put all the league’s ranked teams among the Top 20. Oklahoma fell out of the Top 25 this week down to No. 32. Missouri (42), Oklahoma State (45) and Texas Tech (48) help put seven of the league’s 10 teams in the Top 50. Nine of the women’s teams have athletes competing at the NCAA Championship, and all nine of those teams are in the Top 50.