Five Wildcats to Compete for NCAA Championships

Carlos Rodriguez

March 6, 2013

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State Head Coach Cliff Rovelto considers the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championship the most difficult meet in the world to qualify for. And this year five of his Wildcats are headed to Arkansas to compete for titles. Two days of action are set to begin Friday from the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Ark.

The men’s team boasts four entrants in the championship meet, surpassed only by 12 other schools. One area the Wildcats expect to score points again is in the high jump as Olympic silver medalist and back-to-back NCAA outdoor champion Erik Kynard looks to win his first indoor crown. It will also be the first time Kynard and Olympic bronze medalist Derek Drouin of Indiana will be in the same field since the Olympics in August.

K-State’s men also have a chance to do something they have never done in one event and something not done in more than 30 years in another. Carlos Rodriguez looks to become the school’s first All-American indoors in the 200 meters. Kyle Wait also is trying to become the first All-American in the pole vault since 1982.

Devin Dick is K-State’s fourth Wildcat competing for the men as he grabbed the final spot in the heptathlon. The cancer survivor helps keep K-State’s streak going as the Wildcats have had a Wildcat entered in the heptathlon every year since 2008.

“I think they’re all capable of scoring even though three of them are at the lower end of getting in,” Rovelto said. “Devin, for example, left points laying on the table in the high jump and the pole vault at the Big 12 meet. He easily could have scored 100 more points, and then he wouldn’t be on the bubble. And then you could be in the top 10 and everyone would think he has a good chance to score. What history tells us is if you do what it takes to get there, and just repeat that mark, you’ve got a pretty good chance to score.”

Merryl Mbeng keeps the trend going for the women’s team in the combined events as well as she is ranked ninth in the pentathlon entering the meet. It marks the third straight year the men and women have had at least one entry in the combined events. The pentathlon could be one of the most competitive events at the meet as less than 200 points separate the No. 2-ranked athlete from No. 16 in the field.

“Obviously, there is one gal that is significantly better than the rest, but the next 10 or 12 girls, some of them on a good day and all of them on a great day, they’re all capable of being second in the meet,” Rovelto said of the depth of the pentathlon. “I think it will be very competitive. I like our chances because I do believe Merryl is capable of placing pretty high.”

This season, the NCAA changed its qualifying standards for the indoor championship dropping automatic qualifying marks for all events and electing to use the descending order list for each event, taking the top 16 individuals and top 12 relays. The meet also is breaking ties based on second best performances to not allow more than 16 in any event as opposed to previous years when ties were not broken and largers fields could be set.

“If anything in some events it made it harder to qualify,” Rovelto said of the change. “The vertical jumps always ended up with more than 16 because of ties. But I think it’s probably fair because now you’ve got equal representation in all of the events. I like that part of it.

“You see this every year with the world championship, the qualifying standard goes up and the initial reaction is, ‘We’re not going to have enough guys qualify.’ Well, guess what? We always have enough guys qualify. As soon as you said it’s gonna be 16, guys are gonna do what they need to do to get there. They get it done. They raise the level of their game. The good ones get it done.”

That was seen in the pole vault this year and in the high jump. Rovelto said he can’t remember the last time a jump of 2.20 meters (7-02.50) did not qualify for the NCAA Championship indoors. This year it took 2.22 (7-03.25) as athletes pushed themselves to arguably the deepest high jump field in the history of the meet.

“The high jump is very good. There are lots of guys that are capable of jumping 2.25 or 2.26, and if guys like Erik and Derek Drouin are having an off day, they very easily could jump 2.25 and be in it. And you saw that last year,” Rovelto said. “So, I think there are a lot of guys that are capable of competing for the win. Obviously, if Erik and Derek are jumping at their best, than there aren’t.”

With Kynard and Drouin in the field it is the first time since 1985 that two Olympic medalists have returned to collegiate track in the same event, making it one of the most anticipated events of the meet as well.

We’ve had good people. I don’t know what it says. It says they’ve worked hard and they’ve all for the most part performed well at the end of the year, whether it’s a conference meet or the NCAA, and that’s what’s important. We’ve been fortunate to have good athletes in some areas.

Fans can watch the action live on on Friday from 5:30-9:30 p.m. Central and Saturday from 6-8:30 p.m. ESPNU will also televise the meet tape delayed on March 17.

For fans wanting to attend the NCAA Championships. Tickets can be purchased online at or  with two-day reserved seats available for $40 and general admission tickets at $30. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket window at the Tyson Center, but tickets are expected to sell fast and early purchase is advised.

Updates will be provided on Twitter throughout the meet on K-State’s live event account @kstate_gameday. Fans can also follow @ncaa for news on the meet.

Events to Watch
•  Men’s High Jump
It took a jump of 2.22 meters (7-03.25) just to qualify for the meet. This is the deepest and most talented men’s high jump has ever been at the NCAA level. With Erik Kynard winning silver at the London Olympics and Indiana’s Derek Drouin tying for bronze, it marks the first time since 1937 to Olympic medalists returned to college in the high jump. And the first time for any event since the 1985 men’s 200m.
•  Men’s Pole Vault
Junior Kyle Wait broke the school record to qualify at a “last chance meet” - a very difficult task. The men’s pole vault took a higher mark than recent years to qualify as well at 5.42 meters (17-09.25). Wait is looking to become the first All-American for K-State’s men in pole vault since Doug Lytle in 1982.
•  Men’s 200m
Carlos Rodriguez enters the meet ranked 14th in a tightly packed field. He is looking to become the first Wildcat to score points at the championship meet for the men’s team in this event indoors.
•  Pentathlon
Arkansas’ Makeba Alcide broke the collegiate record this season at 4569 points, but less than 200 points separate No. 2 in the field (4208) from No. 16 (4024) making this one of the most wide-open and unpredictable fields the pentathlon has seen.
•  Heptathlon
Devin Dick grabbed the last spot in the men’s heptathlon for K-State after the testicular cancer survivor was the first off the list for the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championship. Less than 200 points separate Dick (16th) from No. 6 Romain Martin of Texas-Arlington, who Dick finished second to at the Bill Bergan Invitational earlier.
•  Men’s Mile
Although K-State does not have anyone entered in this event, it could be the most-hyped event at the championship. Only 16 qualify, but 31 athletes ran sub 4-minute miles this year. That is a feat once considered impossible and the greatest athletic achievement in sport. If the final does not turn into a tactical race, the potential of an entire field running sub-4 would be something the track and field community would talk about for years.

Kynard Midwest Athlete of the Year Again
High jumper Erik Kynard has tied his own school record, set two facility records and broke the Big 12 Championship record this season and for that he was named the indoor USTFCCCA Midwest Regional Field Athlete of the Year for a third straight year. Kynard is currently ranked No. 1 in the NCAA with his leading jump of 2.33 meters (7-07.75).

Kynard is one of only two jumpers so far this season to clear 7-07.00 as Indiana’s Derek Drouin is ranked No. 2 at 2.31 meters (7-07.25).

Wait Breaks School Record at Last Chance Meet
Three Wildcats traveled to Fayetteville to compete at the Arkansas Final Qualifier in an attempt to move up the NCAA rankings and qualify for the NCAA Championship next week, and junior pole vaulter Kyle Wait succeeded in breaking a school record and putting himself in position for an NCAA bid.

Wait broke the K-State school record with a vault of 5.45 meters (17-10.50), clearing the height on his third attempt. Entering the meet Wait was tied for 19th in the NCAA and the height of 5.45 meters was 11th. His clearance of 5.45 meters solidified his spot at the championship meet. He was eliminated attempting 5.65 meters (18-06.50) after passing two heights. If he had cleared 5.65 meters, Wait would have been No. 1 in the NCAA this season.

High jumper Zack Riley opened the action for K-State on Friday afternoon and quickly cleared his first two bars on first attempts. He jumped 2.07 meters (6-09.50) and 2.12 meters (6-11.50) but then struggled to clear 2.17 meters (7-01.50), a height he had cleared at his previous five competitions. By not improving his highest jump of the season, Riley will remain just outside the top 16 necessary to go to the NCAA Championship. Riley did win the competition Friday by clearing his two bars on first attempts, tallying his second victory of the season.

After winning K-State’s first men’s long jump conference championship since 1989, juco transfer Jharyl Bowry said it was bittersweet because he was not ranked high enough to go to the NCAA meet. On Friday, Bowry tried to change that but was unable to. Bowry fouled on his first three jumps before posting a mark of 7.10 meters (23-03.50) on his fourth jump. On his sixth and final attempt, Bowry leapt 7.34 meters (24-01.00) to finish in third place but did not improve on his season best jump of 7.54 meters as he will not be ranked high enough to go to his first NCAA Championship.

Wildcats Ranked No. 25 Heading to NCAA Meet
K-State’s men have been one of the top teams in the nation all season and have climbed back into the Top 25 this week heading into the NCAA Championship meet. The Wildcats are No. 25 in the latest USTFCCCA Rankings. K-State jumped seven spots up from No. 32 as four men are going to Arkansas for this weekend’s action.

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. This week’s rankings only take into account athletes competing at the NCAA Championship.

Senior high jumper Erik Kynard holds the No. 1 spot in his event after jumping 2.33 meters at the KSU Open. Kyle Wait is K-State’s next highest ranked Wildcat at No. 11 in the pole vault. He broke the school record last week to qualify for the meet at the Arkansas Final Qualifier. Carlos Rodriguez is No. 13 in the 200 meters and seeks to become the school’s first All-American in the event. Devin Dick grabbed the last spot in the field and is ranked No. 16 in the heptathlon.

On the women’s side, combined events specialist Merryl Mbeng is ranked ninth after scoring 4,090 points in the pentathlon at the Big 12 Championship to finish second. She takes on one of the most tightly contested fields in the meet.

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. The league has a total of four men’s and five women’s teams ranked in the Top 25 heading into the championship meet.

There were some big moves in the rankings following last chance meets three teams cracked the Top 25 on the men’s side and three on the women’s. Notre Dame’s women made the biggest jump going from No. 57 last week up to No. 17 this week thanks to four performances at their own last chance meet that qualified for the meet.

The Big 12 men have just one team in the Top 10 as Oklahoma State jumped two spots to No. 9 on the strength of its distance program. Texas Tech slipped three spots to No. 11 this week and Texas fell down to No. 17 out of the top 10. K-State moved into the Top 25 as Baylor (27) and Oklahoma (37) both feel outside the elite.

On the women’s side, Kansas is in contention for the national title entering the meet at No. 2 and with a small margin between the Jayhawks and LSU Tigers. Texas jumped back into the Top 10 at No. 7 this week and Iowa State (12) is still riding its distance runners to a high ranking. Oklahoma (22) and Baylor (25) stay in the Top 25 as well.

The SEC (6) and Big Ten (5) have more men’s teams ranked and only the SEC’s seven ranked women’s team best the Big 12. The SEC boasts No. 1 Arkansas for the men and LSU’s women hold the top spot. In total, the power conferences of the Big 12, Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 represent 19 of the men’s Top 25 and 17 of the women’s teams as well.

Kynard Named to Bowerman Watch List
The USTFCCCA has updated its watch list for the prestigious Bowerman Trophy, and K-State senior high jumper Erik Kynard remains on the list of 10 student-athletes up for college track and field’s biggest award. The USTFCCCA released its Bowerman Trophy Watch List for March on Wednesday afternoon with some changes from the last update as four athletes made their debut on the list in Florida’s Marquis Dendy, Texas A&M’s Deon Lendore, Tulsa’s Chris O’Hare and Washington’s Jeremy Taiwo.

This updated list includes numerous athletes who are leading the nation in their respective events among other collegiate athletes and even some who hold the top mark in the world this season. All 10 of the student-athletes on the watch list combined to win 11 individual conference championships this weekend, including Kynard’s Big 12 record high jump.

Kynard currently holds the No. 1 jump in the NCAA this season at 2.33 meters (7-07.75). That mark was a new KSU Open meet record, tied his own school record and tied the Ahearn Field House facility record. At the Big 12 Championship this weekend, Kynard cleared 2.31 meters (7-07.00) to set a new meet record as well as a new Leid Recreational Center facility record.