`Cats Face Top Competition at NCAAs

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - K-State Track and Field takes on the best Division I has to offer at this weekend's NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Set to run from March 13-14 at the Randal Tyson Track Complex, the Wildcats combine for 11 total entries over the two-day meet, including the Wildcat women entering the meet with nine qualifiers - the fifth-most event qualifiers of any women's squad this weekend.

Head coach Cliff Rovelto said the expectations remain the same when it comes to any postseason meet.

"The expectations are always that the athletes come here and do what it took for them to get here," Rovelto said. "It's really as simple as that. If all of them come in here and accomplish that then in the field events they'll score, and in the running events they'll make it to the finals. So that's really all you can expect.

"Anything beyond that from a performance standpoint is fantastic. Occasionally, you're going to have people where they're going to have their personal best and that's something you're working for, but the majority of the people in this meet are not going to have personal bests. But if they did what it just took them to get here, they're going to be happy leaving here."

With the women having a program-unprecedented nine entries indoors, Rovelto said a singular focus on either individual or team success in regards to overall placing at NCAAs can vary, but both feed off each other.

"You do focus on the individuals because if they don't take care of business then at the end, the collective team point total isn't going to be what you're hoping it to be so each individual has to take care of what they can do. Other than the relay, their teammates can't help them so it's on them," Rovelto said. "But I always look at it in terms of scoring opportunities and if you come to the meet and only have one or two scoring opportunities then to be in the top-20, top-25, you basically have to be first or second. To be among the top, you're going to have to have numerous opportunities to score and the fact that we have as many as we do on the women's side - it's a neat thing to come into the meet knowing we have a chance to place well. If you have an entry though, you have an opportunity and with this group, I think you can look at them as having real opportunities to score - certainly there's more interest."

Another theme that has carried for much of the indoor season is the success of the newcomers for K-State. Freshmen Christoff Bryan, Nate Gipson and A'Keyla Mitchell all earned individual qualifying nods, while junior-transfer Akela Jones and sophomore-transfer Kim Williamson both have earned qualification in their first year at K-State. All five athletes have helped to bolster a squad that also brings returning All-Americans Tia' Gamble, Sonia Gaskin, Alyx Treasure, Erica Twiss, as well as junior Dani Winters to the national meet.

"It's hard for freshmen to get to this meet, to have multiple ones here is pretty special," Rovelto said. "And the fact that they have all had really solid freshman years - they consistently performed at high levels, it wasn't like they just had one performance somewhere along the way that got them into the meet - so that is pretty good.

But again too, a lot of times too with new athletes going into new environments, no matter how talented they are, it's not always an immediate, great adjustment. So obviously they're all good, but they've done a really, really good job of handling a different environment and different training and all the stuff that comes along with it to perform at the level they have."

Action is expected to start tomorrow, Friday, March 13, at 10 a.m. with the men's heptathlon on the track and continue into Saturday, March 14, beginning at 10:45 a.m. Further meet information, including heat sheets, the meet schedule and a link to live results and the live ESPN3 feed, can be found by visiting the USTFCCCA meet central page. For updates on K-State Track and Field follow @kstate_gameday on Twitter under #KStateTF.

What to Watch for - Friday

Women's High Jump (4 p.m.) | Kim Williamson, Akela Jones and Alyx Treasure

The Wildcats kick off action in Fayetteville with perhaps the event they most dominated in this indoor season. Fresh off a running a clinic at Big 12s two weeks ago that saw four K-State high jumpers combine for 27.50 points, the trio of Kim Williamson, Akela Jones and Alyx Treasure will look to continue what has already shaped up to be a historical run on the national stage. With three entries in the event this weekend, K-State is the only school in the history of NCAA Indoors to have three or more entries in the high jump on both the men's and women's sides. Making the feat all the more impressive? Tomorrow's event is the second time the Wildcats have had three or more entries on the women's side - they also accomplished the feat in 2004 when Morgan High, JaNelle Wright and Marta Borkowska all qualified for indoors.

While that trio only notched three points total, this year's trio has the potential to score a bevy of points for the Purple and White. Williamson, this year's Big 12 champion in the event, enters the weekend with the third-best height cleared at 1.87m/6-01.50 in Division I. Prior to joining K-State, Williamson most notably set the NJCAA outdoor high jump record at 1.88m/6-02. Also new to the Wildcats this season, Jones opens a busy first day of action in the event with the eighth-best clearance in the NCAA at 1.85m/6-00.75. Like Williamson, Jones starred at her previous school, Oklahoma Baptist, racking up two NAIA high jump indoor titles.

Lastly, Treasure makes her third-straight appearance at NCAA Indoors. The Wildcat All-American earned second team honors in both 2012 (15th) and at last season's national meet in Albuquerque where she placed 10th. A native of Prince George, British Columbia, Treasure most recently cleared a career-best 1.84m/6-00.50 to finish third at Big 12 Indoors - good for 12th-best in Division I.

Women's Long Jump (6 p.m.) | Akela Jones

The second of three events on the day for Jones, the junior-transfer switches from the vertical to horizontal jumps. She enters the meet two weeks removed from winning the Big 12 crown in the event and holds the top mark in the country at 6.64m/21-09.50 - also a school record. Like the high jump, Jones has had considerable success in the long jump, notching two indoor titles in her time with Oklahoma Baptist to go along with the 2014 IAAF World Juniors title as well.

Women's 60-Meter Hurdles Semifinal (6:30 p.m.) | Akela Jones

Set to run in the second of two semifinal heats, Jones will look to advance to the event final on Saturday by finishing in the overall top-eight. She has excelled in the event this season, setting the school record of 8.14 seconds most recently to finish third-overall at Big 12s. Jones currently ranks eighth in the country.

Women's 200-Meter Semifinal (8:05 p.m.) | A'Keyla Mitchell

A'Keyla Mitchell caps off day one for K-State by competing in the 200-meter semifinal. One of only two freshman to qualify on the women's side, Mitchell's season-best of 23.45 (o) is 13th-best among the field of 16. She has excelled in her first season of collegiate action, setting the school record in the event of 23.96 at the KSU-KU-WSU Triangular, while her season-best time on the oversized track in Ames, Iowa earned her third-place at Big 12s.

What to Watch for - Saturday

Pentathlon (11:30 p.m.) | Erica Twiss

Competing in the multi-event on the national stage for a second-straight season, Erica Twiss will look to improve on last season's 10th-place finish. Twiss earned the qualifying nod after finishing second in the pentathlon at Big 12s, scoring a season-best 4,138 points in the process. Along with earning second team All-American honors at last season's indoors, Twiss also notched a personal best score of 4,151 points - good for fourth-best in school history.

Men's High Jump (3:30 p.m.) | Christoff Bryan, Nate Gipson

Making up two of the three freshmen to qualify for the event and two of the 17 freshman men to qualify overall for NCAAs, Christoff Bryan and Nate Gipson enter the meet as the first- and eighth-ranked high jumpers in DI. Bryan, who cleared 2.28m/7-05.75 earlier in the season at Fayetteville for the Tyson Invitational, is one of only four jumpers to clear seven-and-a-half feet or better this season. Gipson, meanwhile, most recently finished second in the event at Big 12s, clearing a season-best 2.22m/7-03.25 to earn the runner-up finish. Both athletes will reignite a streak for the men that lasted from 2004-13 in which at least one Wildcat earned All-American honors in the event indoors.

Women's Shot Put (3:45 p.m.) | Dani Winters

Dani Winters makes her first career appearance on the national stage, entering the meet with a shot put school record and 6th-best NCAA throw of 17.45m/57-03. A junior from Plainville, Kansas, Winters has broken out in a big way this season, at one point recording personal bests in the event in five-consecutive meets. Along with her school record performance earlier in the season, Winters also won the Big 12 shot put title - the first of her career. She will be the first Wildcat women's shot putter since Rebekah Green in 2004 to compete at NCAA Indoors.

Women's 60-Meter Hurdles Final (6:20 p.m.) | Jones / Women's 200-Meter Final (7:40 p.m.) | Mitchell

The top-eight finishers from each event semifinal on the track will compete in today's semifinal.

Women's 4x400 Meter Relay (8:30 p.m.)

The women's 4x400 makes its first-ever appearance on the national stage indoors. Clocking a school record time of 3:34.27, the foursome of Sonia Gaskin, Tia' Gamble, Mitchell and Twiss earned the Wildcats qualification with the 11th-fastest time in Division I. For Gaskin, Gamble and Twiss, the trio will look to go first team All-American in the 4x400 for a second-straight year, as they joined Merryl Mbeng at last season's outdoor championships in Eugene, Oregon to earn first team honors with an eighth-place finish.

What's Next?

K-State gets right back into action, opening the outdoor season in Fort Worth, Texas for the TCU Invitational on March 19-20. For more information on the Wildcats' upcoming outdoor season, visit www.k-statesports.com.