K-State Sports Extra: Big 12 Championships

by Mark Janssen

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State's track and field athletes head to Columbia, Mo., and Audrey J. Walton Stadium this weekend with two goals in mind.

"First, the Big 12 Championship meet is important to us from a team perspective," said K-State coach Cliff Rovelto. "But secondly, it's another opportunity for a number of kids to improve on their chances on qualifying for Regionals, and then ultimately the NCAA."

Multi-events for the Big 12 meet begin Friday, with the regular format of individual events taking place on Saturday and Sunday.

As for team expectations, Rovelto gives a candid "eighth or ninth place" prediction for both his men's and women's teams.

"It could have been better, but we have some athletes who will not be competing at all, or at least not at full strength," said Rovelto.

Most significant of those missing are decathlete Moritz Cleve, thrower Jacquelyne Leffler, plus jumpers Nina Kokot and TiAra Walpool, who all would have been likely placers.

Erik Kynard and Beverly Ramos are KSU's top candidates for a top-three finish as Kynard ranks first in the league in the high jump at 7-4 ½, while Ramos second in the 5,000 meters at 15:51.82.

"Beverly could place in a number of events, but we don't want to wear her out before Regionals and NCAAs," said Rovelto in reference to his senior who also ranks third in the steeplechase and fourth in the 1,500. "She could win the 5,000, but at the same time the best girl in the country (Lisa Koll, ISU, 15:17.76) is also from the Big 12, so she could run really, really, fast, but not win."

Sara Stoakes in the 800, Martina Tresch in the steeplechase and Kokot (if healthy) in the long jump are other candidates to be among the elite scorers.

Including cross country, indoor and outdoor track, Rovelto calls the Big 12 Conference the best conference in the country, adding a "not even close" when it comes to women's track and field.

On the men's side, Rovelto said that Jason Coniglio's 10.55 100-meter time ranks second on the team, but only 16th in the Big 12 rankings. The Wildcat coach said Coniglio would rank second in the Big Ten Conference.

"We're a team like a couple of those in the Pac 10. We have quality athletes, but also several events where we are not up to par, or, we have events where we lack in depth," said Rovelto. "We're a team that could be in the middle of the Big 12, but have enough elite athletes to be among the top 10 teams in the country."

When the Big 12 was formed, Texas and Nebraska were at the top, with Kansas State giving chase. It was a time in the late-1990s that at least half of the league schools were only giving lip service to the importance of the sport.

Today, Rovelto says, "At the time the league was formed I thought Oklahoma and Texas A&M were two of the most under-achieving programs in the country. Now, with a commitment from their university and a change in coaching staffs, those are two programs that went from worst to first in a very short amount of time in the last few years.

"They, along with Texas Tech, have new facilities and salaries that would put them among the top 10 programs in the country," said Rovelto. "There's a perception that a Nebraska, or even ourselves, have fallen back, but in reality, we're even better. It's just a reflection as to how good the Big 12 Conference has become."

WHERE THE 'CATS RANK IN THE BIG 12

MEN
100 - Martynas Jurgilas, 6th, 10.34
100 Hurdles - Jeffrey Julmis, 4th, 13.76; Balazs Baji, 7th, 13.79
800 - Armando Del Valle, 8th, 1:49.97
High Jump - Erik Kynard, 1st, 7-4 ½; Michael Healey, 5th, 7-0 ¼
Pole Vault - Dezso Szabo, 4th, 16-11
Javelin - Cory Boulanger, 219-2
Decathlon - Moritz Cleve, 4th, 7,429; Mantas Silkauskas, 5th, 7,129

WOMEN
800 - Sara Stoakes, 1st, 2:06.15
1500 - Beverly Ramos, 4th, 4:21.24
5000 - Beverly Ramos, 2nd, 15:51.82
Steeplechase - Beverly Ramos, 3rd, 10:15.43; Martina Tresch, 5th, 10:20.82
Long Jump - Nina Kokot, 2nd, 20-10 ¾
Hammer - Chelsie Bonds, 8th, 180-5
Javeliln - Ali Pistora, 7th, 159-5
Heptathlon - Stephanie Hejde, 5th, 4,725