Wildcats Set for NCAA Championships in Iowa

Tomas Kirielius

June 4, 2012

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Championship Central -- USTFCCCA

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DES MOINES, Iowa – Last season, the Kansas State track and field team won individual NCAA titles on the men’s and women’s side for the first time since 1986. This week the Wildcats will send their two defending champions back to the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. Junior Erik Kynard looks to bring back the crown and claim K-State’s fifth outdoor men’s high jump title. Senior Ryann Krais will be in the highly competitive heptathlon field where the Wildcats have claimed three NCAA titles all-time.

Kynard and Krais will not be alone at Drake Stadium with a total of eight Wildcats competing. Four of those Wildcats are first-time NCAA Championship competitors.

K-State Head Coach Cliff Rovelto said he is looking forward to the meet as this year’s NCAA Championship is the final chance for many athletes to post marks to qualify for Olympic Trials or make their respective Olympic teams, adding to the excitement of the an already highly anticipated meet every year.

“A lot of these athletes at this meet are going to compete at the Olympic Games,” Rovelto said. “Some of the Europeans already know they’re going, and there are a lot of Americans capable of getting through the Olympic Trials. I’m excited because if the weather is favorable, you could see some really, really impressive marks.”

Some impressive marks came from the Wildcats last season at the NCAA Championship meet as the 2011 season marked the first time in school history both the men’s and women’s teams finished in the Top 20 at the NCAA Championship meet. K-State’s men finished in a tie for 16th place and the women were 13th with 19 points scored. The men posted 16 points.

The meet is set to start Wednesday from Jim Duncan Track with the first half of the decathlon, where junior Tomas Kirielius will be making his NCAA meet debut. He enters the competition with a score of 7,508 from the Big 12 Championship when he finished second. His score ranks 24th in the field.

Also opening the meet on Wednesday will be senior Mantas Silkauskas in the long jump. This is not his first NCAA Championship appearance outdoors, but the decathlete has focused on the hurdles, long jump and relays this season and will be going up against the best in the long jump. Junior Jacquelyne Leffler qualified for the meet in the discus, where she will make her NCAA debut as well. Senior Boglarka Bozzay is looking to improve upon her 14th-place finish a year ago in the 800 meters. If she can advance through the semifinals, the final is set for Friday evening.

Thursday will conclude the decathlon and open the heptathlon where Krais will defend her title over two days. Kynard will defend his crown as the top high jumper on Thursday as well in a field that will have three-time NCAA champion Derek Drouin competing after missing last year’s outdoor and this year’s indoor championship meets due to injury.

“Erik looked great in practice and he is in the right frame of mind,” Rovelto said. “There are three or four guys fully capable of jumping very high, so he will have to jump high in order to win again. It’s going to be a battle.”

Joining Krais in the heptathlon is senior transfer Mairead Murphy. The Ireland native has been a major contributor to the women’s team this year, converting to the multi-events after running strictly hurdles the three previous years. She has also put her name in the record books back home, setting national records indoors in the pentathlon and outdoors in the heptathlon at the Big 12 Championships.

On Friday, Krais and Murphy will finish the heptathlon and first-time NCAA competitor Kyle Wait will look to become K-State’s first pole vaulter to score at the NCAA Championship since Doug Lytle finished second in 1982. Wait improved his PR to 17-06.50 at the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds in Austin and is tied for 16th entering the competition.

Rovelto said the group he has competing has the potential to do more than others outside the program may anticipate heading into the meet. The Wildcat men are ranked No. 57 while the women stand at 49th in the latest USTFCCCA Rankings. This week’s rankings take only athletes competing at the championship meet. After strong performances at big meets this season, Rovelto said he believes his team can do more of the same.

“One thing about our team, whether it’s a conference or national meet, virtually every time our kids and our team have outperformed where they were ranked,” Rovelto said. “I think everyone is going in physically good and training well. I believe everyone is capable of going into this meet and putting up marks a little better than what they’ve already done this year.”

The meet will be available to watch online on espn3.com beginning on Thursday. Saturday’s competition will also be broadcast on ESPNU. Live results will be provided by flashresults.com for fans wanting to follow action online. Flash Results will again have the capability to update field event results after each attempt as well. Updates on the Wildcats can also be found by following the @kstate_gameday Twitter handle.

Tickets are on sale now through the Drake Ticket Office and can be purchased for either $75 or $85 for all-session tickets. Single-day tickets for Wednesday and Thursday are $15 or $20 and Friday/Saturday tickets are $25 or $30 depending on location.