Track and Field Competes in Big 12 Championship

K-State track and field is looking to impress this weekend. 

The Cats are set to compete in the 2016 Big 12 Indoor Track and Field Championship beginning tomorrow and running through Saturday at the Lied Recreation-Athletic Facility in Ames, Iowa. 

“I think some great things are going to go on this weekend,” said senior long jumper Ifeanyichukwu Otuonye. “I think we’ve seen a foreshadowing of what we can do this entire season. We have been training really hard, so I think we’re going to drop some really good results at Big 12s.” 

The Wildcat women’s team enters this weekend’s championship looking to redeem themselves after finishing just 6.5 points shy of a conference title in 2015. Last year, the women’s team finished in second place with a program-best 132.5 total points, falling to reigning champion Texas (139 points). 

It’s been 39 years since the K-State women’s team has won an indoor conference title, so this year, though the Longhorns enter the meet ranked No. 5 in the nation and the Cats are ranked No. 7, the team hopes to take down Texas en route to making K-State history. 

“I think it’s good having that pressure because the ladies need to stay focused,” said last year’s Big 12 Indoor Championship female high point scorer Akela Jones. “We just need to go out there and do our best – that’s it – and I know we are going to go out and do our best, so I’m not nervous.” 

Last year, Jones’ 24 points were the fourth-most ever by a female athlete in the Big 12 era and the most in K-State history. The senior from St. Michael, Barbados, finished first in the long jump with a leap of 20-10.75 (6.37m) and also placed second in the high jump (6-01.50) and third in the 60-meter hurdles (8.14). 

“I do feel like there is going to be a lot of pressure on me. I know I need to lead my team and be a really big scorer for the team in order to win this Big 12 title,” explained Jones. “A lot of other schools are looking for me to fail, but that’s just not going to happen. So I’m looking forward to going out and producing big marks at Big 12s.” 

Senior Sonia Gaskin and sophomore A’Keyla Mitchell will be looked upon to make an impact on the track. At last year’s indoor conference championship, Gaskin finished second in the 600-yard run with a time of 1:19.46, while Mitchell placed third in the 200-meter dash with a time of 23.45 and fifth in the 60-meter dash with a time of 7.46. 

In the field, senior Sara Savatovic, the reigning weight throw champion with a title-winning toss of 20.66m/67-09.50 in 2015, will try to earn the team points again in throws. 

On the men’s side, though the team finished last year’s indoor championship in ninth place, K-State head coach Cliff Rovelto said he is confident in this year’s group. 

“I’m almost positive this is the first time we’ve taken the maximum number we can enter for the men’s team,” said Rovelto, whose team is bringing 26 male athletes to the meet. “Not all of them are necessarily competing to be first or second in their events, but there are a lot of guys competing to score. So, looking at it in advance, the men can certainly be in the top half of the conference, and I think if we have a really solid meet, could possibly challenge to be in the top third. This is a pretty good group we have going.”

While not every member of the men’s squad will capture a conference title in his respective event, there are a few Wildcats who enter this weekend’s competition with high expectations. 

Otuonye is currently ranked as the No. 1 long jumper in the conference and will enter the weekend with a target on his back. 

“I’m feeling really good,” said Otuonye earlier this week. “Even though I’m No. 1 in the Big 12, I’m not going to let that get into my head because there are still a lot of competitors there. I’m going to go out there and do my best, and my best will be really good if I perform and execute well.” 

Along with Otuonye, Brady Grunder, a junior transfer from Iowa Central Community College, has a shot at the weight throw title, while sophomore Christoff Bryan, who finished fourth in the high jump last year with a leap of 2.17m/7-01.50, will also be competing for a title. 

“The weight throw is a huge event for the men and the high jump is huge event for the men,” explained Rovelto. “Both those events, between the two of them, we could score 40 points, and that could be half of what our total is in just two events.” 

Both the men’s and women’s team enter the 2016 Big 12 Indoor Track and Field Championship with high expectations, and, with a successful 2016 indoor season now behind them, are ready to go full-force into their final conference competition before the NCAA Indoor Championship. 

For more information on this weekend’s championship meet and the Wildcat track and field team, please click here. To follow this weekend’s action, stay tuned to @kstate_gameday on Twitter or follow the hashtag #KStateTF.