Track and Field Impresses at NCAA Championship
"Placing in the top-10 is quite an accomplishment for our program," K-State head coach Cliff Rovelto said. "Even more so when you look at the other programs and coaching staffs that ended up in the top-10 - it's very humbling."
K-State's time in Eugene was highlighted by Wildcat junior Akela Jones. Jones became K-State's first NCAA Champion since 2011 as she took the heptathlon title after scoring a K-State-record 6,371 points. Her total broke former Wildcat Austra Skujyte's former school record of 6,275 points set in 2002.
"I'm always trying to break some record, create some history," said Jones after winning the heptathlon title. "That's what I do. I want to leave a legacy. That's all I come to do when I step on the track."
During the first day of the heptathlon, Jones broke a 30-year old NCAA record after tallying 4,023 points over the first four events. She opened the heptathlon running the 100-meter hurdles in a school-record 13.10 seconds before going six-for-six in the high jump, finishing at 1.84m/6-00.50. She was the lone athlete not to miss a bar at a cleared height and moved up to No. 2 in school history in the heptathlon high jump.
Following the high jump, Jones placed first in the shot put with a career-long throw of 14.85m/48-05.50, and placed second in the 200-meter dash, clocking a wind-assisted 23.45 seconds.
Jones continued to impress throughout day two. Beginning with a season-best 6.53m/21-05.25w (3.3) leap in the long jump, she went on to throw 38.13m/125-01 in the javelin - the fifth-best in school heptathlon history - and ran the 800-meter in 2:29.43.
Jones had record-setting performances in six of the heptathlon's seven events and became just the sixth Wildcat women's athlete to win an NCAA outdoor title.
Along with her history-making heptathlon performance, Jones also earned All-America honors after going six-for-six in the high jump before missing three tries at 1.87m/6-01.50. She finished the event in fourth place.
Kim Williamson also competed in the high jump, and, after clearing a career-best 1.90m/6-02.75, she battled her way to a second-place finish, just missing out on the national title in three tries at 1.93m/6-04.25. A sophomore from Frankfield, Jamaica, Williamson transferred to K-State after spending one season at Central Arizona College. Now with one successful season under her belt, her future with the Wildcats is bright.
"Kim jumped very well," said Rovelto. "She's been a great competitor all year and will only continue to get better over the coming years as she comes to understand training more and continues to learn more about the event."
Adding to the First Team All-America honors for the Wildcats was junior Dani Winters, who finished fourth in the shot put. The reigning indoor and outdoor Big 12 Champion finished with a 17.64m/57-10.50 on her sixth and final throw of the day as she became the first Wildcat women's thrower to finish in the top-five in the outdoor event since 2002.
Along with K-State's four All-America honors, the Cats also had solid finishes from other athletes. Senior Alyx Treasure capped off her Wildcat career with a 12th-place finish (1.77m/5-09.25) in the high jump, junior Alyssa Kelly placed 22nd in the triple jump (12.29m/40-04w), freshman A'Keyla Mitchell nabbed a 16th-place finish in the 200-meter dash (23.12 seconds) and junior Tia Gamble placed 21st in the 400 Hurdles (59.29).
In the women's 4x400, junior Sonja Gaskin, senior Sarah Kolmer, Gamble and Mitchell finished 17th after clocking a time of 3:36.62.
On the men's side, four competitors represented K-State, led by junior Ifeanyichukwu Otuonye, who finished 11th in the long jump after recording a leap of 7.69m/25-02.75w, while freshman Terrell Smith placed 21st in the 200-meter dash after clocking a speedy 20.88 seconds.
The high jump duo of Nate Gipson and Christoff Bryan placed 18th and 23rd, respectively, as Gipson jumped 2.12m/6-11.50 and Bryan finished at 6-09.75.
Now that the 2015 season has come to an end, numerous Wildcats will continue to compete this summer in various meets, including the USA Championships and the USA Junior Championships at the end of June, as well as the IAFF World Championships in August.
Stay tuned for an in-depth feature and interview on NCAA Champion Akela Jones coming to the K-State Sports Extra soon!
"I originally couldn't do a multi-heptathlon," said Jones after winning it all. "[Cliff Rovelto] is an awesome coach. He's a legend. With him, and with my ability and my talent, it's just like a dynamic duo. Moving forward, we have bigger goals ahead, with Worlds and Pan-Am Games, becoming a professional. We're taking everything easy right now, but we have bigger goals."