Wildcats Open Competition at NCAA Championships

EUGENE, Ore. – Sixteen student-athletes will represent the Kansas State track and field team in the final meet of the year, as the Wildcats get set to open competition Wednesday at the NCAA Outdoor Championships at the historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. 

K-State kicks off competition on day one on Wednesday at 4 p.m. CT with freshman Tyler Merkley and junior Brady Grunder competing in the men’s hammer throw, while sprinter Terrell Smith will conclude the first day in the 200 meter semifinals at 8:44 p.m. CT. The meet will run through Saturday, June 11 when the Wildcats will close out the competition at 7:51 p.m. CT with the women’s 4x400 meter relay final. 

The Wildcats will look to build upon last season’s success at the NCAA Championships, which were also held in Eugene. At the meet, the women’s team recorded their first top-10 finish at NCAAs since 2002, taking ninth place with 28 total points. 

While the men did not place at last year’s Championships, Christoff Bryan and Smith, who made their NCAA debut during the competition in the high jump and the 200 meter dash, each earned Honorable Mention All-American honors after their efforts in their respective events. Bryan and Smith both enter this year’s competition ranked tied for third place and tied for 12th place in the high jump and 200 meter dash, respectively.  

The highlight of last season’s championship meet, and one of the top story lines heading into the 2016 NCAA Championships, is Akela Jones. Jones won K-State’s first individual national title by a female athlete since 2011 in the heptathlon, breaking the school record with her score of 6,371 points, making her the sixth Wildcat female athlete ever to win an NCAA title outdoors. 

Jones’ efforts on the first day of the competition were also historic, as her 4,023 points broke record of 3,942 points set by three-time Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee in 1985. 

She has competed in one heptathlon during the 2016 outdoor season, winning the event at the Mt. SAC Relays in mid-April with a stellar mark of 6,307 points. Her score gave her a share of the sixth-best score in collegiate history in the heptathlon and is tied for the best score in the world this year. Her effort also marks the seventh 6,300+ point effort in college history and just the third 6,300+ point effort recorded before the NCAA Championships. 

Jones was not the only athlete K-State saw record a scoring performance at last season’s NCAA Championships, as both Kim Williamson and Dani Winters each scored in their respective events. Winters took fourth place in the shot put at the 2015 competition with a throw of 17.64m/57-10.50, while Williamson took second place in the high jump with a mark of 1.90m/6-02.75. 

Both have also extremely successful 2016 campaigns, both indoor and outdoor. Winters won the 2016 Indoor National Championship in shot put with a school record throw of 17.97m/58-11.50. She also won the outdoor Big 12 Conference title in the event in May with a throw of 17.39m/57-00.75. 

Williamson was also successful at the NCAA Indoor Championships, finishing in a tie for third place with a mark of 1.84m/6-00.50. Like Winters, she also went on to win the conference title at the 2016 outdoor meet, winning with a jump of 1.87m/6-01.50. 

Eight student-athletes will be making their debut at the 2016 edition of the NCAA Championships. Merkley and Grunder, who will open the competition for the Wildcats on Wednesday, enter the meet holding the first and second spot on the school’s all-time list in the hammer throw. Merkley recorded the top mark of 63.99m/209-11 at the UCLA Legends Invitational, while Grunder took the second spot on the list at the NCAA West Preliminary, where he recorded a mark of 62.45m/204-10. 

Fellow thrower Brett Neelly enters the competition ranked sixth on the school’s all-time list in shot put after throwing a personal best 18.73m/61-05.50 at the NCAA West Preliminary, while freshman high jumper Thilina Karunaratne enters his first NCAA Championship after he PRed at the NCAA West Preliminary with a jump of 2.16m/7-01.00. 

Three more female throwers will look to make an impact on the meet for K-State. Hammer throwers Sara Savatovic and Janee' Kassanavoid enter the meet ranked sixth and 18th in Division I in the event. Savatovic holds the school record in the event with a throw of 66.41m/217-10 at last season’s conference meet, while Kassanavoid’s mark of 61.34m/201-03 at the NCAA West Preliminary moved her to fifth on the all-time list.

Freshman Shadae Lawrence has also vaulted her way into the spotlight, winning five of her six competitions, including the Big 12 title, in the discus throw. Lawrence sits in second place on the school’s all-time list with her throw of 58.84m/193-00, which she recorded at Big 12s and she enters NCAAs ranked eighth in Division I. 

On the track, freshman Ranae Mc Kenzie will look to post a strong result in her first NCAA Championships in the 400 meter hurdles. McKenzie qualified for the meet with a personal best time of 57.94 at the NCAA West Preliminary, which vaulted her up to third on the school’s all-time list in the event. 

K-State’s 4x400 meter relay team will look to improve upon last season’s 17th place finish at NCAAs, which it earned after running a time of 3:36.62. The group qualified for the meet after running a time of 3:32.16 at the NCAA West Preliminary, moving the team, which consisted of Sonia Gaskin, Jones, Tia' Gamble and A'keyla Mitchell to second on the school’s all-time list. Sophomore Keiteyana Parks will also be ready to compete in the event for the Wildcats. 

For more information on the NCAA Championships, including results, heats sheets and the meet schedule, visit the meet home page by clicking here. Live results for the meet can be found by following @kstate_gameday on Twitter or by tuning into the live results here

For the latest on K-State track and field, follow @kstatesports and @KStateTFXC on Twitter using the hashtag #KStateTF or on the team’s Facebook page. 

NCAA Championships
Hayward Field
Eugene, Ore.

K-State Competition Schedule
Wednesday, June 8
4 p.m. CT Men’s Hammer Throw – Grunder, Merkley
8:30 p.m. CT Men’s Shot Put – Neelly
8:44 p.m. CT Men’s 200 Meter Dash Semifinal – T. Smith

Thursday, June 9
4 p.m. CT Women’s Hammer Throw – Kassanavoid, Savatovic
8:30 p.m. CT Women’s Shot Put – Winters
8:30 p.m. CT Women’s 400 Meter Hurdles Semifinals – R. Mckenzie
9:48 p.m. CT Women’s 4x400 Meter Relay Semifinals 

Friday, June 10
2:30 p.m. CT Heptathlon 100 Meter Hurdles – Jones
3:30 p.m. CT Heptathlon High Jump – Jones
5:30 p.m. CT Heptathlon Shot Put – Jones
7 p.m. CT Men’s High Jump – Bryan, Karunaratne
9:07 p.m. CT Men’s 200 Meter Dash Final – T. Smith
9:13 p.m. CT Heptathlon 200 Meter Dash – Jones

Saturday, June 11
1:30 p.m. CT Heptathlon Long Jump – Jones
2:45 p.m. CT Heptathlon Javelin Throw – Jones
5 p.m. CT Women’s High Jump – Williamson
5:05 p.m. CT Women’s Discus Throw – Lawrence
6:57 p.m. CT Women’s 400 Meter Hurdles Final – R. McKenzie
7:13 p.m. CT Heptathlon 800 Meter Run – Jones
7:51 p.m. CT Women’s 4x400 Meter Relay Final

NCAA Championships Television Schedule

Date

Time (ET)

Network

Wed., June 8

7:30– 8:30 p.m.

ESPNU or ESPN2*

8:30-11 p.m.

ESPN2 or ESPN*

3:30-11:30 p.m.

ESPN3

Thu., June 9

7:30– 8p.m.

ESPNU

8–10:30 p.m.

ESPN

1:30-11:30 p.m.

ESPN3

Fri., June 10

8:30 – 11 p.m.

ESPN

3:30-11 p.m.

ESPN3

Sat., June 11

6:30 – 9 p.m.

ESPN

2:30-9 p.m.

ESPN3

 *Network determination dependent on Women’s College World Series potential Game 3.