May 13, 2012
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MANHATTAN, Kan. - As the host of the 2012 Big 12 Outdoor Track and Field Championships, the Kansas State Wildcats wanted to put on a show for the home crowd, and they did not disappoint. K-State came away with three event titles and the men's team had its best performance since the first year of the Big 12.
K-State's men put together a complete team effort with athletes advancing through preliminaries in nearly every event entered, and in some cases multiple athletes advanced in the same event. The Wildcats also claimed the top step on the podium in two men's events to help project the team all the way into fourth place overall.
It marked the highest finish for the Wildcat men since finishing third in 1997 - the Big 12's rookie season - and the 75 points scored by the men are the most since putting 78 on the board in 2005 when the team finished fifth. The women also had a solid meet finishing in a tie for eighth with 58 points in the best conference in the nation. Eight women's teams in the Big 12 entered the championship meet ranked in the Top 25 of the USTFCCCA Rankings, and the Wildcats were the eighth team at No. 25.
Texas A&M's men won the team title to leave the Big 12 as back-to-back champions. The Aggies scored an impressive 150 points over the 21 events to hold off the Texas Longhorns in second with 130 points. Texas did win the women's title with 139 points, ending a streak of five straight for the Aggie women. The Longhorns were the last team other than Texas A&M to win a title, taking home the trophy last in 2006. Texas A&M was passed by the Kansas Jayhawks in the final event for second place. The Jayhawks won the women's 4x400 relay to move just one point ahead of A&M in the standings with 129.50.
The day started with a huge lift for the men's team with sophomore Kyle Wait pulling the upset and winning the men's pole vault title. After struggling to clear the bar on his opening height, Wait rebounded and cleared 16-11.00 on his first attempt. He was one of three athletes to clear that bar on his first attempt, but the other two failed to clear 17-05.00. Wait cleared 17-05.00 (5.31 meters) on his second attempt to take the lead. Hayden Clark of Texas and Texas Tech's Kyal Meyers both cleared on their third attempts, and all three failed the next height, giving K-State its first ever Big 12 men's pole vault champion.
"Kyle Wait did a great job. Anytime you PR and you win it's good. I don't care how significant the PR, that's a big deal," said K-State Head Coach Cliff Rovelto. "I'm not at all absolutely surprised because I think physically in terms of strength and speed he's as good as guys that are jumping a foot higher. I think he's that gifted physically, but he was a 15-foot guy coming out of high school. He's come a long way and he's going to get even better."
Erik Kynard tallied the other men's title winning the high jump with ease. He was the only competitor in the field to clear 7-03.00 and he just missed his attempts at 7-05.00. The crowd tried to help him over the bar cheering him on, but he just clipped the bar with his heel each time. He said he was just happy to get the win for the team despite not jumping his highest, and jumping in front of the home crowd was exciting for him as he has not done so very often in his career.
"A win is a win. I won fairly easily so I am satisfied. I am trying to prepare for the fastest meets so it is not the end of the world for me. It is all relative. I took a lot of good things from this meet and I did a lot of good things. All that is left to do is jump high when I have to jump high," Kynard said. "I had to get them involved in the end. It was great. The stands were pretty packed. I did not think this many people would come. It was nice and it was a great meet."
More than 3,000 fans were in attendance on Sunday to watch the best athletes in the nation go at it on the track and in the field, and they were rewarded with three meet records and 10 R.V. Christian Track Complex facility records.
Rovelto said he was happy Kynard got the win and was able to handle the pressure from such a large home crowd as well as he did.
"I'm really pleased. I thought he handled himself really well," Rovelto said. "It's a great experience for him (to jump in front of this crowd) because that's the kind of thing he's going to experience going forward. He's a young guy. He's only 20."
The Wildcats scored significant points in both the men's and women's hurdle races on Sunday. K-State had three of its heptathletes qualify for the final in the 100 meter hurdles after completing the heptathlon on Saturday. On Sunday, the trio went out and finished 5-6-8 to tally eight points toward the team total. Richelle Farley ran 13.49 seconds to take fifth and Mairead Murphy was close behind in sixth at 13.80. Erica Twiss ran 13.95 to finish eighth as the entire final was under 14 seconds for a fast race. The wind was just above the legal limit and not allowable for records.
In the men's 110 meter hurdles, Mantas Silkauskas and Tarique Hill both made the final and combined to score three points finishing seventh and eighth, respectively. Silkauskas ran14.08 seconds and Hill crossed the line in 14.22 for a new PR and ranks 11th in school history.
K-State brought home points in the men's sprints as well with Martynas Jurgilas running 10.27 seconds and finishing seventh for two points. Carlos Rodriguez ran 21.02 and scored three points finishing sixth. Those two teamed up with Silkauskas and Dane Steen to finish fourth in the 4x100 relay to open the running events on Sunday. The time of 39.64 was the fastest of the season and ranks second in school history.
Sprints were not the only area to see the Wildcats shine on Sunday. Two new Wildcats posted PR's in the 3,000 meter steeplechase to contribute to the team effort. Freshman Erika Schiller dropped nearly 10 seconds off her fastest time in the event clocking in at 10:48.91 and finishing fifth. The time also ranks third in school history. Fellow freshman Fernando Ramon ran 9:07.76 in the men's race and finished eighth. He dropped almost two seconds off his fastest time as a Wildcat and still ranks eighth in school history.
Mid-distance runners also had strong days for the Wildcats. Senior Boglarka Bozzay tallied four points as she finished fifth in the 800 meters. She ran 2:07.41 in what turned out to be a tactical race. Armando Del Valle contributed two points toward the men's score with his seventh-place finish and crossing the line in 1:50.18.
After winning the heptathlon, senior Ryann Krais was set to defend her 2011 Big 12 title in the women's 400 meter hurdles. She ran 57.71 seconds to hit the US Olympic Trials B Standard and finished in fifth place.
The field events, in addition to Wait and Kynard, were again an area the Wildcats excelled in on Sunday.
Fifth-year senior TiAra Walpool took third place in her final Big 12 championship meet in the women's triple jump. She was taking on some of the best in the nation in the event with No. 1-ranked Andrea Geubelle of Kansas taking first place. Walpool leapt 41-10.75. Fellow senior, Kim Haberman just missed making the final and scoring for the Wildcats. She moved into eighth place on her third jump, but the next competitor bested her by 14 centimeters to move into seventh place and drop Haberman to ninth, missing the final by only three centimeters.
In the throwing events, Jessica Carter scored two points as she finished seventh at 163-11 (49.97 meters) and was not far off her PR. Jacquelyne Leffler missed out on scoring by just over a meter and finished ninth. Sophomore Ryan Hershberger did post a PR with his toss of 170-11 (52.09 meters), but it was not enough to advance to the final as he finished 11th.
Heading into the final event of the day, the men's team needed to score one point and hope the Texas Tech Red Raiders did not win the 4x400 relay. The Wildcats held their end of the bargain as Luke Hibbeler ran a strong anchor leg to move ahead of Iowa State in their heat. The men ran 3:12.10, improving their fastest time of the season by nearly 3.5 seconds. Tech was not able to catch Texas A&M or Baylor on the final stretch and the Wildcats were able to hold off the charge and keep their grasp on fourth place.
Rovelto said it was a solid meet for his team across the board. The meet played out how he expected in most ways, but he was pleasantly surprised by the outstanding performance by his men's team.
"The hurdles was a big deal. I never thought all of those guys would make the final, particularly the girls. I was pretty pleased with that," Rovelto said. "When I scored out the meet ahead of time, that's honesty where I had our women. I thought if things fell right we could finish sixth. All in all we scored more points than I thought we would and the men... that was really good. We had a phenomenal meet on the men's side."
K-State now turns its attention to the postseason as the NCAA West Regional Preliminary Rounds are in two weeks in Austin, Texas. The Wildcats will wait to see which athletes qualify as the Top 48 in the West Region will head to the competition in hopes of advancing on for the NCAA Championship in Des Moines, Iowa, in June.
2012 Big 12 Championship Standings
1: Texas A&M, 150
2: Texas, 130
3: Oklahoma, 91
4: K-State, 75
5: Texas Tech, 66
6: Baylor, 65
6: Oklahoma State, 65
8: Kansas, 64
9: Iowa State, 54
10: Missouri, 52
1: Texas, 139
2: Kansas, 129.50
3: Texas A&M, 128.50
4: Baylor, 72
5: Texas Tech, 71
6: Oklahoma, 63
7: Missouri, 60
8: K-State, 58
8: Iowa State, 58
10: Oklahoma State, 38