March 1, 2013
MANHATTAN, Kan. – After signing the No. 6 women’s recruiting class in the nation last year, Kansas State Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Cliff Rovelto has announced the signing of eight women’s recruits and three men to National Letters of Intent for the 2013 recruiting class during the spring signing period. This recruiting class boasts a strong distance group on the women’s side and a mix of sprints, jumps and combined events for the men.
“We are very pleased that these fine student-athletes have chosen to continue their academic and athletic pursuits at K-State,” Rovelto said. “This group of athletes will contribute significantly to our program in the coming years.”
The Wildcats signed three athletes that again were some of the top athletes in the nation in their respective events and highly sought after by other elite programs.
Jaelen Spencer signs with K-State out of Sultana High School in California specializing in the long jump and triple jump. Heading into his senior season this spring he is ranked No. 2 in the nation with a personal best mark of 50-04.50 in the triple jump. Following his sophomore year, he represented Team USA at the IAAF World Youth Track and Field Championship in Lille, France, as the best under-16 triple jumper in the U.S. In 2011, Spencer was named the Southern California Athlete of the Year by USATF. Spencer was also recruited by 2012 NCAA indoor and outdoor champion Florida in addition to Texas A&M, who won three straight outdoor titles before Florida claimed the title last season.
Colton Donahue is a local product from Blue Valley High School and one of the top distance runners in the state. This fall Donahue was one of the most dominant runners in the Midwest during cross country season and finished 14th at the Footlocker Midwest Regional. At the state championship, Donahue left the field behind him to claim the title and ran one of the fastest times ever run on the state championship course. The K-State coaching staff believes Donahue has potential in a number of distance events. He was also recruited by area schools Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.
“Colton is a raw talent with upside in every track event from 800 meters through 10,000 meters. He could be a steeplechaser or a miler or a 5,000 meter runner,” Rovelto said. “We really don’t know what his best event will be but expect that he will contribute at the Big 12 level very early in his career and hopefully at the next level as he matures physically and adapts to the demands of Division I training. Colton is a great find for us and we are excited to see what he does this spring and beyond.”
With a combined events group with a lot of experience, Rovelto has signed another athlete he anticipates molding into the heptathlon and decathlon in Adam Deterding of Hays, Kan. Deterding has helped his high school team win two state championships and won the individual title last year in the high jump and 110 meter hurdles.
“Recruiting the best people in our state is a priority for us,” Rovelto said. “In Adam, we feel that we are getting one of the best in-state athletes in the 2013 class.”
The women’s signing class this year is heavy on distance runners, but there is one sprinter, one thrower and a high jumper who also are expected to make an immediate impact on the program.
Leading off the women’s recruiting class is one of the most decorated athletes in the state of Illinois. Charday Crawford has a personal best time of 11.48 seconds in the 100 meters, a time that would break the K-State school record. That time also set an Illinois Class 2A state meet record. Crawford also won a state title in 2012 in the 200 meters and ran legs on the championship 4x100 and 4x200 relays. She was ranked in the top five in the U.S. last year and is the No. 3 senior in the nation for this upcoming season in the 100 meters. Crawford also was recruited by Nebraska, Illinois, Oklahoma and Iowa.
Danielle Plank is one of the top javelin throwers ever in the state of Kansas. Her toss of 150 feet last season ranks 13th in state history. She also is an experienced athlete in other sports helping the Gardner-Edgerton volleyball and basketball teams qualify for state championship playoffs. Plank will join the ranks of throwers already at K-State, including 2012 signee and javelin thrower Haley Pitko.
“We expect Danielle to be competitive right away in the Big 12 and feel that she can develop into a national caliber javelin thrower early in her career,” Rovelto said.
Morgan Wedekind signs with K-State from Valley Center High School in Wichita where she was the runner-up at the 5A State Cross Country Championship this fall. The 5A level has been highly competitive over the recent years and Wedekind has been in contention for state titles throughout her high school career. As a junior she won the 1,600 meter title and lost the cross country meet as she and the winner dove to the finish line.
“The video of that diving finish best illustrates the competitive fire that Morgan will bring to K-State,” said K-State head cross country coach Michael Smith. “We hope that she can compete right away for a top five spot on our cross country team.”
Another state champion distance runner signing with the Wildcats is Maddie Hopfinger from Overland Park. K-State has signed a number of distance runners from St. Thomas Aquinas over the years, and Hopfinger continues that line. As a junior she won the Class 5A state title in the 3,200 meters.
“Maddie had a breakthrough performance last spring winning the 3,200 meter state title and comes from a program that continues to produce competitive collegiate distance runners,” Smith said. “Her coach has described her as a fearless competitor, a trait that will serve her well at the next level.”
Heather Ruder signs with K-State out of another familiar program to the Wildcats in Thomas More Prep. Her experience in mid-distance events is expected to help K-State in a number of ways and has the potential to improve in cross country where she has less experience.
“Heather has had a very successful high school career and at times has dominated on the track,” Rovelto said. “Her immediate impact may come indoors where the combination of the 800, 1000, mile and distance medley relay create a lot of opportunities for mid-distance runners to contribute in the Big 12. We anticipate finding one or several roles for her next winter.”
Marie Taylor is another mid-distance runner from Liberty, Mo. She has a personal best time of 2:18.64 in the 800 meters and has the range to run cross country as well. Similar to Ruder, the coaching staff believes Taylor can make an immediate impact indoors in the mid-distance events and relays.
Jenny McCarty is an experienced cross country runner out of Missouri signing with the Wildcats over Missouri and Iowa State. McCarty finished fourth at the Class 3 State Championship this fall and could convert well outdoors to the steeplechase.
After sophomore Laura Galvan’s appearance at the 2012 NCAA Cross Country Championship and the return of many other experienced runners, the addition of these distance runners gives K-State the potential to make noise on the national stage again.
“We have a strong nucleus of proven cross country runners coming back for 2013-14 and hope that this class of freshman women will give us some quality depth,” Smith said.
Closing out the initial women’s signing class is high jumper Rachel Proteau from Oregon. The senior at West Albany High School has a personal best clearance of 5-10.75 and finished second at the 2012 USA Junior Championships. Proteau would add to the already strong group of high jumpers at K-State as Rovelto is adding depth on the women’s side as well as the men’s.
Track & Field News ranked K-State’s 2012 women’s recruiting class No. 6 in the nation in its January edition. It was the only Big 12 Conference recruiting class to rank in the top 10 on the women’s side.