May 11, 2013
This feature was published in the K-State Sports Extra on May 11.
By Mark Janssen
Erica Twiss admits to being a big dreamer.
Up to the age of 14, she had visions of being the next all-around Olympic gymnastics champion as she trained in her home gym in Dallas, Texas, alongside Carly Patterson, the 2004 gold medalist.
"I was younger, but I watched her train," said Twiss, who reached Level 10 in gymnastics, or just one notch below Elite status. "I dreamed about being in the Olympics ... all the time. (Pause) All the time."
But it was between her eighth and ninth grade year in Carrollton (Texas) Christian Academy that Twiss went from the beam and vault, to running on an oval track and jumping over hurdles.
Today the K-State junior track sensation says, "The decision wasn't that hard. I had trained so much in gymnastics ... at times 10 to 12 hours a day when I was home-schooled that it was getting old to me. Honestly, I don't think I would have enjoyed myself as much as I do now on the track.
"I always enjoyed the running part of conditioning for gymnastics, so I just took that to the track," said Twiss, a three-time Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year for her high school and 10-time state champion in the long jump, triple jump, 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles.
"Track quickly became my passion."
It's that love of track and field that has now taken Twiss to the Level 10 of her new sport as she currently has NCAA qualifying marks in the heptathlon (5,348) and intermediate hurdles (58.98).
"I really like kids that are into it and have a good work ethic," said head coach Cliff Rovelto. "Erica is into it and has that good work ethic. Just as important, I think she enjoys it. She is competitive, and that part has grown as her confidence has grown. You can see that she is embracing it a little bit more."
Twiss is coming off the Big 12 Championships where she placed third in the heptathlon with 5,338 points, or just 10 points shy of her personal record of 5,348, which ranks sixth in Kansas State history, and followed that with a personal record run of 58.97 in the intermediate hurdles to place fourth in the fourth fastest time in the event in school history.
More amazing than her run in the finals of the intermediate hurdles was the fact that she ran a 59.99 to qualify for the finals just hours after finishing her two-day, seven-event grind of the heptathlon.
Rovelto simply said, "That was a really good run."
"That was tough," admitted Twiss. "There was a four- to five-hour break and it just took internal strength."
In the heptathlon Twiss ran a 13.87 in the 100-hurdles, which is the fourth-fastest in school history, and followed with a 5-6½ high jump, 28 foot-5 inch shot put and 25.13 200 meters. Her second day included a 19-10 long jump - the third-longest in school history in the heptathlon competition - to go with a throw of 101-3 in the javelin and a time of 2:19.71 in the 800 meters.
While the heptathlon has seven areas for improvement, it's the 400-hurdles that currently excites Twiss the most.
"I don't think I've come close to what I can run because I haven't really trained for the event," said Twiss.
Overall, Twiss, an elementary education major, has improved from her sophomore season when she had a best of 5,236 points in the heptathlon and had not run the hurdles at all.
The improvement has come, she says, " ... by pushing myself a lot harder in the weight room and on the track. I'm pushing the limits and have set my goals higher and have improved the mental part of it."
She now says her goals are 5,500 in the heptathlon, and because she hasn't truly trained for the intermediate hurdles, she says, "The sky is the limit. I love challenging myself, and especially in the multi there are so many areas where there is room to improve."
That's because of the person who brought her to Kansas State.
"He'll give other reasons, but Cliff Rovelto is the reason I came to Kansas State. He might say it was the town or the school, but it was him," said Twiss. "I just figured if I was going to focus on the heptathlon, I wanted to have the best coach in that area, and that's coach Rovelto."
She added, "He knows everything there is to know about everything. He know exactly what works and why, and if that doesn't work, he'll find another way. He personalizes everything to your needs."