May 30, 2013
Prefontaine Classic Homepage
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Before Erik Kynard takes on the best in the NCAA at next week's NCAA Championship, he will jump against the best in the world at the 2013 Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore.
This year's Prefontaine Classic has brought in the top high jumpers with the entire Olympic medal stand in the men's high jump competing on Saturday from historic Hayward Field. Kynard will see Olympic gold medalist Ivan Ukhov from Russia and all three bronze medalists Robbie Grabarz of Great Britain, Mutaz Essa Barshim from Qatar and Canada's Derek Drouin, who will be competing prior to facing Kynard at the NCAA Championship for Indiana.
Also in the field will be 2011 IAAF World Champion and two-time Olympian Jesse Williams, who is coached by K-State's Cliff Rovelto. Chinese Olympian Guowei Zhang is in the field, along with two other Russians who did not compete at the Olympic Games but still are ranked among the best in the world.
"I think it's a big deal from a couple perspectives," Rovelto said of Kynard competing at the Diamond League meet this weekend. "First off, the fact that the NCAA meet is the week after, so to even contemplate letting a collegiate do this, they have to be at such a ridiculously high level to come off the travel from Austin and then the next weekend compete at a meet and then come back for the NCAA meet, that's a pretty big load on someone's plate."
Kynard will jump at 2:58 p.m. central time on Saturday and the meet will be broadcast live on NBC beginning at 3:30 p.m.
Taking on the best in the world can be a significant task for any jumper, especially a collegiate jumper. Rovelto said competing at this meet a year ago would not have been something he and Kynard would have considered, and the fact Kynard and Drouin are both doing it this year speaks volumes of the growth each has made during their senior years at their respective schools.
"Even if Erik had been a senior a year ago and had this opportunity, I wouldn't have let him do this," Rovelto said. "What these guys are attempting is not an easy thing to do, but I think he can handle it both physically and emotionally. That's why we are doing it."
The Prefontaine Classic is the largest non-collegiate meet in the United States outside of the USATF Championships and regularly brings the most talented athletes in the world to compete. It is named after legendary distance runner Steve Prefontaine, who ran for the Oregon Ducks and was considered the greatest distance runner in America at the time of his death in 1975 at the age of 24.
Prefontaine was one of the first distance running superstars in the U.S. and his life was made into two major motion pictures, "Fire on the Track" and "Without Limits." The last 15 Prefontaine Classics have brought sell-out crowds with standing room only. This year is anticipated to bring more than 12,000 fans in attendance again.
"To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift." - Steve Prefontaine