June 4, 2012
This feature was in Monday's edition of K-State Sports Extra. Click here to sign up.
By Mark Janssen
Competition-wise, Kansas State track and field coach Cliff Rovelto says, "It shouldn't be much of an adjustment. The Big 12 meet we just hosted a couple weeks ago is as good of a track meet as you're going to see outside of the NCAA and USA Olympic Trials."
He added, "There are guys and gals who did not place real high in our conference that will place just as high at the NCAA meet. From the standpoint of competition, there shouldn't be much of a difference."
With that said, 24 of the top runners, jumpers and throwers in each event begin competition on Wednesday in Des Moines, Iowa, at the 2012 NCAA Track and Field Championships.
K-State will be represented by a total of eight athletes, who Rovelto says that with personal-record performances could each become an All-American. Athletes making the finals and placing in the top eight are considered first-team All-Americans, while placing ninth through 16th earns second-team recognition.
RETURNING NCAA CHAMPIONS
Included in K-State's list of entries are 2011 NCAA Champions Erik Kynard in the high jump and Ryann Krais in the heptathlon.
Kynard is one of five jumpers across the nation that cleared 7-2 ½ in regionals last week after winning the Big 12 title with a clearance of 7-3.
While Kynard hasn't had the monster 7-7 jumps as he did during the indoor season, Rovelto said, "He's only jumped in four or five meets and he's won each one of them. You can't ask for more than that. Some people need competition because of the way they train. That's not a problem with Erik because he's adapted to jumping at high bars in practice. He's jumping at bars in practice that only a couple guys in the United States could jump at on a good day."
Of his earlier competitions, Kynard said, "I've competed to win ... to jump whatever that takes. Whatever it takes to win, that's the zip code that I want to be in."
That zip code is about to change as the 7-1 to 7-3 range won't cut it this week.
Now Kynard says, "I want to win, but it's also time to jump high. Through training, I'm much more mature physically and mentally. I'm only 21 years old, but I've matured a lot during the last year."
That maturity leaves him understanding that while most other athletes were pointing toward a league championship, that's when Kynard's season began. A season that started in mid-May with the Big 12 meet, continued at the NCAA regional qualifier in Austin, and now hits full stride with the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, with the United States Olympic Trials yet to come at the end of the month.
"It takes some understanding that my season is just beginning when most all athletes are hitting the pinnacle," said Kynard, who won NCAAs last year at 7-6. "It can be nerve-racking to keep a level head at times to understand that my season is just beginning."
Of this week's NCAA competition, Rovelto says, "There are some other really good jumpers, but I wouldn't ever bet against Erik."
Kynard's high jumping heroics started at a young age in Toledo, Ohio, where he cleared 5-10 in eighth grade, then 6-6 as a freshman, and then 7-0 as a sophomore.
"That's when I thought, `I guess I'm going to be a high jumper'," laughed Kynard, who went on to clear 7-4 ½ as a senior. "It's been a gift from God that I've had something to do with."
At each meet, it is a competition against the other jumpers, but in Kynard's mind "... it's me against the bar. I can say not nice things to a high jump bar. I'll keep it PG, but I don't say nice things. That high jump bar wins more times than not. When you one-up the bar, that's a big deal because that bar wins most of the time at the end."
That's especially true when one is jumping at bars that are 7-5 to 7-7 ... or ... 12 to 15 inches over Kynard's 6-4 stature.
Krais' best score in 2012 of 5694 ranks eighth in the nation, but Rovelto says, "Outside of Brianne Theissen (Oregon, 6353), who is clearly the best in the nation and a candidate for the Olympic team, I think Ryann could be anywhere from second to eighth. I really don't think that much more than 100 points will separate second and eighth."
On Krais' season, Rovelto said, "She's been decent from the standpoint that she has won every event that she was expected to win. She won (Big 12) indoors and she won (Big 12) outdoors. She's wanted to compete with the very best, but she understands she's not quite ready."
Krais won last year's NCAA event with a score of 5961. Her personal record is 6030 set at the USA Championships last year.
Krais was recently named to the Capital One Academic All-District Team. She was selected to the first team in District 7 as voted on by members of the College Sports Information Directors of America. Krais graduated earlier this month with her degree in psychology and a 3.95 GPA.
THE REST OF THE WILDCAT FIELD
Also representing K-State on the women's side will be Jacquelyne Leffler in the discus, Boglarka Bozzay in the 800 and Mairead Murphy in the heptathlon.
Bozzay had a qualifying mark of 2:06.28, Leffler of 169-8 and Murphy at 5399.
The personal records that these Wildcats will be looking to improve on include: Bozzay at 2:04.5 (second in school history), Murphy at 5399 (fifth in school history) and Leffler at 169-10 (seventh in school history).
Competing for the men will be Tomas Kirielius in the decathlon, Mantas Silkauskas in the long jump and Kyle Wait in the pole vault.
"Not many are looking at Mantas as being a factor because he's not a full-time long jumper. He's more of a hurdle guy and multi-eventer, but I'm not sure what a guy has to do to prove that he's pretty good," said Rovelto of Silkauskas, who ranks seventh in the field. "He was second in the Big 12, placed high at nationals, and now was second outdoors. He's pretty good."
Also more than pretty good is Wait, who has enjoyed significant PRs in his last two meets winning the Big 12 at 17-5 and the West Regionals at 17-6 1/2. He ranks 12th in the field of 24.
"It's just so hard to predict an event like his, but if he's at 17-8, he could be in the top eight," said Rovelto. "Remember, he was a 15-foot to 15-6 guy out of high school. He's a heckuva athlete. He's a strong kid, who while not blazing fast, is fast enough and he's pretty easy going, which is important in this event."
PRs these Wildcats will be shooting at include: Wait at 17-6 ½ (second in history), Silkauskas at 25-7 ½ (fifth in history) and Kirielius at 7508 (ninth in history).
WHEN LIFE'S NOT FAIR
Missing qualifying for the NCAA Championships by one placing was Wildcat Devin Dick, who ended up 25th in a decathlon qualifying field of 24.
Dick has fought and defeated testicular cancer for the last two-plus years. His score of 7425 ranks ninth in school history, and he most recently placed third at the Big 12 Championships.
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