June 11, 2012
By Mark Janssen
Maybe it was the paperish Burger King crown that he wore, or the king's crown tattooed on his right shoulder. Or maybe it was those purple and white knee-high socks that he wears accenting his white Kansas State track uniform.
Whatever it was that powered Erik Kynard last week, the Wildcat junior successfully defended his high jump crown at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, by clearing a height of 7-feet, 8-inches.
That's 7-8 ... making him one of just two individuals in the world to clear that height this season. That's 7-8 ... making him one of just five collegians to clear such a bar in NCAA history. That's 7-8 ... giving him the record at the historic Drake Stadium. And, that's 7-8 ... making him the greatest jumper at K-State, which has been dubbed "High Jump U."
"What can you say?" said K-State track coach Cliff Rovelto. "That's really, really high, and it came in what is probably the best collegiate high jump competition in history. The guy who placed second jumped very, very well (7-7), the guy who was third jumped very, very well (7-5 ¾), and the guy who placed seventh cleared 7-4. It was a very, very good competition."
Kynard had a total of three misses during the competition, which included one at 7-2 ½ and two at 7-5 ¾.
Because of that, Rovelto said, "Had Erik not made the next two bars (7-7 an 7-8) on his first attempt, he would have not won. Had Erik not PR'ed, he would have not won."
But Kynard did win, and won at 7-8 leaving Rovelto to say, "I'm not surprised. I knew he was physically ready. There was no question about that."
Of his personal effort, Kynard said, "This one might mean more (than the title won in 2011 at 7-6) because it was a competition. Last year we jumped in the rain and the competition ended up not being very good. But this year it was a competition, especially because of my early misses. A lot of people counted me out ... they didn't think I would be the victor, but I proved them wrong. I knew I had put myself in a hole, but I didn't allow it to put me in a state of panic."
Instead, the 6-foot-4 Kynard took aim on a bar that would be 16 inches above his head, and cleared it on his first attempt.
Kynard tried twice at 7-9, but missed, and then raised the bar to 7-9 ¾, which would have tied the collegiate record, but missed in what Rovelto called "... a good jump."
Of moving the bar to the record height, Kynard said, "It was all or nothing. If I was going to go out, I was going to go out with a bang."
Laughing, he added, "I wanted to put it up there (7-9 ¾) to see what it looked like. I didn't expect it to look that high."
Oh, as for that paper Burger King golden crown that he balanced atop his purple Powercat cap, Kynard said, "It was just me being playful in a joyous moment. I'm very passionate about the high jump and I can become a little kid in a joyous moment. It's like Christmas when you're jumping up and down."
Sports dieticians will cringe when they hear of Kynard's pre-meet meal as it consisted of a BK double-hamburger, small fries and a Pepsi.
"We had eaten at Quizno's all week and I was just sick of it," said Kynard. "There was a Burger King next to where we were staying, so that's where I went." (Pausing) People tell me I've never had a good diet."
And the crown tattooed to his arm?
"All my life my mom has been my biggest supporter and prays for me," said Kynard. "She reminds me what God has given me and I should have the mentality of a king."
And those purple and white stripped socks?
"I started wearing those as a freshman, but do you know what? I had to get them online," said Kynard. "I tried to get another pair in Manhattan this year and they were nowhere to be found. I couldn't believe it. I had to go back online to get a new pair, but I'm not telling anyone where I found them."
OTHER WILDCAT PLACINGS: The NCAA Championships continue to amaze even the hard to amaze Rovelto.
Of last week's meet, he said, "What it takes to place in this meet is absolutely unbelievable. The bottom line is, No. 1, you have to be really, really good. No. 2, you have to be really, really ready on that one day. And No. 3, you have to be lucky. This meet is just absolutely unbelievable."
Other K-State NCAA placings:
7th - Mantas Silkauskas, long jump, 25-4 ½
14th - Ryann Krais, heptathlon
18th - Tomas Kirielius, decathlon
19th - Mariread Murphy, heptathlon
19th - Jacquelyne Leffler, discus
21st - Boglarka Bozay, 800
DNP - Kyle Wait, pole vault
Kynard and Silkauskas will be recognized as First Team All-Americans, while Krais will be a Second Team All-American.
With their 12 team points, the K-State men's team placed 23rd in the meet giving the Wildcats Top 25 finishes in each of the last two years.
MORE HONORS FOR KRAIS: K-State's Ryann Krais placed 14th in the heptathlon competition after winning the event a year ago, but she was decorated with more honors.
Krais learned that she had received the prestigious NCAA Elite 89 Award, recognizing her as the top student-athlete in her sport, which includes academic and athletic achievement.
"Ryann has been at the pinnacle of things athletically, and the pinnacle of things academically," said Rovelto. "She has been a remarkable student-athlete for Kansas State."
Krais is a five-time All-American the last two years with K-State, plus owns a 3.95 GPA in psychology. She also earned the Capital One Academic All-District VII Award and was a recipient of the Dr. Prentice Gautt Postgraduate Award, which carries a $9,000 scholarship.
We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen or Kansas State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.