Track gears up for conference meet

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The 2010-11 regular indoor season is in the books, and it all comes down to this.

The K-State track and field team has set its sights on Lincoln, Neb., for the Big 12 Indoor Championships, which will take place today and Saturday at Nebraska’s Bob Devaney Sports Center.

Including both men’s and women’s competition, the tournament field includes 12 squads ranked in the USTFCCCA top-25. The men’s field is headlined by Texas A&M, who checks in at No. 4, while Texas leads all women’s teams with a No. 3 ranking. The Wildcat men have been a mainstay in the polls throughout the indoor campaign and enter this weekend’s action at No. 19. The women are currently unranked.

All of K-State’s top competitors will participate this weekend, with several Wildcat athletes looking to fine-tune their performances before the NCAA Championships on March 11-12. However, with the national finals just around the corner, head coach Cliff Rovelto said his team’s primary focus is currently representing K-State well among all of its conference rivals.

“This is their opportunity to contribute to their program,” Rovelto said. “That’s also for the national kids — the ones who have opportunities to win individual championships and that type of things. Just to contribute to the team effort, it’s a big deal for them. They have no business being here if it’s not, but know that it is and I’m sure they’re excited.”

Among those looking to make a splash on the national scene is sophomore high jumper Erik Kynard Jr. The native of Toledo, Ohio, currently sits atop the national rankings in his event after posting a jump of 7-7.75 at the Tyson Invitational on Feb. 11. Not only does the jump stand as the highest in the country this season — not to mention eighth in the world — but it also represents the third highest jump in collegiate history.

A good portion of the tournament field is comprised of athletes K-State has faced at least once this season, which gives several participants an extra advantage. However, the Wildcats haven’t faced every conference team this season and will still see plenty of new faces over the weekend.

While Rovelto said it’s beneficial to know about your competition ahead of time, he added that facing new people isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either.

“The comfort level increases when you know what to expect in terms of how good the competition is,” he said. “There can’t be any misconceptions in (the athletes’) minds about what they’re going to be facing. But there are going to be people that we haven’t seen, too. In a way, it’s kind of nice to not have seen everybody.”

Today’s action is set to begin at 10:30 a.m. with the women’s pentathlon. Individual running events will begin with the women’s 60-meter hurdles at 2 p.m. and field events will follow with the men’s weight throw at 3:30 p.m. Action will conclude with the men’s distance medley relay at 9:05 p.m.

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