Athletes stand out at Big 12 championships

Ryann Krais (left), junior in combined events, Denise Baker (middle), senior in sprints/hurdles and Angela Hart (right), freshman in sprints, sprint toward the fi nish line during the women’s 60 meter hurdles in Ahearn Field House during the KSU Open meet on Feb. 18. (Anthony Drath)

It was a weekend full of top 10 finishes for the K-State track and field team as the men’s and women’s squads battled to eighth and ninth place finishes, respectively, at the Big 12 Indoor Championships at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.

K-State wasn’t able to claim any event titles on Friday, but the Wildcats had plenty of athletes figure into the team’s final scoring. Ryann Krais racked up 4,009 points in the women’s heptathlon to finish second and earn eight points for her team.

The tandem of Kyle Hanson, Ben Love, Adam Porter and Jacob Davies also picked up eight points for K-State when they finished second in the men’s distance medley relay. The group crossed the finish line in 9:49.23 — less than one second behind first-place finisher Baylor.

“The men’s DMR was phenomenal,” coach Cliff Rovelto said. “Kyle Hanson, I don’t know where that comes from. He just ran fantastic, and then Adam Porter ran fantastic. Really, all four guys ran really well. That’s the fastest that Ben (Love) has run. Jacob Davies has been struggling a little bit. He’s not the kind of guy that’s really comfortable running from the front, so he did a good job to hang in there.”

Other top 10 finishers on Friday included Nina Kokot, who finished third in the women’s long jump, as well as throwers Ali Pistora and Chelsie Bonds. The duo finished sixth and seventh in the women’s weight throw, respectively.

Saturday morning marked the conclusion of one of the meet’s most heated competitions in the men’s heptathlon. Wildcat athletes Mantas Silkauskas and Moritz Cleve both competed in the event and found themselves in a tight battle with Nebraska’s Bjorn Barrefors and Missouri’s Lars Rise. Silkauskas finished third and Cleve finished fourth, but the top four spots were separated by just 197 points.

“As it ended up, those first four guys are all ranked in the top six or seven nationally,” Rovelto said. “It’s pretty good stuff. To be quite honest, the guy that won is kind of who I thought would win. It pretty much ended up the way you would expect it to go. I thought all four of those guys had really good meets.”

K-State picked up its only event title of the meet when Erik Kynard, Jr., won the men’s high jump on Saturday. The sophomore, who currently ranks No. 1 in the nation, defeated the rest of the field by two full jumps and topped out at the NCAA automatic qualifying height of 7-4.25.

Rovelto said that while Kynard has recorded higher jumps this season, there is some added pressure when every other competitor has already been eliminated.

“It’s hard to jump high by yourself. It really is,” he said. “It’s one thing when you’re against other people and you’re really dialed in. But when you’re by yourself and the competition is over, it’s difficult to maintain the same level of concentration.”

A trio of K-Staters earned third place finishes in individual events, including Boglarka Bozzay in the women’s 1,000-meter, Sam James in the men’s 800-meter and Jeffrey Julmis in the men’s 60-meter hurdles.

Rovelto said it was a particularly good day for Julmis, who let out a victorious yell when the final results were displayed. He also said the indoor campaign has been a long ride for the 2010 All-American, who dealt with several injury-related issues during the offseason.

“It wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t even know if (Julmis) would be able to run indoors,” Rovelto said. After the surgery, we didn’t know how the rehab would go. Then he had a blood clot and missed a month of training. Really, it’s a miracle that he’s able to be running right now, let alone running as fast as he is.”

K-State picked up three more top 10 finishes before the end of the day. Martina Tresch came from behind late to finish fifth in the women’s 3,000-meter run, Denise Baker capped off her final collegiate season with a sixth-place finish in the women’s 60-meter hurdles and Meghan Heuer used a late burst of speed to finish sixth in the women’s one-mile run.

In total, the Wildcat men accumulated 42.5 points, while the women racked up 35 points at the two-day meet. Texas A&M claimed the men’s overall title, while the women’s championship went to tournament host Nebraska.

After a two-week break, the Wildcats’ top athletes will return to competition at the NCAA Indoor Championships on March 11-12 at College Station, Texas.