Kynard wins Big 12 championship, ranks 8th in world

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Early in the 2011 track and field season, K-State’s Erik Kynard, Jr. made his goals perfectly clear. The sophomore high jumper said he wants to be the best in the nation, and he plans to hold that title for the rest of his collegiate career.

On Saturday, he took the first step toward making his dream a reality.

Kynard won the Big 12 indoor championship, besting the field with a jump of 7-4.25 at the league finals, which were hosted by Nebraska. Trying to improve on his second-place finish in last year’s conference meet, the native of Toledo, Ohio, dominated the competition, finishing two full jumps ahead of any other competitor.

“The Big 12s are just another meet,” Kynard said. “It felt all right. I was trying to get myself excited because I was the only competitor early.”

With just three jumpers remaining and the bar raised to 7-1, Kynard cleared it on his first attempt to advance to the next round. Nebraska’s Paul Hamilton and Texas’ Jamal Wilson failed to clear the bar in three attempts, giving Kynard the title and leaving him all alone to face the next height.

He nearly advanced on his first two attempts but fell just short both times and came up yelling at the bar in frustration. Kynard regained his composure and cleared the bar on his final attempt, igniting a roar from the crowd at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.

“It’s hard to jump high by yourself. It really is,” K-State coach Cliff Rovelto 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 on concentration.”

The win marks the first league championship of Kynard’s collegiate career, but he is no stranger to top finishes. He was named the Nike national high school champion three times — twice indoor and once outdoor — during his career at Robert S. Rogers High School.

That success transferred to the collegiate level almost immediately as Kynard ranks No. 1 in the nation in his event. On Feb. 12 at the Tyson Invitational, he upended Mississippi’s Ricky Robertson for the country’s top spot with a school-record jump of 7-7.75. Not only does that stand as the third highest jump in collegiate history; it ranks eighth in the world.

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