Today, K-State track athletes will make their way to the Pacific Northwest to compete in the NCAA Division One Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
The Wildcats will have 14 total entries with the women (ranked 10th in the nation) putting forth 10 entries while the men (ranked 23rd) send four entries.
“The teams are both pretty solid,” Cliff Rovelto, head track and field coach, said. “The women have been pretty solid the last couple of years. The men, we actually had some bad luck. We had some year ending injuries and a couple other things that happened that probably realistically cost us 40 points at the conference level. But there’s still enough national caliber type guys that, from a national perspective, you could say that we have a pretty good team on that side as well.”
K-State’s women look to end their season with a top 10 ranking for the first time since 2002. Rovelto said he believes this 2015 women’s team might be one to remember.
“With the women, I think that you could make the argument, pretty effectively, that this is the greatest team ever in school history,” Rovelto said. “It’s definitely a really good team, there’s no question about it. There’s good athletes in every event area, there’s people capable of winning NCAA championships. So when a school has multiple of those, it’s rare.”
Leading the charge for women is junior Akela Jones who has the most events for the Wildcats as she will compete in the high jump, 4×100 relay and the heptathlon.
Jones, a Barbados native, has her sights set high for both herself and her teammates going into the meet.
“I’m all about creating history,” Jones said. “I come to leave a legacy. To do that is to be amazing. It means that the women’s track team and the men’s track team have set the stage that we are one of the best in history.”
In the high jump for the women, Jones is joined by sophomore Kate Williamson and senior Alyx Treasure.
Junior Tia Gamble qualified in the 400-meter hurdle and freshman A’keyla Mitchell qualified for the 200-meter dash and is a part of the 4×100 team with Jones, Gamble and junior Sonia Gaskin.
Junior Alyssa Kelly gave the Wildcats their first triple-jump qualifier in six years and junior Sara Savatovic qualified in the hammer throw for the second year in a row.
Joining Savatovic in throwing qualifiers is junior shot putter Dani Winters who after missing out on qualifying last season, will attempt to be the first K-State women’s shot putter to earn All-American honors in 12 years.
“It feels amazing,” Winters said. “Last year, at regionals, when I didn’t qualify for NCAA’s and I didn’t get to go to Eugene, it was really, really hard to deal with. It was just something that every track athlete works toward. I knew I had the ability to get there and I didn’t get it done so it was really devastating. So this year, I kind of had that meet, regionals, in my mind all year long. Every meet I went to I kept thinking about how that mark would compare in my region or in the nation and just kind of keeping it in the back of my mind helped motivate me I think.”
For the men, freshman sprinter Terrell Smith was the only freshman to qualify out of the West region in the 200 meter.
Junior Ifeanyichukwu Otuonye will carry the torch for K-State for long jumping as he looks to make it four-straight seasons that a Wildcat long jumper earns first team All-American honors.
Rounding out the men’s team are freshman high-jumpers Christoff Bryan and Nate Gipson trying to carry on, along with the women’s high-jumpers, the legacy that has been K-State high-jumpers which include eight high-jump national titles in school history.
Jones will start the meet off for the Wildcats today at 1 p.m. central as she competes in the first part of the heptathlon finals.
“Coming close to the competition you can start to see a cohesion coming together,” Jones said. “And that really trickles down through the team, so everyone is always prepared to go out there and fight for K-State.”