Nationally ranked Wildcats head down to New Mexico

Olympic silver medalist and former K-State high jumper Erik Kynard soars over the bar en route to winning the high jump and again breaking the meet record at the DeLoss Dodds Invitational track and field meet on Jan. 23, 2016, inside Ahearn Fieldhouse. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

It’s only the beginning of the 2016 indoor track and field season, and so far the K-State men’s and women’s teams have hit the ground running.

Both teams are ranked in the top 25, with the men sitting at No. 24 with 36.29 points and the women at No. 4 with 115.12 points. The K-State women are just 8.41 points away from Texas, who is sitting in the No. 3 spot.

The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are right around the corner, and K-State’s Olympic hopefuls have been in the spotlight. Senior Akela Jones received two Athlete of the Week awards for her first-place pentathlon performance in the DeLoss Dodds Invitational.

K-State men and women combined for eight first-place finishes to sweep the meet.

The Wildcats are led by experience. Head coach Cliff Rovelto is a nine-time Team USA staff member. This year, Rovelto will serve as an assistant coach for the Team USA men and will take charge over jumps and combined events.

Over the course of his career, Rovelto’s success at K-State earned him international recognition. “He has coached a total of 14 individuals who have represented their countries at the Olympic games 18 times,” according to K-State Sports.

Before the Olympics, however, K-State will continue with their current track and field schedule. This weekend, K-State will head to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the New Mexico Team Invitational. The other teams attending the meet include Air Force, California, Colorado State, Nebraska, Texas Tech, New Mexico, TCU and Utah State.

Host team New Mexico has had its own string of success so far in the indoor track and field season. Senior Allan Hamilton was named Mountain West Men’s Indoor Field Athlete of the Week for his performance in long jump. Hamilton’s 24-9 1/2 earned him second overall and first collegiately at the Cherry and Silver Invitational this past weekend.

The jump was good enough to best Steven Barze of Southeastern Louisiana. Barze is the senenth-ranked long jumper in the NCAA. Hamilton is currently ranked 17th in the NCAA for long jump.

The men will be up against stiff competition from their Big 12 rivals. TCU moved to No. 10 in the national rankings with 65.86 points, and Texas Tech is at No. 15 with 54.95.

Events at the New Mexico Invitational will start Saturday.