Wildcat track doubles up for weekend

Junior Lukas Koch rounds a corner in the men's mile run as junior Kain Ellis follows closely behind at the DeLoss Dodds Invitational track and field meet on Jan. 23, 2016, in Ahearn Field House. Ellis went on to win the race. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

K-State track and field will see double the action this weekend as the team sends athletes to both the Tyson Invitational, hosted by the University of Arkansas, and the Iowa State Classic, hosted by Iowa State University.

At the Iowa State Classic, the Wildcats will compete against athletes representing 36 teams, including Big 12 rivals Iowa State, Kansas, Baylor and Oklahoma State. The meet will be a prime opportunity for athletes to earn a spot in the NCAA Track and Field Championships.

In Fayetteville, Arkansas, at the Tyson Invitational, K-State will square off against 11 teams, including Big 12 teams Oklahoma State, Texas and Baylor.

K-State has found success during the indoor track and field season, and as competition heats up at the Iowa State Classic and Tyson Invitational, senior Akela Jones said she believes her team is capable of rising to the occasion. K-State’s track and field team is stacked with Olympic hopefuls.

“It means we’re one of the best teams in the nation and in K-State history,” Jones said.

With 2016 being an Olympic year, the sport of track and field is getting more attention.

“You can definitely tell a difference in an Olympic year,” head coach Cliff Rovelto said of the intensity of the competition. “There’s no question about it.”

Rovelto said that historically, there are only a handful of collegiate athletes who make the U.S. Olympic team. With a lot more international students coming to the U.S. for school, Rovelto said the number of college athletes in the Olympics has gone up.

“It’s not like that number is hundreds,” Rovelto said. “We’re still talking 20-40, maybe, but those 20-40 tend to be the ones that most people are paying attention to.”

Rovelto said he is pleased with the team overall.

“There’s national-caliber athletes in virtually every event area,” Rovelto said. “In this day and age with limited scholarships and all that kind of stuff, it’s a difficult thing to do.”

K-State will look to build on last weekend’s success at the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational, where the Wildcats had three athletes finish in first place and eight earn personal records.

“To have those types of athletes is good, but at the end of the day they still have to prepare and work hard and do the things they need to do,” Rovelto said. “They’ve been doing a good job of that.”