Head coach Cliff Rovelto said he believes that the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship meet is the hardest meet to qualify for in the world, including the Olympic games. He credits the high level of competition to the spike in talented athletes from all over the world competing in the NCAA.
In certain events, Rovelto said, qualifying for the finals at the NCAA level will be tougher than making the finals at the world indoor championships.
“It really is the best meet in the country,” Rovelto said. “It’s the hardest meet to qualify for in the country, or in the world. There’s no other meet that compares.”
K-State will send six athletes to the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship today and tomorrow.
The indoor track and field season has exceeded senior Dani Winters’ expectations, but she said she admits that it usually does.
“Everyone comes out with a chip on their shoulder or just huge motivation to go out there and really attack the season and improve their personal marks and times,” Winters said.
Although Winters said the season didn’t start out the way she had hoped, some adjustments later in the season have started to work in her favor.
“I really hope to utilize the techniques that we’ve been using in training, execute them well and hopefully get a better mark than I’ve got,” Winters said. “That’s always the goal.”
Going into the national meet, Winters ranked fourth in shot put with a throw of 57-10 1/4. She hit that mark back in February at the Big 12 Track and Field Championships, helping the K-State women’s team to a third place finish in the conference meet.
The K-State women are ranked sixth nationally, and four of K-State’s women will be competing in the national championship. Senior Akela Jones will compete in the pentathlon and high jump, junior Kim Williamson will also compete in high jump, sophomore A’Keyla Mitchell will compete in the 200-meter dash and Winters will compete in shot put.
Representing the men’s team is senior Ifeanyichukwu Otuonye in long jump and sophomore Christoff Bryan in high jump.
Rovelto said he likes to view the national meet in terms of scoring opportunities. Realistically, Rovelto said he believes that going into the meet with a ranking outside of the top 10 will provide few scoring opportunities. Rovelto, however, points to a history of scoring in the national meet simply by duplicating whatever it took to get to the meet in the first place.
“That person that’s 15th or 16th in many of the events, if they go to the national meet and do that mark, they’ve got a pretty good chance of scoring,” Rovelto said.
Otuonye is ranked 16th in the men’s long jump with a mark of 25-5 1/4.
“Even though he’s one of the last guys to get into the meet in his event, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he ended up in the top eight,” Rovelto said. “His best has come more recently.”
Bryan also has a chance for a strong performance, entering the men’s high jump in a three-way tie for the third place ranking on a jump of 7-4 1/4.
On the women’s side, Jones is ranked at the top in both the pentathlon with 4,664 points and high jump with a mark of 6-4. Williamson isn’t far behind in a four-way tie for the third rank with a jump of 6-1 1/2. Mitchell is ranked 11th in the 200 with a time of 23 minutes, 16 seconds.
“If they all have good days on the same day,” Rovelto said. “I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think we could be among the top five or six teams.”
With the 2016 Olympic games right around the corner, the world will be paying attention to the NCAA Indoor Track and Field meet.
“They know that there’s a significant number of athletes that are going to be coming out of that meet that will be competing for medals,” Rovelto said. “There’s no question.”
The national championship meet will kickoff today. Jones will get things started for K-State in the women’s pentathlon at 12:15 p.m. Otuonye will compete in the men’s long jump at 5:20 p.m. Mitchell and Bryan will finish out Friday’s competition for K-State, with Mitchell in the women’s 200-meter dash semifinal at 7:55 p.m. and Bryan competing in men’s high jump at the same time.
On Saturday, Jones will once again start out for K-State in the women’s high jump at 2 p.m. Winters will follow in shot put at 5 p.m. and upon qualification, Mitchell will compete in the 200 finals at 6 p.m.