Seven Wildcats head to Rio for Olympic Games

Erik Kynard, then-senior high jumper, jumps over the bar during the Wildcat Invitational in Ahearn Fieldhouse on Jan. 19, 2013. (File Photo by Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

Rio will have a K-State feel to it next month, as seven current and former Wildcats are set to compete in the 2016 Olympic Games.

Over the past few weeks, several K-State athletes competed in Olympic trials for the various countries they represent. At the end of the trials, seven athletes from K-State were selected to compete in the games, including Erik Kynard (U.S.), Akela Jones (Barbados), Alyx Treasure (Canada), Shadae Lawrence (Jamaica), Jeffrey Julmis (Haiti), Beverly Ramos (Puerto Rico) and Balázs Baji (Hungary).

K-State ranks second in the Big 12 for most athletes representing one school at the Rio games, according to K-State Sports.

“We have had a lot of very good performances this summer,” head coach Cliff Rovelto said to K-State Sports. “It looks like we will have seven athletes that will compete in Rio. That is very good representation for the Kansas State track and field program.”

Kynard clinched his Olympic spot after finishing first in the high jump with a final mark of 7-06 at the USA track and field trials in Eugene, Oregon. Kynard is looking to medal for the second-straight Olympics, after finishing the 2012 London Games with a silver medal and becoming the first Wildcat to medal since Austra Skujyte won silver in the heptathlon at the Athens Games in 2004.

The seven athletes competing in the Rio games represent seven different countries and two different continents. K-State Athletics Director John Currie said he appreciates the diversity that shows in the track program and how it mirrors K-State.

“Well, our track and field program represents everything that K-State is, which is a university of opportunity and a university with a national and international focus,” Currie said. “At K-State, we have over 2,000 international students on campus, so the fact we have international student athletes is not out of the ordinary to me. Cliff Rovelto, he’s a worldwide leader in his craft at what he does and he’s one of the best in the world.”

One K-State athlete who could steal the show in Rio is Akela Jones, who will compete in the heptathlon and high jump. Jones has had success in those two events at the college-level, winning NCAA Championships in both events. After failing to win at the 2016 NCAA’s, Jones sees the Olympics as the perfect time for a comeback.

“You know I didn’t have the race that I wanted,” Jones said. “I learned to be mentally stronger and I feel at the Olympics I’m going to show true spirit and true heart and I feel like at the Olympics I’m being set up for something greater.”

The 2016 Summer Olympic Games begin on Aug. 5 with the opening ceremonies in Rio.