Rest, quality tune-up a focus as Big 12 Indoor Championships approach

Then-junior Taylor Latimer gets ready to throw shotput during the second day of the Big 12 Track and Field Championships at R.V Christian Track on May 15, 2021. (Archive photo by Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

The Kansas State track and field team will compete in the Big 12 Indoor Championships in just a few weeks.

The Wildcats are caught somewhere between “the season is young” and “the season is almost over” — for the indoor season, that is. Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Cliff Rovelto said they’ve had individual successes early in the season, but as a team, it’s hard to measure where they are.

“Collectively, from a team perspective, almost every weekend we have been without a fairly significant group, to you know, COVID or whatever else,” Rovelto said. “It seems like every week it’s a different group that’s out.”

Rovelto said that even in the triangular — which the Wildcats placed first in on Jan. 14, 2022 — they had several athletes who were absent.

“The triangular that we had was a meet that, obviously by definition, is kind of a team emphasis,” Rovelto said. “That’s what it’s all about. But even there, we were without probably a total of 14 people that a week before you would’ve thought would have competed in that meet.”

The ongoing pandemic is affecting the team in many ways. Rovelto said the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA, while great, has also shaken things up a bit.

“You’ve got sixth-year seniors that are 24 years old that are competing against 17-and 18-year-old kids,” Rovelto said. “That’s unbelievable. I know you see that to a certain degree in every sport, and certainly, it’s a factor in every sport, but when you are talking about individual head-to-head competition, it’s unbelievable the difference. It’s a whole different dynamic right now.”

K-State has 17 freshmen on its roster this season. Not only are those athletes facing higher competition levels because of extra eligibility, but they are also making that jump from high school to college.

“One of the biggest adjustments for a lot of kids that had success in high school is that their best mark in many, many cases was clearly superior to most of the people they were competing against,” Rovelto said. “Part of that is just because they were clearly superior of an athlete than most the people they were competing against. At this level, they’re not only not superior, but they’re a year or two or sometimes more behind.”

Rovelto said some of them are adjusting really well, but others are still struggling. He said it’s natural and it’s not a problem — just part of the process as they prepare for bigger meets and outdoor season.

One of those meets is the Big 12 Indoor Championships, and it’s hard not to recognize the depth and high level of talent within the Big 12.

“It’s almost like a mini-NCAA — [the] conference is,” Rovelto said. “When it’s all said and done, there is probably going to be upwards of four or five, some events it will even go seven or eight deep, where all the scores will be at the NCAA meet.”

Ahead of the conference, K-State will have meets in Ames, Iowa, and in Manhattan. Rovelto said as a team, the focus must be on getting healthy.

“From a training perspective, in terms of raising the bar so to speak, there isn’t a whole lot you can do at this point to improve oneself other than just getting healthy and more rest,” Rovelto said.

Rest, rehydrate and prepare for the race of a lifetime.

“There’s no coasting, there’s no holding back. You have to go, or you will get left behind,” Rovelto said.