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K-State has solid first day at NCAA meet

By The Mercury

EUGENE, Ore. — The Kansas State track and field team hit the ground running in Day 1 of the Division-I Outdoor Track and Field Championships with an All-America performance in the hammer throw, multiple athletes recording PRs and an 800-meter final qualifying effort on the women’s side.

In all, Sara Savatovic earned first-team All-American honors for her performance in the hammer throw, while both Ryan Hershberger in the shot put and Sonia Gaskin in the 800 meters registered personal bests.

The decathlon saw Devin Dick and Reinis Kregers place ninth and 15th, respectively, after Day 1.

Erica Twiss finished 16th in the long jump and Danie Plank was 21st in the javelin.

K-State head coach Cliff Rovelto was pleased with the Wildcats’ effort.

“All in all, today went really well,” Rovelto said. “Sara, it’s her first time at an outdoor national meet and she scored, Ryan in his first national meet makes the final with a PR and Sonia getting through to the final (in the 800 meters) was great, so I thought it was a very good day overall.”

Savatovic capped off a standout sophomore season with a seventh-place finish in the women’s hammer throw — registering a final mark of 63.80m/209-04.

For Savatovic, the top-eight finish ensured her first career All-America honor in the event. She is the first Wildcat to be named to the first team since Loren Groves finished seventh in 2009. She is also only the fifth Wildcat women’s thrower in school history to earn first-team honors in the event.

Hershberger ended his K-State career with a career-best showing in the men’s shot put, as the senior continued his recent stretch of strong performances with a ninth-place finish in his first-ever NCAA Championships. Registering a personal best throw of 19.29m/63-03.50 in his third throw of the day, Hershberger secured a spot in the event’s final three rounds by moving into ninth-place.

Gaskin kept up her scorching pace in the 800 meters — registering a personal best for a third consecutive race and advancing to the event final with the fifth-fastest time in the semifinals. Clocking in at 2:04.37, Gaskin took third in her heat, finishing behind only Oregon’s Laura Roesler and Stanford’s Claudia Saunders, who also had the first and second-fastest times overall. Gaskin qualified by virtue of having one of the two fastest times outside of the six automatic qualifiers.

With the qualifying effort, the sophomore is ensured her first career All-America honor in the event and will be the first Wildcat women’s runner since former Korene Hinds in 2001 to finish in the event’s top-eight outdoors.

In addition, Gaskin’s latest PR bested her previous time of 2:04.79 set at last month’s West Prelims and moved her into second all-time in school history.

Dick and Kregers sit in ninth and 15th-place, respectively, after the first day of the men’s decathlon. Dick closed out the first day of competition with 4,006 points. His effort was highlighted by strong showings in the shot put and long jump. The Hutchinson native opened competition with a wind-aided time of 11.10 seconds in the 100 meters. After tying for fifth overall in the long jump with a leap of 7.33m/24-00.75, Dick would move to his highest placing of the day in the shot put. Recording a throw of 14.44m/47-04.50, Dick took second overall in the event and moved into third place in the decathlon.

Dick would finish his day clearing 1.93m/6-04.00 in the high jump and placing 17th in the 400 meters with a time of 50.75 seconds. His Day 1 point total of 4,006 is the second-best showing by a Wildcat decathlete at NCAAs in the past eight seasons — the current streak K-State has of at least one qualifier in the decathlon (11 entries total).

Kregers finished with a Day 1 total of 3,837 points. The sophomore’s strongest performance of the day came in the high jump where he cleared 2.02m/6-07.50 to take first in his flight.

Both athletes were set to be back in action Friday afternoon, beginning with the 110-meter hurdles.

Twiss wrapped up her K-State outdoor career with a 16th-place finish in the women’s long jump — recording a final wind-aided leap 6.14m/20-01.75 in her third and final jump of the day. Twiss is only the third Wildcat women’s jumper in the past decade to finish in the event’s Top 16 at NCAAs outdoors, joining Nina Kokot and Candice Mills.

The effort ensured Twiss second-team All-America honors as well, giving her All-America status both indoors and outdoors for the 2014 season.

Plank finished 21st in the women’s javelin — one of only two freshmen competing in the event. She registered a final throw of 45.56m/149-06.00 in her second attempt of the day. The 21st-place finish is the best by a Wildcat women’s thrower in the event at NCAAs since Kendra Wecker took sixth in 2002.

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