EUGENE, Ore. — The Kansas State track and field team continued its start to the NCAA Division-I Outdoor Track and Field Championships with another batch of notable performances in day-two action.
Along with a first-team All-America showing by Devin Field in the long jump, the Wildcats registered a record-breaking performance in the women’s 4x400-meter relay, as well as gutsy efforts by Reinis Kregers and Devin Dick in the final day of the decathlon.
Field soared to a sixth-place overall finish and first team All-America honors in the men’s long jump. Registering a leap of 7.48m/24-06.50 in the third of six attempts for the evening in the first flight, the sophomore moved his way into the event’s final nine and remained in sixth place for the remaining three rounds of the event.
Battling less than ideal conditions, nearly every jumper recorded a mark below their season best — something KSU head coach Cliff Rovelto thought Field did a great job of handling.
“The bottom line is that distances don’t really make any difference, it’s all about the head-to-head,” Rovelto said. “The conditions were absolutely horrendous. The first flight had a little bit of an advantage, not huge, with somewhat tailwinds and the second flight — they were all jumping into headwinds for the most part so they struggled.
“But sometimes you get a break and sometimes the break works against you, but overall, these are the best guys in the country and he got sixth. That’s all anyone is going to remember from here and it’s the first time he’s ever been to this meet. It’s awesome, unbelievable.”
For Field, the long jump is the first of two events he has qualified for in Eugene — the other is the triple jump — and it is his first-career All-America honor.
The women’s 4x400 — consisting of Sonia Gaskin, Tia’ Gamble, Merryl Mbeng and Erica Twiss — motored its way to a spot in the relay’s final, setting a new school record in the process. Clocking in at 3:33.12, the foursome took third in their heat and ensured K-State’s first-ever NCAA All-America finish in the event by taking the eighth overall and final qualifying spot.
Gaskin and Gamble kicked the race off for the Wildcats, combining for a time of 1:45.83 in the first and second leg. Hanging with Texas, Penn State and Notre Dame after a 53.80 split by Mbeng, Twiss anchored the Wildcats in the fourth and final leg.
The race took a major turn in the final leg when Notre Dame dropped its baton following the transfer leading to a ‘DNF’ result for the Fighting Irish. From there, Twiss took over, ending the race with a 53.49 split.
K-State’s 3:33.12 finish was the fastest time ever by a K-State 4x400 women’s squad, besting the previous school record of 3:33.34 set by Shunte Thomas, Donniece Parrish, Monique Coleman and Morgan Bonds at the 2007 Midwest Regionals.
It is the first school record set by any Wildcat this outdoor season and the first women’s outdoor record to be broken since Martina Tresch and Ryann Krais both set records during the 2011 season in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and 400-meter hurdles, respectively.
Rovelto had nothing but praise for the record-setting squad.
“Sonia ran a really strong leadoff leg, I thought she did a really good job of finishing and putting us in position,” Rovelto said. “Then Tia’ ran her guts out and she can’t run as fast as she did herself in the first two 200 (meters) of her leg. And Merryl ran great, sub-54. Then Erica, it had been a while that she had run a 400 meter, and I thought she did a really good job considering the circumstances.
“So, as a group, the staff all felt they had a decent chance of qualifying for the final, and I did too, but I knew every single girl had to run as well as she is capable of running for it to happen, which is exactly what they all did. So I couldn’t ask for any more.”
The latest edition of 4x400 ‘A’ squad saw Rovelto swap out Sarah Kolmer, who ran at the West Prelims, with Twiss. The change only further exemplified how many options the Wildcats have when it comes to the event, something that starts with the heptathlete trio of Kolmer, Mbeng and Twiss.
“I’ve said all along that we have a lot of great kids on our team and they are all willing to do whatever they need to do to help the team,” Rovelto said. “But what that group of (heptathletes) has done has been remarkable. They have done just a phenomenal job. Sarah, Merryl and Erica have been effective in a lot of different events and they’ve all done a great job.
The 4x400 will be back in action Saturday.
The final day of the decathlon saw Kregers finish 10th overall, while senior Devin Dick closed out his K-State career by placing 21st.
Rovelto thought both athletes performed admirably.
“The (decathletes) really competed well,” Rovelto said. “Reinis had a score that would have been over 300 points better than his previous best before the conference meet and he wasn’t full strength, but he was hobbling through and toughed it out. And so did Devin.”
For Kregers, the sophomore had a stellar showing, moving from 15th to 10th and earning second-team All-America recognition. He finished the multi-event with a score of 7,567 points, the second-highest total of his career.
Joining Kregers was Dick, who registered a final tally of 6,700 points. The senior opened competition well in the hurdles, clocking in at 15.22 for his highest scoring performance of Day 2 before battling injuries for the rest of the afternoon. Even with the setbacks, Dick remained in the overall Top 16 for much of the remainder of the day’s competition. It was not until the 1500m that he dropped from 15th to 21st, as he was unable to finish the race.
Despite the tough finish, the Hutchinson native closed out an standout K-State career by earning honorable-mention All-America recognition to go along with his second-team honors from the indoor season. In all, Dick leaves K-State with a pair of Big 12 titles and three-time All-America honors.
Rovelto praised the senior for his attempt in the final event to secure in a spot in the Top 16, as well as on a long and successful career.
“I told Devin going into (the 1,500) to give yourself that opportunity,” Rovelto said. “If you can do it, then do it, but if you can’t at least you know you tried. I’m proud of him that he lined up and did what he could and that’s all you can really ask.
“He has had a phenomenal career. He has won conference championships, he’s been an All-American indoor and out. For a guy that has been through what he has been through, it’s a remarkable story, he’s had a remarkable career.”
Day 3 from the NCAA track and field meet continued Friday evenning.