KSU men’s track opens at No. 11

By Brady Bauman

The Kansas State men’s track and field team are not going to sneak up on anyone’s radar this spring.

The Wildcats are ranked No. 11 in the nation and fields Olympic hopefuls along with an NCAA champion.

“There’s a lot of national caliber talent this year,” K-State head coach Cliff Rovelto said. “Obviously we have the guys that are returning that have been there and done that, but we have some new guys that are going to be able to do similar types of things.”

Returning this spring is junior Erik Kynard, who won the NCAA title last season in the high jump. Kynard, by the way, currently leads the world with a mark of 2.33 meters.

“Erik has jumped well lately,” Rovelto said. “We’ve been training really hard. He won’t jump again until the Iowa State meet, next week, but the way things are going with him he’s going to be at a point where he is consistently jumping 28 and above — which, two years ago that would be four inches over his PR. He’s just getting better and better.”

Also returning is senior Mantas Silkauskas, who currently ranks third in the heptathlon after a seventh-place finish in the NCAA’s last year. He is in the rankings for the 60-meter hurdles and the long jump.

“Mantas is always showing capabilities of doing good things and has done good things,” Rovelto said. “I think he’s at another level.. he’s stronger and ran just off his PR in the 60 last week and will run really fast in the hurdles this week. I think he’s in the hunt to win the NCAA meet in the indoors in the heptathlon. He’s that good.”

Jeffrey Julmis, another senior, is also back to bring his expertise to the sprints and the hurdles. Julmis was fifth in the NCAA’s in the 60 meter hurdles last season and third in the Big 12 Indoor meet.

The 4x400 team of Blaine Cash, Chris Campbell, Grant Loescher and Martynas Jurgilas were victors of last week’s invitational, and Rovelto said Jurgilas is another KSU athlete that will be in the Olympics discussion.

“He’s another guy that will be more of a factor later in the year and into the summer,” Rovelto said about the senior sprints specialist. “He has a realistic shot of making the Olympic team, so we don’t want to drain him so he doesn’t have that kind of opportunity.”

Newcomer Logan Smith won the 1,000 meter event with a time 2:33.24 in the KSU Invitational last week and transfer Devin Dick comes to Manhattan from Wichita State as a combined events specialist.

Rovelto said the men’s team has the talent to make waves in the Big 12.

“I think we have a really good team, particularly from a national perspective but also from a conference perspective,” he said. “We’re not going to have as many bullets when it’s all said and done like a Texas A&M or that kind of thing, but in terms of quality I think we match up with all those teams very well.”

With a large percentage of the men’s team juniors and seniors, Rovelto said the fact that they’ve competed for so long together —and against each other — has made them a special group.

“Mantas and Jeff traded off breaking the school record in the hurdles last year,” Rovelto said. “Having each other to push each other… and those guys being the guys they are, they want to be the best. They want to be the best at what they do and be the best period.

“If you have a high jumper leading the world, you have hurdlers thinking, ‘You know… I need to run faster.’ I think that part of it is how they feed off each other.”

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