The Kansas State track and field team finished its January home stretch with yet another dominant performance in the K-State Invitational on Saturday.
Much like last weekend, the Wildcats had several athletes reach new personal bests and for the day, the men and women combined for 17 first-place finishes.
Highlighting the day’s festivities were personal-best performances by seniors Erica Twiss, Cameron Savage and sophomores Alyssa Kelly and Sonia Gaskin.
For Twiss, she continued her impressive start to the season by setting a new personal best in the 60-meter hurdles. Already with the third-best mark in school history at 8.36 seconds, she improved her time to 8.33 seconds by narrowly defeating Akela Jones of Oklahoma Baptist. The winning time shattered the previous meet record of 8.55 seconds set by Denise Baker in 2011 and was the second meet record set by Twiss this season.
Head coach Cliff Rovelto praised the senior as she has continued to improve throughout her Wildcat career.
“Erica just keeps getting better and better,” Rovelto said. “She has come so far since her freshman year. It’s very impressive.”
In the field events, Savage had a career-day with a winning mark of 17-1 1/2 in the pole vault. The vault broke his previous personal best of 17-0 3/4 set in the 2012 indoor season, as well as gave him sole possession of fourth all-time in K-State history.
Also setting a personal best was Kelly, who won her first long jump of the year with a mark of 18-11 1/4 - breaking her personal best of 18 8 3/4 set at this season’s Winter Invitational. The Overland Park native has continued to show improvement from her freshman year.
Another sophomore continuing to excel was Gaskin, as she won in convincing fashion in the 800 meter. Gaskin’s time of 2:08.60 was nearly 11 seconds better than the next competitor and easily broke her personal best set at last week’s Wildcat Invitational of 2:10.17. For Gaskin, it is her fourth overall meet record this season and her third straight meet setting a personal best.
Rovelto said Gaskin’s talent has been visible since she arrived as a freshman last year.
“We knew that Sonia was very, very good,” Rovelto said. “She had displayed tremendous range before coming here. She would run a 400 meter or a 4x400 and then run a 3,000 meter in the same meet. She’s obviously been blessed with tremendous ability, but she has worked hard and competed hard.
“She’s done a great job.”
On the day, the Wildcats dominated in nearly every facet of the meet. The throws trio of Ryan Hershberger (shot put), Dani Winters (shot put) and Sara Savatovic (shot put) all won their respective events, yet again, and Kristen Petry won in the pole vault with a season-best mark. Distance runners Audrey Schmitz and Kyle Hanson turned in winning performances in the 3,000 meter and 800 meter, respectively, while Sarah Kolmer (600-yard run) and Angela Hart (400 meter) each won their events in personal season-best times.
The relay teams also put in first-place finishes with the women’s 4x400 team of Twiss, Gaskin, Tia Gamble and Jordan Matthews setting a meet record in a time of 3:45.82. The men’s relay team of Ifeanyichukwu Otuonye, Tyris Jefferson, Kaneil Harrison and Christopher Campbell won for the third time this season despite having a competitive race for three-fourths of the way with Oklahoma Baptist.
In the men’s high jump, after back-to-back meets without either of the men’s two primary high jumpers, Miles Bearden made his return today and put in a first-place performance. His mark of 6-6 3/4 tied his season-high mark set earlier this season in the Winter Invitational.
Rovelto said while Bearden’s numbers have yet to take off, he saw good signs from the freshman jumper.
“Even though he jumped the same height as he jumped previously, he jumped significantly better,” Rovelto said. “It is easy to see that he is going to be ready to jump at a higher height here pretty quick.”
The Wildcats’ coach also praised the performance of sophomores Jefferson and Otuonye, who, aside from the traditional combined events athletes, have competed in a lion’s share of events to start the season.
Jefferson, who has already competed in the long jump and 60 meter this season, ran again in both the 4x400 and the 200 meter as well as competed in the high jump for the first time in his Wildcat career. Otuonye also competed in 4x400, the fourth time this season, while adding the 200 meter to his list of events completed this season - the long jump and triple jump.
“Tyris and Ifeanyi are doing what jumping stuff they can, while trying to still run fast,” Rovelto said. “I think they’re doing a good job, they’re handling that good, and we are asking a lot of them, they’re good enough to do that though.
“They’re young, just sophomores, but I think both those guys are capable of scoring in the long jump and Ifeanyi is capable of scoring in the triple jump. Tyris will eventually be capable to jumping decently in the high jump, but they both have to run 4x100s and 4x400s because they’re among our four best guys.”
Rounding out the wave of winning performances in both the 60 meter and 200 meter for K-State was Carlos Rodriguez, who Rovelto said, has continued to win and battle despite some hurdles to start the season.
“He had cramped up in practice before the meet last week and wasn’t feeling right in the meet,” Rovelto said. “But I thought today, even though the times weren’t necessarily significantly faster, he looked a lot better and feels a lot better so I think going into next week he will be fine.”
With the fourth home meet of the season wrapped up, the Wildcats will travel to Ames, Iowa, for the Bill Bergan Invitational. The three-day meet, starting Thursday will feature the season’s first heptathlon and the second pentathlon, as well as a handful of much more difficult competition.
Rovelto said he expects the competition at Iowa State to be the first true test for his team this season in what will be a competitive stretch to kick off February.
“These two meets in the next two weeks, the level of competition is going to step up significantly,” Rovelto said. “So where as the women and men, basically every week, it seems like on the relays, for example, they’re basically running on their own. It won’t be like that next week - we’re going to have competition, that’ll push us to improve times.
“In general though, I’m really pleased where most of the kids are where we would like to see them. It’s just a matter of getting healthier and remaining healthy.”
The Bill Bergan Invitational is set to start on Thursday and run throught Saturday.