It’s been finals week at Kansas State University, and for a vast majority of the students, it’s crunch time.
K-State track and field’s Erik Kynard and Ryann Krais fall into that majority, but it doesn’t take long for the two to separate themselves from the average K-State student fretting about finals week.
Kynard and Krais are both defending NCAA champions and go into this weekend’s Big 12 Outdoor Championships in Manhattan — beginning Friday — with a lot on the horizon, as the Olympic Trials for the London Games are just six weeks away.
Everyday, as the 2012 London Games get closer and closer, both are keeping that fact on the back burner.
“This is another stepping stone,” said Krais, who won the NCAA outdoor title in the heptathlon a year ago. “We’re getting closer, so obviously we are trying to do even better, but again, it’s a stepping stone.
“Right now, I’m fully focused (on this meet) and on the heptathlon, because that’s my first event. You just take it event by event.”
Kynard, who won the NCAA outdoor title in the high jump in 2011, is excited to compete on his home turf, and said the Olympic talent that will be on display this weekend will be impressive.
“I’m excited to compete, because I haven’t competed in a while,” he said. “(R.V. Christian) is a great facility, and a great facility to do any event, but especially at the high jump — partially because I train here.
“There’s going to be world-class competitors here, there’s no doubt about that. It’s going to be good. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of marks that are going to be put up.”
Like Krais, Kynard isn’t letting the Olympic Trials — that run from June 21 to July 1 — distract him.
“I have to perform whether there is one fan in the stands or 20,000 fans in the stands,” said Kynard, who is the current No. 1-ranked high jumper in the country and a three-time Big 12 champion. “Whether it’s Manhattan, Kansas, or Eugene, Oregon, I still have to go out there and do my job.
“I can’t really look at it like that. Victory loves preparation. I feel like I’m prepared, so when opportunity comes, you let the rest happen. I feel good. I jumped pretty high — very high — in practice (last) Thursday…. I’m not going to tell how high, but I’m ready to go.”
Kynard made waves earlier this week when the K-State athletic department released a video showing the junior leap over 6-foot-11 K-State center Jordan Henriquez, who stood under the bar.
“That was easy,” Kynard laughed. “People are visual, you can’t blame them. JO isn’t that tall, relatively. I start in competition at a bar that is JO’s height.
“So, yeah, he’s not that tall. I guess the (athletic department) needed a visual aid.”
Kynard said Henriquez, who will be one of four returning seniors for next year’s basketball team, was a nervous visual aid for the shoot.
“He was scared,” Kynard said. “He was a little skittish at first. I just told him, ‘Don’t move.’
“He took it like a champ.”
Krais, who said she is feeling the best she has in the past few months, is both excited to perform in front of a home crowd and to get an early look at potential Olympic Trial competitors.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing the stadium full of Kansas State supporters,” she said. “I think that’s going to be meaningful.. you know you are going to have fun.
“But these schools in the Big 12 are all really solid track schools and all have the goal of being the best they can be at the NCAA Championships and at the Olympic Trials. With so many of the athletes training for that, these are the competitors you are going to have to beat. If you can beat them now, then that’s confidence for beating them at the trials. It will get pretty competitive out here.”