Erik Kynard is an inspiring guy.
He’s determined, full with confident swagger and is all about winning.
To put it simply, Kansas State’s marquee high jumper for the track and field team has the goods.
But don’t forget the results, either. He’s a two-time NCAA champion, a multiple-time Big 12 champion and is currently the No. 1 American high jumper in the college ranks and No. 2 overall.
In the world, Kynard’s NCAA-winning jump of 2.34 meters — or 7-feet, 8-inches — is currently ranked fourth among both college and professional competitors.
The K-State junior could be considered a favorite to make the three-man high-jump squad for Team USA for the London Olympics next month.
Kynard will begin the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., this Saturday.
The Toledo, Ohio native has dazzled in his three years at K-State, and so often in sports the success of athlete and coach is mutual.
For Kynard, it’s of no surprise that K-State head coach Cliff Rovelto has been able to consistently been able to get the best out of him.
“Coach Rovelto has done wonders,” Kynard said during practice at R.V. Christian Track earlier this week. “My technical preparedness and readiness, and mentally, I’m ready all around. He’s done a great job of preparing us for the opportunities that are presented to us.”
Rovelto, who has coached track and field at K-State for more than 20 years, is well known in the business for his ability to churn out and train some of the world’s top high jumpers.
Many of the current top five jumpers in the country have and do train in Manhattan from time to time just to be a stone’s throw away from Rovelto’s wisdom.
Kynard said Rovelto is one an athlete can trust.
“First of all, he’s open-minded,” Kynard said. “He’s very knowledgeable… he’s very intelligent. He has a system that has proven to be successful. Nobody doubts it.
“One thing about being an athlete is that you have to trust your coach. He’s the chief. I trust him, hands down, and all the athletes that I work with trust him.
“We just try and knock down the pins down as he lines them up for us. It makes things so much easier when he tells you are capable of doing something.”
While track and field is more of statistics and results game than even baseball, Rovelto ironically isn’t that wrapped up in them. He’s far more concerned with the training that gets those statistics and results.
“Whether Erik had won or not (at the NCAAs a couple of weeks ago), his training has gone well and his jumping has gone well,” Rovelto said. “He’s on schedule.
“When you do go out and train really hard, everything comes together… and when you get to where Erik is, it gets to be about fine-tuning.
“You want to be your best when it matters most, and this year that’s the Olympic Trials. Training has been set up with that in mind.”
Rovelto said he has been blessed with talent to work with throughout his years at K-State, but a shared philosophy has been just as key.
“That ‘just getting there’ (mindset) has never held any stock, in my book,” Rovelto said. “Whether it was the NCAA meet, the Olympic Trials — or for that matter even the Olympic teams, to be quite honest — obviously it’s a big deal to make the Olympic team and not many people can do that. But our focus has always been to train… to prepare to the level and do something when you get there.
“If it’s good enough to medal, great. If it’s not, then it’s not. You go back to work to try and get better, and that’s just the way it’s always been. I know there are athletes and there are situations where you say, ‘I made it… it’s a big deal.’ But it’s not about that. It’s about doing something when you are there.
“Our training isn’t about getting the standard, or placing high enough to where you make the team. It’s about being the absolute best you are capable of being, and that’s the way we’ve always approached it.”
It’s not about being just an All-American, for Rovelto, either.
“Collegiality, in almost every single meet — in the history of the NCAA — you go there and jump a 7-02 at the meet and you are probably going to be an All-American,” Rovelto said. “A lot of people may think, ‘Oh, I’m an All-American… this is great.’ But, there is no desire. We’ve had 46 All-Americans in the high-jump… we’ve kind of done that a lot. Let’s go out there and win. Let’s go out there and jump higher than anyone has ever jumped before.
“That’s what we strive for. It’s not about just getting there.”
It’s a philosophy Kynard shares.
“Conformity is for the weak,” Kynard said. “I have to go out here and continuously try and progress. It’s a grind. Life is a grind. It’s about who gets a paycheck and is content. If that’s the way it worked we’d still be in the stone age right now. I’m never content with my performance.
“That’s the first thing I do. After I am relieved with the satisfaction of a win, I critique my mistakes, because it’s the only way I can progress. I’m never settling — more than anything. It’s very common (to be content). People don’t give 110 percent anymore. They settle for 100.
“If you want to be a great person, you have to grind all gears.”
Kynard said just giving 100 percent would have in no way put him in the position he is in now, days away from possibly earning a spot in the Olympics.
“It had to be 110 percent,” he said. “Being out here in the mornings, running workouts and being out here in 95-degree weather… a lot of people would have given up by now. Hands down.
“Not winning (last Fall’s) indoor championships… a lot of people would have given up and said, ‘I’m just having a bad year.’ But, there is no such thing.
“You have to ask yourself what would you attempt to do if you knew you couldn’t fail? And that’s how I live. Period. You have to just keep on pushing.”