EUGENE, Ore. — High jumper Erik Kynard was seeking a three-peat in the high jump to close his Kansas State career at the NCAA Championship Friday night.
In front of more than 10,000 cheering fans, Kynard and his rival during his entire collegiate career — Derek Drouin of Indiana — went to battle one last time, and it was Drouin who finished on top.
Kynard finished second in his final jump in a K-State uniform with a leap of 2.31 meters (7-7.00), coming up short of the first three-peat in the event since 1946. Instead, Drouin was able to come from behind after being pushed in a corner after a miss at 2.31 and cleared 2.34 meters (7-8.00) on his second attempt.
“I feel like I did well. Both of us are great jumpers,” Kynard said. “I beat him last week (at the Prefontaine Classic). He beat me this week. There’s a reason no one has won this three times in a row since the 1940s.”
Looking back on his career, Kynard was reflective of his time at K-State and said he is thankful for the opportunity to represent the Wildcats and plans to stay in Manhattan while he finishes his degree this fall and for some time after as he will continue to train under coach Cliff Rovelto.
“The fans in Manhattan and the support system have been great,” Kynard said. “It’s been an honor and a privilege to jump in Purple. I’m glad I could bring a little light and a little attention to the Manhattan community.”
The drama that went down in the high jump pit at historic Hayward Field was the exact same as it was last year in Drake Stadium, only with the opposite result.
Last year, it was Drouin who cleared 2.31 meters on his first attempt, forcing Kynard to pass after a miss, only to see Kynard take the lead and eventually the victory after clearing 2.34 meters on his first attempt.
This time around Drouin was forced to pass with Kynard leading, and after two misses by Kynard, Drouin had only one more attempt to clear 2.34 meters. Drouin cleared with his back against the wall, and Kynard missed his final attempt to finish in second place.
“Erik has had a remarkable collegiate career,” Rovelto said. “He will be an eight-time All-American, six-time conference champion, won two national championships and won an Olympic silver medal, as well as besting school records held by NCAA champions and Olympians.
“There have been only two student-athletes who were All-Americans in all eight seasons of eligibility, Scott Sellers and now Erik — both high jumpers. That is pretty remarkable considering the nature of the event.
“To be able to watch Erik grow as an athlete and as a man over the past four years has been a wonderful experience. I feel very fortunate to have been a part of the ride.”
Kynard and Drouin have battled throughout their careers, combining to win each of the last four NCAA Championships outdoors. Drouin added three indoor titles to the mix to become the first athlete to win five men’s NCAA high jump titles.
With the runner-up finish, Kynard will end his K-State career with two NCAA titles, six Big 12 championships and holds the No. 2 jump all-time in collegiate history along with Drouin after jumping 2.36 meters (7-8.75) last week at the Prefontaine Classic.
His senior season was arguably one of the best in NCAA history even without the championship on Friday.
Kynard jumped 2.27 (7-5.25) to open his outdoor season at the Texas Relays in second place behind Drouin. He then jumped 2.34 meters to tie his own school record at the time of 7-8 and win the Mt. SAC Relays. At Big 12 Championships, Kynard flew over 2.30 meters (7-6.50) before breaking the R.V. Christian Track Complex facility record with a jump of 2.26 (7-5.00) on senior day at the Ward Haylett Invitational.
With those jumps in addition to the Prefontaine Classic and the NCAA Championship, while not counting the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds where competition was halted at a much lower height due to qualification rules, Kynard averaged 2.31 meters (7-7.00) in his final season as a Wildcat. Drouin also averaged 2.31 meters this season outdoors.
Kynard will turn his focus toward USA Championships in two weeks in Des Moines, Iowa, where he has seen great success. He holds the Drake Stadium record from his NCAA Championship victory last year.