DES MOINES, Iowa — The men’s high jump field at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship had two competitors who had cleared at least 7 feet this season, and one of them was not defending champion, Kansas State jumper Erik Kynard.
After the competition, Kynard can say he is one of only two people in the world to clear 7-08.00 (2.34 meters) this season.
Kynard defended his title in grand fashion, sporting a crown he picked up at lunch from Burger King after he clinched the title.
The victory was a tough battle against Indiana’s Derek Drouin, who has a total of three NCAA crowns to his claim. Florida’s Dwight Barbiasz was also in the mix for a while to push Kynard to new heights.
“It was a good competition all the way to the end,” Kynard said. “I had a miss at 2.20 (meters) and two at 2.28. I haven’t been jumped that often this season.
“Some people think, ‘Oh, he’s hurt,’ but I know where I’m at. I was bummed I missed the bar at 2.20. After I missed, I couldn’t let myself get down. I just had to will myself over the bar.”
The two misses at 2.28 meters (7-05.75) put Kynard behind the 8-ball as Drouin and Barbiasz both cleared on their first attempts. Kynard came out, however, and tied his PR of 2.31 meters (7-07.00) on his first attempt. Drouin also cleared on his first attempt to take the lead overall. Barbiasz fell out at that height, and it was the champions moving to the next height.
Kynard set the tone, clearing 2.34 meters (7-08.00) on his first attempt as the bar wobbled ever so slightly. Drouin missed, putting himself in second place. Drouin then elected to pass his next two attempts in an effort to possibly clear the next height before Kynard did.
Both missed two attempts, which knocked Drouin out of the competition after missing three times without clearing a bar.
Kynard then tried to put his name in the record books as he elected to move the bar up one centimeter and have one attempt at tying the collegiate record of 2.38 meters. With the crowd cheering him on, he missed slightly but came away with his second NCAA crown.
“To PR and win, that’s all you can ask,” K-State track and field coach Cliff Rovelto said. “It was a great high jump competition. I honestly thought watching Derek jump, that it would take 2.37 on the first attempt for Erik to win after he got down two misses.
“I was that confident that Derek would blast 2.34. He looked awesome. Dwight from Florida jumped awesome as well. It is great to see collegiate high jump at this level again.”
In the interview room after his victory, Kynard wore the cardboard crown and told the media why he picked it up during his pregame lunch.
“I was the defending national champion, so I thought it was fitting,” he said. “If anyone was gonna dethrone me, I’d have put it on their head.”
The victory marks the fifth men’s outdoor high jump title in K-State history and the eighth overall combined indoor and outdoor for both men’s and women’s teams. It also is the third outdoor title in the last four years as Scott Sellers claimed first in 2009.
With his jump of 7-08.00, Kynard now holds the K-State record as well as the Drake Stadium record.
The mark also ties for fifth all-time in NCAA history outdoors and currently ranks No. 2 in the world heading into the Olympic Trials at the end of the month.
Kynard was not the only defending champion in action for K-State on Wednesday. Ryann Krais opened the heptathlon with a time of 13.87 in the 100-meter hurdles to stand in 12th place.
Senior Mairead Murphy joined her in the heptathlon this year and crossed the line in 14.07 seconds to hold 15th place after the first event.
In the high jump, Krais and Murphy both struggled to clear bars slightly below their season bests. Krais jumped 5-04.25 and Murphy was at 5-01.75.
Both Krais and Murphy came up short of their season best marks in the shot put and fought through the 200 meters to close the day. After the first four events, Krais stands in 18th place with 3,269 points. Murphy is in 22nd place at 3,144 points.
The heptathlon this year is proving to be extremely close as less than 200 points separate Krais from eighth place. Only 172 points separate eighth place from second.
Top-ranked Brianne Theisen from Oregon holds a large lead over the field after missing last year’s championship meet due to injury. The heptathlon was set to conclude with the long jump, javelin and 800 meters today.
In the decathlon, junior Tomas Kirielius completed his first NCAA Championship experience by finishing 18th. The junior scored 7,033 points after struggling in some of the field events over the two days of action. He rebounded in the discus, posting the best throw in the field to make up ground on the rest of the competition.
Kirielius had a toss of 144-01, besting the field by nearly 3 feet, but Kirielius struggled in the pole vault, clearing only one bar at 12-09.50. He was one of the top throwers in the javelin, but could not make up enough ground.
Kirielius then clocked in at 5:10.20 in the 1,500 meters to finish the competition and set his eyes on a return to the championship meet next season.
The Wildcats will finish their events at the NCAA Championship on Friday with the conclusion of the heptathlon and the men’s pole vault.
Sophomore Kyle Wait will attempt to be the first Wildcat to score in the pole vault since school record holder Doug Lytle finished second in 1982. He is set to compete at 4:30 p.m.
After Friday’s events, the Wildcats will await results from Saturday to see where the men’s and women’s teams finish in the overall standings.
Saturday’s competition will be broadcast on ESPNU beginning at 11 a.m. K-State alumnae and former multi-event specialist Jill Montgomery will be the sideline reporter.