For Kansas State track and field, significant talent is in the making.
While the Wildcats’ new quartet of long jumpers — junior Jharyl Bowry, and freshmen Devin Fields, Tyris Jefferson and Ifeanyichukwu Otuonye — all come from very different backgrounds, they’ve come together as teammates and offer promise to the program for a bright future.
“They’re all very gifted, and they’ve all demonstrated that they had good jumping ability in the past,” Rovelto said. “I think they’d be the first to admit that they’ve had pretty significant success and have not necessarily trained at a real high level.”
Rovelto said that in the next year, after training at the level that K-State track and field provides, he has no doubt the four will see significant improvements from their already top-notch performances.
Bowry transferred to K-State from Barton County Community College where he won the NJCAA Indoor National Championship in the long jump with a jump of 7.74 meters in 2012. Bowry he arrived at K-State in January, and despite being new to the program, came in first place at the Big 12 Indoor Championships Feb. 23 with a jump of 7.54 meters.
“Obviously, I want to double-up on the Big 12 indoor and outdoor,” Bowry said about his goals for the rest of this season at K-State, “but this year, I want to give it a good shot at nationals and gain some All-American status in the NCAA instead of just the NJCAA.”
Right behind Bowry in the Big 12 Championship was teammate Otuonye, who, with a jump of 7.50, placed second.
Otuonye is the only jumper of the four who has been with the Wildcats since the fall semester. He moved from the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean, to attend K-State. Otuonye often travels home to compete in meets for his country, where he holds the national record in both the long jump and the 4x100.
“I feel like I’ve become a lot stronger since I’ve been here,” Otuonye said. “I keep getting myself better, and when I go back home I get to represent my country in a good way. I have the national record so far in Turks and Caicos, and since I’ve been here I keep jumping and I keep PRing, so I just keep breaking the record every time I jump.
“It’s been a good thing, people back home are excited and proud of me.”
Along with the long jump, Otuonye competes in both the 4x100 and the triple jump for the Wildcats.
“He’s got great range.” Rovelto said about Otuonye, “He can run on the 4x100 first string and the 4x400 first string, so not many guys have that kind of a range and are able to jump at the level that he does. He also triple jumps, so he’s got a lot on his plate. He does a lot for us.”
Arriving at K-State in January, Fields and Jefferson said they’ve already developed a strong chemistry among the jumpers and it’s made the experience a good one.
“I got here this semester and it was definitely something to get adjusted to,” Jefferson said. “Coming from Texas and the warm weather, I had to get adjusted to climate and collegiate workouts instead of high school. It was definitely different, but I almost feel like it’s a family environment here.
“We push each other, we motivate each other, on the runway and off.”
Jefferson graduated from Tyler Lee High School in Tyler, Texas, last May.
Field is also a Texas native, so getting used to the Kansas climate and atmosphere was something new to him as well.
But Field is a little younger than the group, as he graduated from Desoto High School in December — a semester early — so he could come to K-State and compete right away.
He said his final semester of high school was stressful — taking extra classes to graduate early, while fitting in workouts to prepare him for collegiate track and field.
“When I got here, the transition was smooth and it didn’t take a lot of time for me to get comfortable and everything,” Field said.
As this new group of Wildcat long jumpers looks forward, they can see the potential for big things in the future.
“We obviously have a lot of depth, so right now, my goal is —I want to make the 2016 Olympics,” Field said.
“That’s all of our goal, and I can see us doing that because we’re improving fast, everybody is picking up faster than normal.”
Rovelto agrees with his long jumpers and knows with their past performances and with the quick rate they are improving, the years to come could hold even more success.
“I think the one thing about the group is that they are all very supportive of each other,” Rovelto said. “They get a long well and when they’re all jumping at their best they’re going to be very competitive with each other. But it’s a healthy competition and they’re going to push each other.
“I think all four of them, I think those guys are going to be very, very competitive at the conference and at the national level and in the years to come.”