EUGENE, Ore. — The first day of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships saw one Wildcat do something no pole vaulter has done in more than 30 years.
Back-to-back Big 12 champion Kyle Wait entered the NCAA Championship ranked No. 7 in the field and looking to improve on his showing from a year ago when he missed the opening height.
Wait responded to the challenge after passing the opening height and cleared the next two bars on his first attempt. By clearing 5.50 meters (17-8.50) on his first attempt, it was enough to put him in a four-way tie for seventh.
“I’ve said all along I think Kyle is extremely, extremely talented,” K-State head coach Cliff Rovelto said. “He is blessed with physical gifts, and we haven’t had anybody that is blessed with the kind of physical gifts that he has. It’s not even close. So, it doesn’t surprise me at all that he is able to do what he is doing.
“There’s a difference between having the ability to do it and then making it happen and getting it done, and he’s doing that. I think he is doing a phenomenal job.”
By finishing in that tie for seventh and earning 3/4 of a point, Wait becomes the first Wildcat to score in the pole vault for the men’s team since Doug Lytle finished second in 1982.
Wait was proud of his performance, but also motivated to continue getting better for himself and K-State.
“I can’t be too upset about it,” he said. “It was fun. I’m happy, but not satisfied.”
Wait was surprised when he was told of his achievement being the first Wildcat since 1982 to score in his event.
“That’s pretty cool,” he said. “We have a great program. Why not do it in every event?”
K-State had two men competing in the decathlon with senior Tomas Kirielius looking to improve on his 18th-place finish last year and Reinis Kregers qualifying for the championship meet as a freshman.
The pair of Wildcats performed well to start the day Wednesday, as Kirielius posted a new personal record in the 100 meters at 11.15 seconds and Kregers ran 11.33 just off his fastest time of the season.
Strong marks continued to come in, as Kirielius has a season-high in the long jump at 6.75 meters (22-1.75). Kregers was just behind him at 6.72 meters (22-0.75) as they stood 21st and 22nd overall through two events.
Kregers put out another top mark in the shot put with his toss of 13.86 meters (45-5.75) ,surpassing his previous best of the season by six inches. Kirielius had his worst performance of the year in the shot put, but still managed to move up in the standings overall through three events as he found himself in 17th place.
The high jump marked another PR for Kirielius, as he tied his best jump at 2.05 meters (6-8.75) to also tie for third in the discipline and move up the overall standings slightly heading into the final event of the first day. Kregers leapt only 1.87 meters (6-1.50) and had to withdraw from the competition with an injury.
Kirielius closed Day 1 of competition with his third PR, as he won his heat of the 400 meters with a time of 49.47 seconds. That time put him in sixth in the event and moved him into 13th overall after the first five events with 3,964 points.
The Wildcats qualified their men’s 4x100 relay into the championship meet for the second time in three years. But again, K-State was unable to advance to the final in the event. The tandem of Dane Steen, Carlos Rodriguez, Tyris Jefferson and Ifeanyi Otuonye combined to run 40.27 seconds and finish 18th.
Erica Twiss made her debut at the NCAA Championship after grabbing the final qualifying spot through the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds in the 400-meter hurdles. Twiss crossed the line in 59.65 seconds to come away in 20th place.
K-State was set to begin at 1 p.m. (CT) with Kirielius finishing the final five events of the decathlon. Junior Martina Tresch was looking to advance to the final in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, and Jharyl Bowry was attempting to finish in the top eight and score points in the men’s long jump.