By Jeremy Holaday
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
K-State’s high jumping squad waved good bye to one of the best jumpers in NCAA history last season when they lost three-time national champion Scott Sellers to graduation. One would think that the success of K-State’s jumping program may swindle for a bit but with freshman Erik Kynard coming to Manhattan, Kan. head track and field coach Cliff Rovelto sees nothing but success.
“He is, in our opinion, by looking at him compared to the other kids in the country from last year, you could definitely make a strong argument that he was the best kid in the country,” said Rovelto.
He has the success to back up Rovelto’s statement. As a junior Kynard cleared the bar at 7-3.75 which was the highest jump in the U.S. for a returning senior in 2009. That jump wasn’t just another record for Kynard, it said something much bigger.
“Making that jump is when things got serious. I always thought I was good. It wasn’t that I even jumped that high, it was that I kept jumping high and stayed consistent,” explained Kynard. “When I started opening up at seven feet, I thought maybe I am pretty good. That is when I found out that track could basically become a career for me,” said Kynard.
The Toledo, Ohio native has already competed in Olympic Trials and the World Junior Championships in Poland. A jumper with that type of resume would have college programs in the palm of his hand, so why did the young talent choose K-State?
“I heard about coach Rovelto through other professionals and coaches telling me that if I want to high jump and I get an offer from K-State, go,” said Kynard.
What exactly would you hear about coach Rovelto? In his 21 seasons as the head coach at K-State Rovelto has coached 40 All-Americans and 24 conference champion high jumpers. The native of McLouth, Kan., has also coached three NCAA Champions with Sellers winning three. Rovelto’s reach continues after his athletes graduate from K-State. In just the high jump event there have been nine U.S. National Championships, 10 World Championships and five Olympic competitors.
It is a sure bet that Kynard is in good hands if he wants to be successful in college and further down the road in his career. Coach Rovelto thinks that is something that stands out about K-State compared to other colleges.
“We are really concerned with what is best for their long term interests. We want to see them be in a situation where they can continue to get better year after year,” said Rovelto. “It is not about what you can get out of them right now, we are concerned with three or four years down the road.”
In three or four years, if Kynard stays healthy, the odds of him being successful are pretty good to say the least, but what about the here and now? Kynard has a great mentor in Sellers but can he be as good as him?
“Absolutely. Erik is extremely gifted. Staying healthy will be a big part of it,” said Rovelto.
Kynard did not waste any time showing off his winning ability. In his first meet as a Wildcat on Dec. 12, Kynard jumped 7-02.25 to win the event and to post an NCAA provisional qualifying mark. There was rumor the Kynard was going to open up at 7-02 in his meets. Coach Rovelto quickly clarified that it was just rumor but as far as Kynard is concerned a win is a win.
“I just want to win. I would rather win jumping six feet than jumping seven feet and finish second. It is about being consistent and staying healthy,” said Kynard.
So, as of right now the wins continue to grow for the high jumping program at K-State. Just like Rovelto expected.