June 27, 2012
By Mark Janssen
Olympian Erik Kynard.
Erik Kynard, Olympian.
No matter how you word it, Kynard says, “It has a nice ring to it.”
Ring… as in Olympic rings as the Kansas State junior qualified for the United States Olympic Team Monday night by placing second in the high jump competition at the USA Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore.
“It finally sunk in today as I was doing all the processing stuff for the Olympic uniform,” said Kynard in a phone conversation with K-State Sports Extra Tuesday afternoon.
Pausing, he added, “Honestly, I’m disappointed. I came here to win, but what I did was live to fight another day. I didn’t like the result. I never plan to finish second, but hey, I’m moving on.”
Kynard, the 2012 NCAA champion at 7-foot-8, was one of four jumpers to clear 7-5.75. He missed once at 7-2.5 and again at 7-4.25, but cleared 7-0.5 and 7-5.75 on his first attempts. He then missed three times at 7-foot-7.
“He had good jumps at 2.31 (7-foot-7),” said K-State coach Cliff Rovelto. “He had some early misses, but he really jumped well throughout the competition.”
And Rovelto coached well throughout the last four years.
For the first time in history, all three USA jumpers are under the guidance of the same coach… Cliff Rovelto. With all clearing 7-5.75, Jamie Nieto won the competition, Kynard was second and Jesse Williams was fourth, but he was awarded the third position on the team since Nick Ross had not made the “A” standard of 7-foot-7 during the course of the year.
While Rovelto downplayed the fact he is the coach of all three jumpers by saying, “All I did was sit and watch,” Kynard could tell his coach was happy.
“He gave me a hug. That’s unusual!” Kynard said with a laugh. “Coach is kind of quiet and not an emotional guy, but he gave me a big hug. That was powerful.”
And of being joined by Nieto (Eastern Michigan graduate), and Williams (USC graduate), Kynard said, “We’re rivals, but we get along fine. We have this mutual respect, but we’re competitors. These are good guys. We’re all on the same page and excited about representing coach.”
Laughing, he added, “It’s like we are three generations of jumpers under coach. Jamie is 35, Jesse is 29 and I’m 21.”
Jumping in rainy 68-degree conditions, Williams, the USA’s top jumper and defending World Champion said, “These conditions were tough. It was difficult for me to get in a groove and jump to my capabilities, but the whole goal was to make London, and now I’m there and I want to get on top of the podium. This is not deterring my goal.”
Nieto added of Rovelto, “Without him, there would be none of us up here (on the award’s stand).”
Also in the final 13-person field was Jim Dilling, another post-graduate jumper from Mankato State who trains with Rovelto, plus Zack Riley of Rend Lake College in Ina, Ill., who plans on attending K-State this fall. Neither cleared the opening height of 7-0.5. Riley won the national junior college high jump title in 2011 at 7-foot-5.
This is Rovelto’s third K-State Olympic high jumper since he became the Wildcat coach in 1993, and he says that Kynard would have to rank No. 1 on that roll call.
“He’s now accomplished more with two NCAA titles and now on the Olympic team. But even before this accomplishment, he had developed at a higher level at this point in time than the others,” said Rovelto. “Accomplishments and development don’t always match, but now they do with Erik.”
After the win, Kynard said, “The victory lap waving the American flag was neat. There are people here who have watched me grow from adolescence into manhood. I was here for the Trials as a 17-year-old and again in 2009 prior to the Pan Am games. The staff knows me, the doctors know me, the nutritionists know me, so it was pretty neat to feel that support.”
Kynard said it was “… ridiculous how much my phone rang. There were people I haven’t heard from in years.”
After placing a quick call to his parents back in Toledo, Ohio, Kynard had his first meal as an Olympian at an Outback Steakhouse to complete what he called “… a near perfect day.”
Entering the Olympic competition, Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qator and Ivan Ukhov of Russia own the best jumps in the world at 7-9.25, while Williams is third at 7-8.75 and Kynard fourth at 7-foot-8.
“An American did not make the finals in 2008, so the three of us want to change that,” said Kynard.
The Opening Ceremonies for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England, will take place on July 27.
ROVELTO’S OLYMPIC HIGH JUMPERS
1996 – Ed Broxterman (Kansas State)
2000 – Nathan Leeper (Kansas State)
2004 – Matt Hemingway, 2nd place; Jamie Nieto, 4th place
2008 – Jesse Williams
2012 – Erik Kynard (Kansas State), Jamie Nieto, Jesse Williams
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