FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The only collegiate title to elude K-State high jumper Erik Kynard was the NCAA Indoor Championship, and the senior took his final crack at it on Saturday afternoon but came up short as he finished third and battled with Olympic bronze medalist Derek Drouin to the end.
K-State also saw one of the best performances in school history from combined events specialist Merryl Mbeng as she finished in sixth place for the Wildcats in the pentathlon.
The men’s team finished in tied for 32nd place with the six points scored by Kynard, improving on last year’s 44th-place finish. With Mbeng’s three points, the K-State women finished the season tied in 46th place.
Kynard cleared 2.29 meters (7-06.00) on his second attempt. It was that miss that knocked him down to third as Mississippi State’s Marcus Jackson cleared on his first attempt. After Kynard and Jackson both missed 2.32 meters (7-07.25) on their first attempts and Drouin cleared on his first, the passing game began in an attempt to clear a new bar on a first attempt and reset their three consecutive misses.
At 2.35 meters (7-08.50) Kynard and Jackson again missed with Droiun clearing on first attempt. Jackson took his final attempt and missed while Kynard passed to the next height. The bar was raised to 2.38 meters (7-09.75), a height that would be a new collegiate record. Kynard just clipped his calf on the bar to knock it off the standard on his only attempt at the height, although his hips were clearly above the bar. Drouin had three attempts at the record and his first two tries were very close to clearing like Kynard.
“All in all it was a good meet,” said K-State Head Coach Cliff Rovelto. “I thought Erik jumped well, getting behind on misses obviously was a big factor. He had good attempts at big bars, but only having one at each wasn’t enough.”
K-State was busy in the combined events to start the day with Devin Dick completing day two of the heptathlon and Mbeng making her NCAA Championship debut in the pentathlon. It marked the third straight year the Wildcats fielded a member of the men’s team and women’s team in the combined events.
Mbeng ran a strong time of 8.71 seconds in the 60 meter hurdles to start the pentathlon off in 10th place. She entered the meet ranked ninth overall in an event that was jam packed. Arkansas’ Makeba Alcide broke the collegiate record in the pentathlon earlier in the season and was the heavy favorite, but less than 200 points separated No. 2 from No. 16 in the rankings. Alcide then posted numbers well below her norm in some events, and opened the door for competition.
In the second event of the pentathlon, Mbeng tied her season-best high jump of 1.72 meters (5-07.75) and moved into eighth place heading into the shot put. Despite posting a new personal best in the shot put at 10.76 meters (35-03.75), Mbeng dropped all the way down to 13th following that event as she was one of the weaker women in the field.
She made up for that shortcoming in the long jump where she posted the No. 3 mark of the competition with a season best leap of 5.98 meters (19-07.50). The 843 points scored in that event put her in 10th place and position to climb into the top eight headed into the 800 meters, another of her strongest events.
Points are precious in the 800 meters in the pentathlon with the difference of approximately one second meaning 14 points.
Mbeng ran a new personal best time of 2:14.07 for the No. 5 time in the field and scored 906 points. Her fast time helped her jump four spots all the way up to sixth place and eared her three points toward the team scoring. Mbeng’s score of 4,178 points is a new personal best and ranks second in school history. She surpassed JaNelle Wright’s score of 4,173 on the K-State list from when Wright finished fourth at the 2004 NCAA Championship.
“Merryl had PRs in every events except the hurdles,” Rovelto said. “She did a very nice job. I thought she was great.”
Dick started the day in 13th place after the first four events from Friday’s action. He ran a time of 7.35 seconds in the 60 meter hurdles to start Saturday and moved up into 12th place. He struggled in the pole vault and had a bit of a scare when the pole flexed awkwardly and sent him somersaulting into the pit and landing on his head. Dick recovered and had one more attempt at the height but missed again. His clearance of 4.40 meters (14-05.50) earned him 731 points and put him in 13th place heading into the final event.
In the 1,000 meters, Dick ran his second fastest time of the season at 2:51.68 and finished in a tie for 14th place as he scored 5,386 points over the two days and seven events held.
“Devin hung in there after the pole vault,” Rovelto said. “I was proud of him.”
K-State will now turn its sights to the outdoor season, which begins next week. The Wildcats will travel to Tempe, Ariz., for two meets over spring break. K-State will compete at the Baldy Castillo Invitational next week and the ASU Invitational the following week.