KSU’s Erik Kynard finishes runner-up at elite competition

COURTESY: K-State Sports Information

EUGENE, Ore. – It was a matchup of the best in the world, and Kansas State senior Erik Kynard put on a show along with two of his peers at the 2013 Prefontaine Classic to come away in second place while raising the bar on his own school record. Kynard sailed over the bar at 7 feet 8.75 inches without touching the bar on his second attempt at the height to finish second behind Mutaz Essa Barshim in the elite field.

Kynard and all four other Olympic medalists from last summer were among the nine jumpers competing on Saturday at Hayward Field, and the Wildcat along with Qatar’s Barshim and Indiana senior Derek Drouin gave the fans an exciting competition to watch.

Kynard, Drouin and Barshim all cleared the first five bars of the competition on first attempts, setting the stage for drama at higher bars. With the three of them tied with the bar headed to 7-08.75 (2.36 meters), the atmosphere was primed for excitement.

“It was a good day. The environment was great and a great competition overall,” Kynard said. “I think the height is there, I just need to be a little more patient.”

Barshim went over the bar at 7-08.75 on his first attempt after Kynard and Drouin missed their first attempts. Kynard then improved on his school record of 7-08.00 when he went over the bar on his second attempt without even touching the bar. That clearance put him in second place, and then Drouin answered by clearing the bar on his third attempt.

Kynard and Drouin both could not clear the next height of 7-10.00 (2.39 meters) as the pair of seniors received special invites to compete at the prestigious Prefontaine Classic before facing off again next week at their final NCAA Championship on Friday. With Kynard and Drouin eliminated, Barshim elected to pass his final attempt at 7-10.00 and raise the bar one centimeter to 2.40 meters (7-10.50), which he cleared on his first try to best his own Qatar national record of 2.39 meters.

“Erik jumped very well today,” said K-State Head Coach Cliff Rovelto. “All his attempts at 2.39 were pretty decent jumps. He did a lot of things well today at this meet.”

The mark by Barshim is a new Prefontaine Classic meet record, and the height cleared by Kynard and Drouin also surpassed the previous record of 2.35 meters (7-08.50). Drouin’s jump also was a Canadian national record.

Because the meet was held prior to the final day of the NCAA Championship, Kynard and Drouin are eligible for their marks to count toward the all-time collegiate list. The two rivals are now tied with former Nebraska Cornhusker Dusty Jonas for second on the list, trailing only Louisiana-Lafayette’s Hollis Conway and his mark of 2.38 meters (7-09.75) at the 1989 NCAA Championship.

Another high jumper coached by Rovelto was in action at the Prefontaine Classic. The defending 2011 IAAF World Champion Jesse Williams finished in ninth place with a clearance of 2.16 meters 7-01.00 in only his second competition of the season and his first since an ankle injury sidelined him in April.

The Prefontaine Classic is the largest non-collegiate meet in the United States outside of the USATF Championships and regularly brings the most talented athletes in the world to compete. It is named after legendary distance runner Steve Prefontaine, who ran for the Oregon Ducks and was considered the greatest distance runner in America at the time of his death in 1975 at the age of 24.

Prefontaine was one of the first distance running superstars in the U.S. and his life was made into two major motion pictures, “Fire on the Track” and “Without Limits.” The last 15 Prefontaine Classics have brought sell-out crowds with standing room only. This year is anticipated to bring more than 12,000 fans in attendance again.

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