By Corbin McGuire
In early December, K-State Director of Track and Field/Cross Country Cliff Rovelto is not thinking too much about where his men’s and women’s teams are at, in terms of being full strength.
He hopes his student-athletes are not, either. It’s a long season.
“We’ve just got to focus on continuing to train to a high level through indoor and early outdoor. If we do that, then I think we can be pretty decent by the end of the outdoor,” the five-time Big 12 Coach of the Year said. “Hopefully that’s where the focus will remain.”
Rovelto did add that he expects his men’s team to be stronger than a year ago and his women’s squad, coming off its second-straight Big 12 Outdoor title, to be “pretty good” again.
It’s just going to take time.
“It’s going to be end of the indoor (season) before we’re (fully) together, to be honest. Part of that is because a couple of the mid-year kids coming in. They’re good, but who knows where they’re going to be when they come in,” Rovelto said, as the Wildcats open their indoor season with the Carol Robinson Winter Pentathlon on Friday and the K-State Winter Invitational on Saturday, both at Ahearn Field House.
On the women’s side, K-State returns 16 athletes who scored at the Big 12 Outdoor Championship and 10 who did so at the conference’s indoor meet. The Wildcats also lost some notable scorers, like three-time Big 12 champion Janee’ Kassanavoid, from last year’s team.
Rovelto said there are plenty of people who could realistically make those points up in other events, however.
“We’ll definitely go about scoring the points a little bit differently,” he said, “but I still think that we can score a significant number of points by the end of the outdoor.”
This shift in scoring, he said, starts with an extremely strong multi-events group that includes junior Nina Schultz, the two-time Big 12 High Point Award winner. The Canadian is complemented by a strong trio in Lauren Taubert, Ariel Okorie and Morgan Coffman, all three of whom scored at the Big 12 Outdoor Championship last season.
“They just continue to get better all the time,” he said. “That’ll be a really good group.”
Rovelto also said he anticipates the mid- to long-distance runners to be improved and to contribute more at the conference meets. The throws group, under first-year K-State coach Nathan Ott, should also take a step forward, Rovelto said, specifically in terms of depth.
K-State’s women also added a handful of newcomers who Rovelto said he expects make a difference. He named Taishia Pryce, Lavaun Stephenson and Asha Cave in this group. More broadly, he said the team’s 100-meter talent is at a completely different level this year.
“I think we’ll probably have three people run faster (in the 100) this year than we had anyone run last year, so, assuming their healthy, you would assume the 4×100 would be better than what we were a year ago,” he said. “I think, potentially, the 4×400 could be because basically everybody’s back, except for A’Keyla Mitchell, and then you’ve added a couple. That relay should probably be better as well.
“I just know that, in terms of athletes, we have people that can get it done. It’s just going to be in a slightly different way. That’s really all I can tell at this point.”
K-State’s men bring back 10 scorers from last year’s Big 12 Outdoor Championship and seven who scored at the indoor meet. This group is highlighted by sophomore high jumper Tejaswin Shankar, who capped his freshman season with an NCAA Outdoor Championship.
The Wildcats added Matas Adamonis, a highly-regarded junior heptathlete and decathlete, from Lithuania. He joins a talented multi-events group that includes Aaron Booth, Simone Fassina and Max Estill.
All four should help bolster the men’s chances at collecting more points come May.
“I definitely think that group collectively will be much better,” Rovelto said. “The good thing is I know we have people that are good and have ability, we just have so far to go before any of them are at the level I know they’re capable of being at, which is a good thing. If they do well early, then we’re going to end up being really good.”
Source: Kansas State Sports