The College World Series field is set*, which is the annual sign that the academic year is over for all Kansas State athletes. Hopefully we've done a good enough job on this site covering football and men's basketball, but this post is for those of you who, like me, don't pay enough attention to the other sports.
*Now that all Big 12 teams have been eliminated, if you're not rooting for a Stony Brook vs. Kent State national championship, you have no soul. You can even recycle the K-S-U chant, and it's obvious the Seawolves and Golden Flashes are the best mascots remaining (honorable mention: Gamecocks).
Sure, everyone's aware the women's basketball and volleyball teams had solid postseasons, and that Erik Kynard won yet another national championship for K-State in the high jump. Maybe you even followed along as the BatCats succeeded in avoiding the ignominy of being the one team in the Big 12 to not make the tournament, and you vaguely remember hearing something about some sort of equestrian national championship, even if it included some words you didn't understand.
I wish I had the time and motivation to follow the athletes who are generally working just as hard (or harder) as their nationally relevant counterparts, but inevitably many of us find ourselves out of the loop when the seasons come to a close. If you did pay close attention to everyone, congratulations, you're a better KSU fan than I am, and you're probably not going to learn anything new by reading on.
If your knowledge of the other K-State sports doesn't go much beyond what I described in the second paragraph, then journey with me as we look back at some notable accomplishments by Kansas State athletes and teams (women tomorrow) in the 2011-2012 season.
Veteran coach Michael Smith has done a lot of great things for distance running in his 16 years at Kansas State, but for the most part, men's cross country success is not one of them. This year was no exception as the Wildcats beat just eight teams in five races, but on the plus side two of those were Baylor and Texas Tech in the Big 12 championships, good for an eighth place finish that was KSU's best since 2005.
Sophomore Adam Porter of McPherson led the ‘Cats in three of the four meets he ran in, and he also notched the only top 60 finish (in a meet featuring more than three teams) by a Wildcat all season at the Big 12 championships. Phillip Banowetz's team-best 84th place finish at the Midwest Regional also merits a shout-out, if only because it was a nice way for the only junior or senior on the team to end his Wildcat career.
The highlight of the season for the men's golf team undoubtedly came in
Wyoming Arizona, when Kansas State's Ben Juffer shot a school-record 12-under par 198 in three days and won the playoff to take home the trophy at the Wyoming Cowboy Classic. His teammates did just enough to help the ‘Cats win their first tournament since fall 2009, beating 22 other teams, including such golf powerhouses teams as Colorado San Diego, and Kansas.
Sadly, that momentum didn't carry over into the Big 12 tournament, where the ‘Cats finished ninth. But at least we beat Kansas again.
I'm not really sure, but I have to imagine it was a bit disappointing when K-State let two teams from Idaho (including a Boise State team they would beat in Wyoming by 32 strokes) knock them to third out of eight teams on their own course, and that early October showing was kind of a harbinger for the entire season. Junior Curtis Yonke had the lowest scoring average on a team with just one senior, but his best finish was 6th place in the season-opening tournament and his team-best 31st-place finish at the Big 12 championships wasn't exactly an awe-inspiring conclusion.
Track and Field
If you're not familiar with Kansas State track and field coach Cliff Rovelto, just think of him as the Coach K of high jumping. This year he churned out Erik Kynard, the greatest high jumper in the history of "High Jump U."
Kynard's jump of 7-foot-8 (high enough to clear Yao Ming) wasn't just the best jump at this year's NCAA championships, giving him his second straight title. It was also just the second time this year anyone had cleared the bar at that height.
Senior Mantas Silkauskas joined Kynard as a First Team All-American with a 7th place finish in the long jump (25 feet, 4 ½ inches) and their combined performance gave K-State its second consecutive top 23 finish as a team. For those not familiar with NCAA track/field, that takes some incredible individual talent.
However, in the Big 12 championships, depth is considerably more important than it is at the national meet, and the fact is that K-State simply doesn't have the resources to compete with bigger schools like Texas, Oklahoma, and this year's Big 12 champions, Texas A&M. The Aggies had twice as many points (150) as the Wildcats, who still did extremely well to finish in fourth place, their best finish since 1997.
Sophomore Kyle Wait joined Kynard as a Big 12 champion with an impressive 5.31-meter pole vault, and Tomas Kirielius and Devin Dick brought home 14 valuable points with a second and third place, respectively, in the decathlon. Basically, in any event that required jumping and especially the clearing of some kind of bar, Kansas State did well, and they would have done better in the team standings if the starting gun had no trigger.
I'd like to believe that Kansas State baseball would have done better had it faced lowly Kansas and Texas Tech at the beginning of the conference season to start 4-2, instead of at the end to finish 7-17. We'll never know.
It wasn't all bad this season for the BatCats, who even posted a seven-game win streak that included a 15-12 win at College Station in the conference opener against No. 8 Texas A&M. It was the only time all season the Aggies gave up more than ten runs and yet, K-State would win just two of its next 17 conference games.
Baylor hitting was especially harmful, as the Bears scored 11 four out of five times against K-State, including twice in Big 12 tourney losses that ended the season. At least KSU had four seniors (three position players and a pitcher) get drafted last week.
In fact, Kansas State's hitters - led by sophomore outfielder Jared King and his .377 average - were second in the Big 12 with a .384 on-base percentage and only two teams hit more home runs. Sadly, it turns out it's very difficult to make up for a team ERA of 5.46, which was more than a run worse than every other team in the conference.
The rest of the staff helped make Kayvon Bahramzadeh look magnificent by comparison, and to his credit, the senior who is now with the A's had 79 strikeouts in 79.2 innings. Ryan Dempster and Cliff Lee are extremely jealous of Bahramzadeh's 7-4 record that came with his 4.74 ERA.