MANHATTAN — Erik Kynard has jumped over a bar hanging more than 7 feet, 7 inches high, competed in the Olympic trials and won an NCAA championship, but he is only now becoming a popular athlete at Kansas State.
Amazing what a viral Internet video can do.
Last week, as a promotion for the Big 12 Track and Field championships that start today at K-State, Kynard was filmed leaping over Jordan Henriquez, a 6-foot-11 junior forward on the Wildcats basketball team known for his shot-blocking skills. The thought of anyone soaring over him seems impossible. Yet there is Kynard clearing him with ease.
The video has been viewed more than 14,000 times, and has earned him a few extra looks on campus.
“It is starting to get a little crazy around here,” Kynard said. “I guess I’ve got one of those faces now.”
So far, he likes the added attention. But he doesn’t have much to say about the video. As far as jumps go, that one was pretty easy.
“It was just seven feet, that’s where I start in a competition,” Kynard said. “But a lot of people think with their eyes, so visual aids are good. It helps put things into perspective.”
Kynard, a K-State junior high-jumper, is aiming much higher this weekend. He is hoping to add an outdoor Big 12 championship to the indoor title he won in February. More than that, though, he is trying to build momentum for the NCAA outdoor championship and the Olympic trials this summer.
He considers representing the United States in the Olympics an “attainable goal,” but realizes he has to concentrate on the here and now if he eventually wants to reach his sport’s biggest stage.
“I’m trying not to think about that right now, because I still have a collegiate season to complete,” Kynard said. “It’s basically like in preseason basketball talking about getting into the Final Four and saying, ‘Oh man, we’re going to do it.’ I’m a believer. I have faith in my abilities, but I have to focus.”
That hasn’t been a problem for Kynard since coming to K-State. The Toledo native has won the high jump at 17 meets, including last year’s NCAA outdoor championship. He has won six of his last eight competitions, and is improving all the time.
That’s a scary thought for his coach, Cliff Rovelto.
“He is probably ahead of anybody that I have ever worked with, and that’s a lot of guys who have made Olympic teams and won medals,” Rovelto said. “I know that’s a mouthful, but I believe it to be true. He’s good and he’s capable of more.”
Both in his sport and in publicity. When asked how he planned to follow the success of a viral video, Kynard said he wouldn’t mind seeing his face on a Wheaties box someday.
That’s an honor usually reserved for Gold medalists. But he thinks he can do it.
“I competed at the U.S. Olympic trials when I was 17 years old. I’ve represented the U.S. on many occasions,” Kynard said. “Success is nothing new to me.”