MANHATTAN — When Ryann Krais began competition in the heptathlon Friday at the Big 12 Track and Field championships she wasn’t just thinking big, she was thinking huge.
The Kansas State senior had a record number of points in mind and didn’t want to settle for anything less. But her dreams of shattering conference marks disappeared by the time she entered the R.V. Christian Track Complex on Saturday. Her first day of competition didn’t go as planned, and she found herself more than 100 points behind the leader.
Not only was her dream point total out of reach, she needed a big comeback to challenge for first. That type of scenario might cause some athletes to letdown. Not Krais, who shook off a disappointing start and won the heptathlon with 5,661 points.
“In one way it’s kind of nice to just embrace the competition and not worry about hitting a certain number or point total,” Krais said. “Because my goal point total was out of range. The goal became just winning. It becomes almost more fun at that point, because you’re going head to head with people.”
It’s not easy to make up big points in the final three events of the seven-event, two-day competition.
Krais made up most of her ground in the javelin. By posting a distance of 134 feet, 3 inches, she shot up the leaderboard and gave herself a chance to win the event in the 800-meter run. She needed a good time to do it, and finished in just over 2 minutes, 14 seconds.
“There is a feeling at the end of the heptathlon, you’re just relieved,” Krais said. “The heptathlon, you have to take the good with the bad and recover from it and pull yourself back together. It’s real hard to pull yourself back together sometimes.”
But she pulled out the victory, thanks in large part to a change in mindset.
“I knew it was definitely going to be tough,” Krais said. “The second day was going to have to be a good day. I don’t think I lost belief that I could do it, but I knew that it was going to be a challenge.
She later posed for pictures in front of the home crowd in an award’s ceremony. Though she came into the event hoping for more, there was no holding back her joy when it was over.
By winning, she earned 10 points for K-State in its pursuit for a team title. Now she can focus on today’s 400-meter hurdles, and the possibility of another conference championship.
Mom’s day — Francine Simpson made a call to Jamaica before competing in the long jump Saturday. That’s where the Kansas junior grew up, and where her family lives. When her mother picked up the phone, she had only one thing to say: Win.
“Today is my mother’s birthday,” Simpson said, “and when I called her this morning she was like, ‘Do it for your mom. It would be a good birthday present.’ ”
A good Mother’s Day present, too.
By leaping 21-10 3/4, Simpson obliged her mother’s request and won a conference championship. She beat out teammate Andrea Geubelle by 6 3/4 inches, giving the Jayhawks a strong finish in the event.
It was a perfect scenario for her. Well, almost. The wind was blowing a little too hard as she jumped, so her distance, which would have been a Big 12 and stadium record, didn’t count in the record books.
But it did give her confidence that when she returns home this summer for Jamaica’s Olympic trials that she can perform well enough to move forward. In a country where the featured Olympic sport is sprinting, she has always dreamed of standing out.
“I think that’s a possibility,” she said. “Just to be the first Jamaican long jumper to make it to the Olympics would be a great achievement.”
Decathlon — In a perfect world, Tomas Kirielius saw himself finishing third in the decathlon with about 7,500 points. So the Kansas State junior didn’t know what to say when he landed a second-place finish with 7,508 points on Saturday.
Coming into the Big 12 championships, he had never scored more than 6,618 points. By getting off to a good start on Friday with a high jump of 6-8 3/4 inches and then launching the javelin more than 204 feet on Saturday he not only eclipsed his expectations, he shattered them.
The Lithuania native will have to hope even higher next time.
“I didn’t expect to finish second. I thought I would be third or maybe fourth,” Kirielius said. “This makes me really excited. I’m really glad I hit this number. It might make the NCAA championships. I’ve been waiting for three years to get there. I really hope I make it.”
Finley second — Kansas junior Mason Finley just missed out in the shot put, finishing second with a throw of 63-1 1/4. Jacob Thormaehlen, of Texas, won with a top throw of 66-7 3/4. Finley went all out to win, but fouled on four of his five attempts.
In the women’s shot put, Tia Brooks set a conference record with a throw of 59-9 1/2. The Oklahoma junior won the event by nearly two feet.
Decathlon — 1. Murphy, Texas, 7,642; 2. Kirielius, K-State, 7,508; 3. Dick, K-State, 7,425; 4. Greaves, Texas, 7,198; 5. Wilkins, Iowa St., 7,047. Shot put — 1. thormaehlen, Texas, 66-7 3/4; 2. Finley, Kansas, 63-1 1/4; 3. Baillio, Texas, 63-0; 4. Spence, Texas, 59-4 1/4; 5. Hershberger, K-State, 59-0 3/4. Long jump — 1. Goodwin, Texas, 26-10 1/2; 2. Silkauskas, K-State, 25-8 3/4; 3. Pennix, Missouri, 25-8; 4. Lamb, Texas Tech, 25-2 1/2; 5. Jackson, Texas, 24-9.
Heptathlon — 1. Krais, K-State, 5,661; 2. Nwokey, Texas Tech, 5,600; 3. Vollmer, Kansas, 5,517; 4. Murphy, K-State, 5,399; 5. Hemann, Texas A&M, 5,285. Shot put — 1. Brooks, Oklahoma, 59-9 1/2; 2. Peoples, Missouri, 57-11; 3. White, Baylor, 54-10 3/4; 4. Frere, Iowa St., 54-6 1/2; 5. Okafor, Texas Tech, 54-1 3/4. Long jump — 1. Simpson, Kansas, 21-10 3/4; 2. Geubelle, Kansas, 21-4; 3. Mock, Oklahoma, 21-0 1/2; 4. Haberman, K-State, 20-5; 5. Brannon, Texas, 19-4 1/4. Pole vault — 1. Masterson, Texas, 13-6 1/2; 2. Acker, Oklahoma, 13-6 1/2; 3. Payne, Kansas, 13-6 1/2; 4. Askimakis, Texas A&M, 13-0 3/4; 5. Green, Missouri, 13-0 3/4.