DES MOINES, Iowa — The idea — sliding a 400-meter hurdle race in between the sixth and seventh events of the heptathlon at the NCAA championships — was preposterous to Cliff Rovelto, Kansas State's director of track and field.
By doing both, Rovelto feared, Ryann Krais risked not winning either.
"It's such a ridiculously difficult thing to do," Rovelto said. "You don't even entertain the thought of doing it."
But the more Krais thought about it, the more intrigued she was by the challenge, and Rovelto was left in awe Friday when Krais won the heptathlon championship and finished third in the hurdles race on a memorable night for the Wildcats' track program.
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Moments before Krais clinched the heptathlon by blowing away the field in the 800 meters, teammate Erik Kynard captured the high jump. For the first time since 1986, Kansas State had two champions in the NCAA outdoor meet.
"It's a great night all around," Rovelto said.
A longer one for the competitors because of multiple rain delays that pushed the schedule deeper into the evening.
No matter to Krais. She found the energy to amass a solid lead in the heptathlon heading into the final event, the third of the day. Krais was disappointed in her javelin performance, which essentially kept her from reaching her scoring goal.
"It's the heptathlon, you're not going to have seven great events," Krais said.
Krais said she got through Friday by leaning on trainers who kept her limber plus a large support group of family and coaches from college and high school. Krais is a junior from Eagleville, Pa., and spent her first two years at UCLA. There she was coached by Bob Kersee and his wife Jackie Joyner-Kersee, the three-time Olympic gold-medal winner.
But Krais didn't like the direction of her career and transferred to work with Rovelto.
"When I decided to transfer, a lot of people referred me to coach Rovelto, and the more I talked to him the more I realized, it would be insane of me to go anywhere else but K-State," Krais said.
Same for Kynard, a sophomore from Toledo, Ohio, whose sixth-place finish in last year's NCAA championships served as an inspiration for this meet.
"That motivated me a lot," Kynard said.
So much that Kynard said he wasn't going leave with anything less than a championship.
"I was going to blow every bar up," Kynard said. And by that he meant he wasn't going to touch one at any height.
That was the case until two jumpers remained after Kynard and Mississippi's Ricky Robertson cleared 7 feet, 5 inches.
Kynard missed on his first attempt at 7-6, but got over on the second try. On Robertson's third attempt, the bar hung momentarily before falling onto the pad. Kynard had his first championship, and Kansas State's fourth in the event since 1998.
Kansas sprinter Diamond Dixon finished third in the 400 in 51.88 seconds. She was the only freshman in the finals.
Moritz Cleve of Kansas State finished eighth and picked up one point for the Wildcats.