MANHATTAN — Winning an NCAA championship in the high jump last week was a satisfying experience for Erik Kynard. But that's all it was.
Ask the Kansas State sophomore, who cleared 7 feet, 6 inches to claim his title, how it felt to win at the NCAA's biggest track and field meet or what he thinks of all the attention he has received on campus since, and he doesn't light up like a typical 20-year-old.
Instead, he speaks with the confidence and determination of a three-time Olympian.
"It feels great to win a national championship," Kynard said, "but it's one of those things. I work hard and I train hard, so winning is not a surprise to me. I expect to go in and compete at a high level.
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"I've been getting a lot of congratulations, everyone wanting know how I feel. But it's hard to describe how you feel about winning, especially when it's only another step up the ladder and I've got another meet coming up. I don't have time to sit back and reflect. I'm a very obsessed individual. No breaks. No days off."
While some have encouraged him to savor the moment a little more, Kynard has a point. His next meet is a big one. Kynard and teammate Ryann Krais, who won an NCAA championship in the heptathlon, will compete at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships this weekend in Eugene, Ore.
A top-three finish will earn him a spot at the world championships. That's something even Kynard, whose highest outdoor jump of 7-7 is the fifth-highest outdoor clearing in the world this year, can get excited about.
"That would mean a lot," Kynard said. "I'm a young guy, 20 years old. I show up to meets to compete. This one will be bigger and the competition will be harder, but winning is one of the expectations I set for myself. I'll be trying to live up to that."
So will Krais, a junior who began her college career at UCLA.
Though her experiences have been slightly different than Kynard's the past week — she at least took time after the NCAA championship to eat a celebratory appetizer of chicken nachos with her father — she is taking a similar approach to her next competition.
As nice as it was to win last week, it would be that much nicer to be successful this weekend. She has always dreamed of qualifying for the world championships, the same way she has pictured herself in the Olympics.
She, too, believes she can claim a top-three finish.
"By now the emotions of winning last week have set in, and I'm back to preparing for the next meet," she said. "I've been up there to Oregon a few times, but this will be my first trip with this kind of confidence."
Last week's victory has a lot to do with that. But more than anything, she says the new training regimen she developed with K-State coach Cliff Rovelto has given her the chance to succeed.
It's a demanding and complicated system, but it adequately prepares her muscles to compete in all seven heptathlon events while building endurance.
"The biggest difference between this year and past years was the ability to have full confidence in my training program," Krais said. "So now when I'm at a meet I know that I've done everything that I could to perform at my best."
Since their arrivals at K-State, both Kynard and Krais have put their faith in grueling training between meets. As the pressure builds toward a major event, they don't plan on changing that routine.
"I want to jump high, but I'm not going to throw out numbers or predictions," Kynard said. "Coach always tells me if you prepare and do things the right way, the results will come. That's what I plan to do."