K-State’s Rovelto Announces Retirement After 32 Years as Director of Cross Country/Track and Field

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Legendary track coach Cliff Rovelto announced Tuesday (May 14) plans to retire at the end of the 2024 outdoor season after 32 seasons as Kansas State’s Director of Cross Country and Track and Field.

“It has been an honor and blessing to have had the opportunity to coach at K-State for the past 36 years,” Rovelto said. “My life has truly been enriched by the relationships developed over the years with our student-athletes and members of our staff. Our student-athletes and staff have always represented our university in a manner in which K-Staters can be proud. We have had some teams who have experienced tremendous successes in cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field but I am even more proud of their academic performances and honors earned over the years. K-State is a special university and I have always been appreciative of the support that wonderful K-Staters have given our student-athletes and our program.”

The second-most tenured coach in K-State history, just behind the 34 years logged by Hall of Fame track coach Ward Haylett, Rovelto started his career in Manhattan in 1988 as an assistant coach under John Capriotti before being promoted to head coach in November 1992. All told, he has been at the school for 36 seasons.

Under Rovelto’s leadership, K-State has developed into one of the top track and field and cross country programs in the country with the Wildcats winning five Big 12 Championships, including four women’s outdoor titles (2001, 2002, 2017, 2018) and women’s cross country championship in 1998. His Wildcat teams have also been the runner-up at the conference championship on eight occasions (1999, 2000 women’s cross country; 2004 men’s indoor; 2001, 2015 women’s indoor and 2015, 2019 and 2021 women’s outdoor championships).

In addition, Rovelto’s teams have earned 33 top-20 team finishes at the NCAA Championships, including 10 top-10 finishes. The fifth place finishes at the 1999 NCAA Women’s Cross Country Championships and the 2002 NCAA Women’s Outdoor Championships tie for the best-ever by a Wildcat men’s and/or women’s team in the program’s history, equaling the finishes set by the 1966 men’s indoor and 1984 women’s indoor teams.

In all, Rovelto has overseen a track program that has produced 17 NCAA Champions, while 25 athletes have earned national runner-up finishes and another 21 have placed third. During his tenure, the cross country and track and field programs have totaled 312 individual All-American honors and 186 conference champions.

“Coach Rovelto is one of the most respected and successful track and field coaches in the country,” Athletics Director Gene Taylor said. “K-State is surrounded by phenomenal people who care deeply about this university, and no one exemplifies that any better than Coach Rovelto. He has poured into this program and university for almost 40 years and will leave as not only the most decorated head coach in his sport in school history, but arguably in all of K-State sports. Conference championships, NCAA champions and Olympic medalists have been consistent under his leadership, and he will be greatly missed. We wish him and Karol a wonderful retirement and look forward to having them back regularly in Manhattan.”

As a world renowned coach in the high jump, Rovelto helped K-State achieve the moniker, ‘HighJumpU,’ as Wildcat men’s and women’s athletes have combined to claim 12 individual NCAA Championships in the event during the indoor and outdoor championship seasons. Scott Sellers claimed three individual high jump national titles (2007, 2009 outdoor and 2009 indoor), while Erik Kynard (2011, 2012 outdoor) and Tejaswin Shankar (2018, 2022 outdoor) each won two championships during their Wildcat careers.

The eight combined men’s outdoor national champions are the second-most in the country behind USC (11).

Other high jump national championships under Rovelto include Percell Gaskins (1993 indoor), Nathan Leeper (1998 outdoor), Akela Jones (2016 indoor) and Kim Williamson (2016 outdoor).

Since 1989, K-State has produced at least one All-American in the high jump in 30 of the last 35 years, earning 76 All-American honors in the event. The school has had 37 top-3 placings at the NCAA Championships in that span, including 12 NCAA champions, 16 national runners-up and nine third-place finishes.

Personally coached by Rovelto, Sellers, Kynard and Shankar are all rare 8-time All-Americans in the event (earning the distinction in both indoor and outdoor seasons during each of their four years of eligibility), while Shankar earned a ninth All-American honor while competing in the triple jump.

On the world stage, Rovelto has coached 17 individuals, who have represented their countries at the Olympic Games 22 times, including gold medalists Erik Kynard (2012) and silver medalists Austra Skujyte (2004) and Matt Hemingway (2004). Skujyte competed for Lithuania in the women’s heptathlon during four consecutive games from 2000-12, first earning a silver in 2004 before taking home the bronze in 2012. Rovelto coached Hemingway to the silver in the men’s high jump at the 2004 Athens Olympics before helping Kynard win the gold medal in the event at the 2012 London Olympics while still competing as a K-State student-athlete.

In addition, Rovelto has also coached 23 individuals that competed in 35 Outdoor World Championships, including three world indoor medalists and three world outdoor medalists, while coaching 42 USA National Champions. He has also mentored two Diamond League Champions in the high jump (Jesse Williams and Kynard).

Rovelto has guided K-State teams to top-10 finishes on 10 occasions at the NCAA Championships, including in 1993 (8th/men’s indoor), 1998 (10th/men’s outdoor), 1999 (5th/women’s cross country), 2000 (7th/women’s indoor and 10th/women’s cross country), 2002 (5th/women’s outdoor), 2015 (9th/women’s outdoor), 2016 (8th/women’s indoor and t-7th/women’s outdoor) and 2017 (9th/women’s outdoor).

During his tenure at K-State, Rovelto has personally coached 222 All-Americans and 109 conference champions.

The 6-time Big 12 Coach of the Year was honored as the 2001 NCAA Women’s Outdoor National Coach of the Year after leading the Wildcats to a 16th-place finish, including heptathlon national champion Skujyte. He has also been selected as the Midwest Region Coach of the Year on 9 occasions by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), most recently in 2019.

Rovelto has been selected as Big 12 Women’s Outdoor Coach of the Year on 5 occasions (2001, 2002, 2017, 2018, 2019) as well as 2015 Women’s Indoor Coach of the Year. Since 1997, his five outdoor honors are the most among active conference coaches and the second-most all-time. Four of his six Coach of the Year awards followed the women’s outdoor Big 12 Championships in 2001, 2002, 2017 and 2018.

The 2002 Drake Relays Coaches Hall of Fame inductee has served 10 times on Team USA coaching staffs, most notably as an assistant for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He was also a women’s assistant coach for Team USA at the 2003 and 2005 World Outdoor Championships and a men’s assistant coach at the 2007 World Outdoor Championships. He was the head coach for men’s team at the 2011 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Beyond the track, four Wildcats have been named Big 12 Scholar-Athletes of the Year since 2013 while the men’s and women’s teams have combined for over 400 Academic All-Big 12 First-Team honors in the last 20 years.

A native of Ancon, Panama, Rovelto graduated from the University of Kansas in 1978, joining the school’s track and field staff as a graduate assistant on the men’s team in 1981 before being named a full-time assistant and cross country coach for the women’s team in 1983. He served as interim women’s head coach for the 1987-88 season. He would go on to coach eight All-Americans and seven Big Eight champions during his time with the Jayhawks.

Rovelto began his coaching career in 1979, coaching track and field at McLouth High School in Kansas. In his two years with the Bulldogs, he coached six state champions, five state record-holders and one high school All-American.

Rovelto is a USA Coaching Education Level II and Level III instructor for the jumps and combined events and USA Junior and Senior Development Clinician for the jumps and combined events. He has served as an IAAF Coaching School Clinician for the Combined Events and High Jump and has served as clinician/lecturer at numerous clinics/coaching schools throughout the world.

In addition, Rovelto has assisted in the writing of the USATF coaching education curriculum for the combined events, as well as authoring numerous articles for professional journals. He has also authored videos on high jump, combined events, hurdles, sprints and horizontal jumps.

Rovelto is married to Karol Rovelto, who serves as the director of operations and assistant coach for the track and field and cross country teams. She was a former professional high jumper and competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. The couple lives in Manhattan.

How to follow the ‘Cats: For complete information on the K-State Track and Field and Cross Country Teams, visit www.kstatesports.com and follow the team’s social media channels on X (formerly Twitter), Threads, Facebook and Instagram.