Eryk Kyser (JR/Caney, Kan.)’s approach entering this week’s NAIA National Outdoor Track and Field Championships long jump competition is straightforward: now or never.
“I’ve worked so hard; the results just came up short every time so the last time I might as well make the most of it and get the results I want,” he said. “Everyone’s has goals, I’ve got to hit that goal this week – hopefully.”
Kyser, who graduated this month with a degree in business management that he attained in three years, is ranked fifth nationally. He finished second in the Kansas Conference meet and met the NAIA’s A Standard with a school record jump of 7.56 meters May 5 in Hillsboro.
Kyser will compete Thursday at Marion, Ind., on the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University. The three-day event begins Wednesday and continues through Friday.
Kyser said the biggest obstacle in his fifth trip to nationals is himself.
“My last two times in nationals – indoors and then last year’s outdoors – I scratched all three jumps by the smallest amounts,” he said. “I had the capability to achieve the goals I wanted last time but came up short.
“I was overthinking, it was getting in my head too much. I know what I’m capable of and I think if I just go out there and do it the results will come.”
His coach Kyle Hiser concurs.
“He’s battle tested, and he’s been there before,” he said. “He’s got to put whatever has happened in the past behind and just know that it’s a new competition.”
It will require launching himself off the board without fouling.
“You have to be consistent in your approach and when you hit the board it’s driving your leg up,” Kyser said. “If you’re consistent down the runway and you come off the board right it’s naturally going to happen.”
“That’s the biggest hurdle we’ve got to get over is putting himself on the board,” Hiser said. “I tell all my jumpers we want to have a consistent approach to the board. That’s what gives you confidence and gives you that feel on the runway. Then it’s being patient off the board and just having some fun in the sand at the end.
“It’s a sprint event and a lot of times people want to rush it, but it takes a lot of patience. It all happens within milliseconds. If he does that, I think he’ll be just fine.”
Kyser is confident heading into his final competition.
“I’m more focused, trained more,” he said. “The results are better coming in this time, so I definitely think my head is in the right space. You’ve got three opportunities. If that first one doesn’t go your way you’ve got to just forget it – you’ve got two more.
“I’ve been here, I’ve earned my spot five times now, so I know I deserve to be here. I’ve just got to forget the previous results and go for what’s coming up.”
Kyser didn’t take up long jumping until his junior year in high school after playing baseball. He enjoyed immediate success.
“I broke my own school record my junior year,” he said. “I didn’t get a senior year because a COVID but I already had a connection with coach Hiser, so I knew I had a place to come and compete.”
Thursday will be the grand finale.
“I’ve done almost everything I came to do and just have one more task,” he said. “If I get the results I expect to get, then I’ll be alright with leaving it behind because I plan on going into coaching in the future. My time to compete over but that doesn’t mean I can’t help others.”
Kyser will be joined in Indiana by teammates Cole Parker (SR/Corning, Calif.) and Mark Benjamin.
Parker will compete in the javelin Wednesday and the shot put Friday. He’s ranked 15th nationally in the shot put and 16th in the javelin. Parker qualified for nationals in the javelin last spring and competed in the shot put in the NAIA indoor meet in March.
He was chosen the Field Athlete of the Meet at the KCAC Championships after scoring 24 points in the shot put, javelin and discus.
“He’s going to give it his best and end his career strong for us, I’m excited to see what he can do,” Hiser said. “Indoors in the shot he was in the second flight and found his way into the finals. He’s putting together a good series and he’ll be just fine.”
Benjamin qualified for 100-meter dash and is ranked 32nd nationally. He finished fourth in the KCAC meet with a time of 10.53 seconds, which met the NAIA’s B Standard.
“I know he has some pretty big goals,” Hiser said of Benjamin, who’s also a member of the football team. “He’s healthy. He wasn’t going to the indoor national championship so going in he’s just trying to finish anything higher than (32nd). I think he’s ready to go.”