Records fall every year at the State Track Meet and two marks on Friday dropped before McDonald’s had finished serving breakfast.
Bishop Carroll’s Nick Meyer took down a one-year-old record held by Gardner Edgerton’s Casey Bowen in the pole vault with a leap of 16-feet, seven-inches. That was one inch better than Bowen’s mark last year.
The record was a bit bittersweet for Meyer.
“You like breaking records, but you kind of don’t like breaking records because you have that relationship with other vaulters,” Meyer said.
The Carroll standout happens to have a very good relationship with Bowen. In fact, some of Meyer’s success can be attributed to the former Blazer according to Meyer’s coach Dennis Frazier.
“We actually are good friends with Casey Bowen and we asked how he went from 15 to 16 and 17 feet and Nick basically modeled his training after (Bowen). He just emulated what Casey did,” Frazier said.
The advice Meyer got was simple, but not fun.
“You have to do all of the stuff that nobody else wants to put the time in to do. The pole runs, the plants, all the drills that nobody really wants to do,” Frazier said. “That is what Casey did and that is what Nick did.”
It paid off on Friday morning as Meyer broke the record and then gunned to vault over 17-feet on his next height. It was a height that intimidated even the high-flying Meyer.
“It is really intimidating that you are going higher than your pole is,” Meyer said. “That 17 (feet) you have to look up and kind of tilt your head back a little bit.”
The pole that Meyer was one at the end was an unfamiliar one.
“We used a pole he had never even jumped on,” Frazier said. “He seems to come through when he really needs it. He musters up enough guts to do whatever he needs to do.”
Even without the correct pole Meyer was still successful.
“It really wasn’t even the right pole for that jump, but we got him close. We have to go back and find him some new poles. It is a good problem to have,” Frazier said.
As much of a fraternity as pole vaulting is there is still a rivalry there, and Frazier is happy to have the 5A record with a Carroll name next to it.
“I was very pleased to get it (the record) back from Gardner,” Frazier said. “We hate each other and love each other. (Gardner Edgerton vault coach) Thane (Nonamaker) are the worst enemies and best friends. He always has five kids and I always have five kids battling it out at state. It is kind of nice that they are not in 5A anymore.”
Swanson takes down Brigham
Everyone expected Emily Brigham of Mill Valley to cruise to the Class 5A pole vault title. She owns the state’s all-time No. 1 mark with a leap of 13 feet from earlier this season, which is tied for the 10th-best jump in the nation.
On Friday, Salina Central senior Taylor Swanson did something nobody expected and grabbed the title from Brigham with a state-record tying vault of 12-feet.
Her coach J.D. Garber had confidence she could win a title to cap her senior year before heading to Arkansas State to vault next year.
“I just knew that Taylor was going to be ready. She has always been like that,” Garber said. “I told her not to even worry about Emily (Brigham). It is the height. You just do what you do every day.”
Swanson too had confidence that this could be her day.
“I just try to keep telling myself not to count myself out. She (Brigham) could have a bad day and I could end up having a really good day,” Swanson said. “I just told myself to focus and come do what I know how to do and that is pole vault.”
The turning point of the event was Swanson clearing 12-feet on her first attempt after a Brigham miss.
“I was very psyched,” Swanson said. “I was freaking out on the mat because I knew that since she missed her first one that it put me in first place. My coach was trying to get me to calm down. He (said) don’t get too excited. It’s not over yet.”
Swanson was so elated because she knew she had within her sight something that was just a hope as a freshman when she qualified for state but did not make opening height.
“I’ve dreamed of being a state champion since my freshman year,” Swanson said.
But it was just that, a dream, even for Swanson who never thought she would clear the heights she has been to.
“I didn’t think that I would ever be jumping over 11 feet,” Swanson said.
On Friday the confident Swanson not only cleared 11-feet, but opened her state meet at 11-feet after missing the opening height as a freshman.
“My coaches in Arkansas had me jump 11-feet five times in a row,” Swanson said. “If you can jump 11 (feet) five times in a row you can start at 11.”
Shawnee Mission West takes down distance record
Shawnee Mission West junior Alli Cash was the talk of the meet coming into Friday. She had a shot at every distance record Class 6A had to offer coming in. Shawnee Mission West did take down one of the oldest records on the book in the 3200-meter run, but it wasn’t Cash who put her face in the State Meet program, but teammate Jonah Heng.
Kansas has not seen an athlete drop below the 9:10-mark in the 3200 since Fredonia’s Lane Boyer in 2006.
Heng brought in the State’s best 3200-meter time at 9:18.31, but even he didn’t think that 9:10 barrier was within reach. He just went out in the race to try and cancel out his competitor’s kicks.
“I’m not that great of a kicker and Kain Anderson (Lawrence Free State) has an amazing kick. I was trying to get far enough ahead that I wouldn’t get caught up in that. I’m not a very fast sprinter at all,” Heng said.
Heng didn’t need to sprint. He nailed even 69-second quarters for much of the race and led from the gun to blaze a time of 9:06.64 to take down a record that was long thought untouchable. The Shawnee Mission West standout’s time lowered the 33-year-old record held by Shawnee Mission South’s Brent Steiner down two seconds from 9:08.18.
It is the fastest 3200 time in the history of the State Track Meet and the ninth-best in Kansas history.
Heng destroyed a solid field that included the Class 6A Cross Country champion Jacob Morgan of Washburn Rural. Morgan was in the back of his mind the whole race.
“I thought I heard him (Morgan) close behind me and I tried to keep pushing it. I didn’t want to turn around because that will just slow you down so I just decided to step on it,” Heng said.
Heng stepped on it to the tune of a 63-second final lap to get the record.
His teammate Alli Cash did cruise to a win of her own in a time of 10:46.71, which was 20 seconds better than the defending champion Amber Eichkorn of Wichita North’s time.
Lincoln girls sweep top spots in 2A girls 3200
There was not a better way for the Lincoln distance running duo of Jenna Farris and Emma Huskey to finish their long distance running relationship than a 1-2 finish in the Class 2A 3200-meter run.
Farris, a junior, broke the tape at 11:43.22, while her senior teammate Emma Huskey was just behind in second place at 11:50.75.
The finish was exactly how things have gone this year for the Leopard pair.
“I didn’t even know Emma (Huskey) was second behind me until I turned around at the end,” Farris said. “It is just great having it one-two because we have been like that all year.”
The win is her third 3200-meter win in three tries and much of her success as a distance runner can be attributed to her training partner Huskey.
“We go hard a lot together (at practice). It helps when someone is there with you in sprints. The guys are there to push you, but having somebody right there in your range helps a lot,” Farris said.
This is Farris’ third 3200-meter title in three tries, so nerves do not factor in for the seasoned distance runner anymore.
“I am not as nervous,” Farris said. “I think the nervous goes away when the gun goes off.”
Farris will look for two more medals with the 1600 and 800 tomorrow.
In the boys’ 3200, Brady Johnson of Plainville had the best 2A time coming into the meet, but injuries have derailed him late in the season.
Johnson made a go of it, but did not have enough gas as he got nipped late by Elkhart’s Joseph Iman and Ness City’s Kyle Schauvliege. Iman finished in a time of 9:48.31 to take the title.
Sechrist hands Ruder first loss
Thomas More Prep’s Heather Ruder doesn’t lose distance races at State.
Somebody forgot to tell Hillsboro’s Emily Sechrist.
Sechrist ran a tactically sound race to end Ruder’s streak of back-to-back sweeps of the distance events at the State Track Meet.
Her strategy was simple on Friday evening.
“My coach told me to try and stay with her and so I tried to stay with her and I passed her at the end because she slowed down the pace,” Sechrist said.
Sechrist finished in a time of 11:42.36 and now has a track gold medal to match her State Cross Country championship from last fall.
Ruder finished three seconds back at 11:45.78.
Sechrist sees taking this title as a freshman as only fair.
“She won as a freshman (now) I won as a freshman,” Sechrist said. “She did it and now I can do it too.”
On the boys’ side, Sacred Heart’s Cory Donley cruised to a win by 24 seconds with a time of 9:50.79. He is seeking two more individual titles this weekend in the 800 and 1600.
Kennedy Schneider makes it two
Tactics ruled the day in the Class 1A girls 3200-meter run, and Tribune senior Kennedy Schneider was about perfect.
“I knew that is was windy so I had to be smart about that,” Schneider said. “It helps that I have been running the 800 all year, so I have a little stronger finish.”
Schneider went out slowly with the pack, but turned it on in the late stages of the race to cruise to her second consecutive 3200-meter title in a time of 12:07.41. Axtell’s Audrey Schmitz was with Schneider up to the last 600, but the Tribune senior put the hammer down and won easily by 12 seconds.
Centralia’s Lukas Koch won his second-consecutive 3200-meter title on the 1A boys’ side with a time of 9:50.60
Vieth shakes off disappointment to win long jump title
Cheney junior Hunter Vieth is the best triple jumper in Class 4A according to the state leaderboard, but he will not be in contention for a medal at the state meet.
Last week, Vieth endured the biggest disappointment of his track career by failing to qualify for state in the triple jump.
“(It was) the fourth field event of the day. I was tired, the wind was blowing hard, step was off (and) scratched all three of them,” Vieth said.
Vieth took that disappointment and used it in his second-best event of long jump.
“Everything I worked for was triple jump. I converted all that and tried harder on my next two events,” Vieth said.
The Cheney junior busted the winning mark on his first jump of the competition as he took off from the runway and landed 22-feet, 9.5 inches away.
“It felt pretty good. The first jump of the day is usually my best (because) I’m not wore out or anything,” Vieth said.
After a rough go at the regional meet, Vieth was able to relax thanks to his great first jump.
“It relieves so much because I know I have a solid mark to go after. I don’t have to wait for the very last one if I am ranked fourth and then I have to go on the last jump and do a good jump,” Vieth said.
Vieth still has one more event with the high jump tomorrow at 11:30 a.m.
Thor starts quest for distance sweep
Last year Bishop Carroll’s David Thor won the 1600 and 3200, but fell short in the 800 as a junior at the State Track Meet. This year has started off well again for the Carroll distance runner as he took the Class 5A 3200-meter title in a time of 9:25.36.
He and teammate Gage Garcia worked well together for the first six laps before Thor put the hammer down. Garcia would finish second as Thor pushed hard despite the pain involved in running fast.
“It takes a lot to go all out and one of my biggest fears is pain,” Thor said. “It is hard for me to push myself. I can push myself, but once it gets to that pain threshold it is ‘do I stay here or do I go past it and just push through it?”
Thor pushed himself hard through the final two laps to post the best time in Class 5A this year. This state track meet is all about being savvy in his final set of races as a senior.
“(It) is just knowing the right moment to go and not making a dumb mistake again,” Thor said. “As long as I stay focused I will be fine.”
Carroll picked up 20 points in the 3200 as the Golden Eagles chase the Hays juggernaut seeking its third consecutive team title, but Thor and his teammates know they can only control so much in the pursuit of the team title.
“I have to focus on my own race and so do my other two teammates. I can’t really do much for them. What’s theirs to handle is theirs to handle and what is mine to handle is mine to handle,” Thor said.
Carroll’s Kaelyn Balch led much of the way in the girls’ 3200-meter run, but came up short as she was out-kicked by Aquinas’ Maddie Hopfinger. Hopfinger finished in a time of 11:03.98 ahead of Balch’s 11:07.93.
Finley finishing strong
The last several months have not been good from a running standpoint for Colby’s Emilea Finley.
She was a favorite last October in the State Cross Country meet, but faded to 20th. Finley then hit training hard all winter long, but she didn’t get a step faster and was discouraged.
“I trained hard over winter and all I would do is get slower. I just didn’t want to run anymore,” Finley said.
Fortunately she talked with a college coach about her problem and she figured out what her issue was.
“I was anemic at the start of the year. That is why my times were really horrible,” Finley said.
After getting her iron levels up, Finley has started rolling again and is peaking for her senior State Track Meet.
“This entire year has been a high because in the mile I have taken off like nine seconds in every race.”
The 3200-meter is not her forte and she only ran in three times coming into Friday morning. She focused on being a bit cautious to start the race.
“I haven’t run the two-mile much. So my first (strategy) was to just get in there and start out easy. I know I started out too fast in the beginning part of the year when I wasn’t running very fast,” Finley said. “I would just die off and people would pass me. I just wanted to start off really smooth and I ended up running even splits.”
Finley posted back-to-back miles at 5:31 pace to run a time of 11:02.98 to beat Pratt’s Cheyenne Becker’s second place performance of 11:15.47.
Agnew closes stellar freshman season
Freshmen are not supposed to win gold medals at the State Track Meet. Freshmen are not supposed to be in the top three nationally in their event on the track.
Somebody forgot to inform Andover super-freshman Jaylyn Agnew about these rules.
Agnew posted a leap of 5-feet, 10-inches last week at the regional meet for the third-best mark in the nation this year. She matched that mark on Friday morning for her first gold medal on track’s biggest stage in Kansas.
“After I got 5-10 I felt like a burden was lifted off my shoulders,” Agnew said. “It just felt so good.”
The atmosphere at Cessna Stadium is something that nobody could have prepared this freshman for, but her nerves did not show.
“It is pretty intense. It is very nerve-wracking,” Agnew said. “I have been nervous since last night. Experiencing it has been even more nerve-wracking.”
Agnew destroyed the competition as she won by a six inches over second-place finisher Stephanie Knab of Andover Central.