Tyson Holmes (Shawnee Heights) entered his senior season as one of the nation’s top prep javelin throwers returning from 2011 and it doesn’t appear he is going to disappoint folks. His throw of 210’1” Thursday evening at the WSU Pre-State Challenge came within 11” of his #10 all-time Kansas best mark of 211’0” from last season.
It was neat to see the Elite high school javelin throws as well as the 4A-6A javelin for both girls and boys thrown inside Cessna Stadium last week. It was too bad though the Elite Boys competition didn’t get underway until after the final running event of the evening had concluded as most of the crowd was heading for the exits.
Blake Hocking (Lawrence) improved his season best at Friday’s Lawrence Free State Barrier Breakers meet when he threw the shot 62’2” to move within seven inches of his career best and #10 all-time Kansas mark of 62’9” set last season.
We have a weather delay!
Weather delays aren’t always the most pleasant time for meet management or coaches and athletes. Management has to balance the safety of athletes, coaches, meet workers, and fans against prematurely re-starting or getting a meet underway while coaches and athletes are just anxious to get the whole thing going.
Thursday’s late morning storm which rolled through Wichita forced a three-hour delay in the start of the second day of the K.T. Woodman Classic/WSU Pre-State Challenge. But, the delay gave me some time to reflect on collegiate track in Kansas and the opportunities those programs offer Kansas high school athletes to continue their T&F careers.
I’ve worked meets for and been around a lot of these schools over the years and feel I have friends on many of the staffs so I hope what I say below doesn’t ruin those relationships for me.
With three NCAA Division I and three NCAA D-II track and field programs in Kansas 10-plus KCAC schools and Baker University competing in the NAIA in addition to the schools of the Jayhawk Junior College Conference competing in track, and Kansas prep athletes wanting to continue their competitive T&F career after high school should be able to find a college and a level of competition appropriate for them.
It is generally acknowledged that the Big 12 is one of the top collegiate T&F conferences in NCAA D-I. To compete for Big 12 and national honors, KU and K-State have to look first for athletes that can score in the Big 12 and NCAA championships. These will be the elite prep or junior college athlete (Kansan, American, or foreign) or the one that has shown definite potential for developing into a “big meet” scorer. K-State, whose coaches who have shown that even though working with budget resources among the smallest in that conference, the Wildcats can compete by recruiting world-wide and developing the Kansas athletes that do get to Manhattan. Last year the Wildcats had a pair of NCAA outdoor champions and this winter KU parlayed a minimum number of scorers into an NCAA women’s indoor runner-up finish, but both did it on the national championship level with non-Kansas athletes.
Wichita State has taken a different approach to competing at the top of its conference. The Shockers have emphasized centering its program around Kansas athletes, then filling in the holes with out-of-state and a few foreign athletes. WSU has signed quite of few of Kansas’ better preps in recent years along with some Kansas preps who appeared to “potentially” be D-I athletes with development. The WSU staff has done a great job of developing this “potential” into conference point scoring athletes, some of which has even developed into national caliber athletes.
Those my age and older will remember this as the recruiting model DeLoss Dodds used in developing a K-State program that in the 1960’s and 70’s was able to compete for Big 7 and Big 8 Conference honors and an occasional national honor while KU was seemingly getting the majority of the “elite” Kansas preps (i.e., Jim Ryun, etc.) and was recruiting more nationally, a recruiting plan first used by coach Bill Easton and then by Bob Timmons.
Fort Hays State, Emporia State, and Pittsburg State represent Kansas at the NCAA D-II level of track and field. All three schools regularly place individuals and as teams at the national championship level and are in the middle of the title fight each year for conference honors. Many, and in some cases the majority, of their athletes are former Kansas preps. These three schools have probably felt the impact of WSU’s recent pursuit of Kansas preps more than any other group.
Since the Jayhawk Conference schools are limited in the number of out-of-state athletes they can carry on their rosters, the junior colleges and the 11 NAIA T&F schools in the state generally go head-to-head in recruiting the remainder of the state’s graduating preps. Cost definitely comes into play here in this battle. The cost of attending a community college may be lower, but for many student-athletes being at the same school and in the same training program for four years does have its advantages. Having worked at an NAIA school prior to my “retirement”, I’ve seen many cases where the coaches at the NAIA schools actually recruit many of these athletes twice, first coming out of high school and then again two years later when the athlete comes out of junior college, if the that is route the athlete took in hopes of developing into a D-I or D-II recruited athlete or just because it was cheaper.
No matter the level Kansas preps eventually compete at, my hope would be that every track and field athlete who wants to continue a competitive career in the sport beyond high school goes for it. I would suggest they, along their parents and coaches, seriously and realistically look at how high a level they can compete while still being able to enjoy life as a student. For some it may be a D-I school with an enrollment of 20,000 to 30,000 students; for others, it may be a school of less than a 1,000 at the NJCAA or NAIA level. Take time to visit the campus and talk to professors in your area of academic interest as well as the coaches and athletes. Whatever the final decision might be, I hope every prep STUDENT-athlete finds, first and foremost, that school and competitive opportunity that fits them best, academically, socially, and athletically as well as has coaches whose training philosophy are also a fit.
You know, after being weathered out of most of the Pre-State Challenge schedule, a three-hour delay wasn’t bad at all!