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Great Bend, Valley Center girls dominate 5A regional

Valley center junior Anna Eldridge (center) ran her best 100m hurdle time of the season for the...
Valley center junior Anna Eldridge (center) ran her best 100m hurdle time of the season for the regional title Thursday at home. Great Bend freshman Sadie Spray (right) also qualified for state.((photo by Mike Courson))
Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 11:37 AM CDT
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VALLEY CENTER, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - The threat of rain and thunderstorms faded just in time for some of Class 5A’s best to perform at Thursday’s regional track and field meet in Valley Center. Great Bend, behind a wealth of underclassmen, won the meet with 144 points. Valley Center finished second with 94 points, and Topeka West scored 88 points for third.

A pair of Great Bend freshmen qualified in both hurdle events but it was Valley Center junior Anna Eldridge with her best time of the season to win the 100s in 15.58. McKenzie Premer ran second for Great Bend in 15.94, and Sadie Spray placed fourth for the Panthers in 16.36. Hays junior Brooklyn Lewallen grabbed the bronze in 16.29.

“It’s awesome,” Eldridge said of being a regional champion. “I’ve been wanting to do it a long time, and not having a season last year, it’s super cool to be able to do it this year.”

Eldridge ran for state in the 4x100 relay as a freshman, and the Lady Hornets again qualified Thursday with Eldridge running the second leg. She will also run the 300m hurdles next Thursday in Wichita.

“I’m wanting to get top-five,” Edridge said of her 100m hurdle goal. “Just getting up on the podium, honestly, would be awesome.”

Premer had her gold-medal run in the 300m hurdles, just beating her PR in 47.52. Spray followed in 48.45, Lewallen picked up another bronze in 48.76, and Eldridge hung on the final qualifying spot by 0.07 seconds in 49.04.

More Great Bend youth showed up in the javelin for two qualifying spots. Freshman Macy Nachtigal, ranked No. 3 in 5A, pulled the upset for the win at 122-9. Lady Panther sophomore Kyndall Blessing, unranked heading into regionals, picked up the bronze at 110-0. Salina South freshman Aunisty McNeal placed second at 114-4, and second-ranked Reagan Geihsler of Salina Central battled injuries to finish fourth at 107-10.

Great Bend junior Taryn Warren finished the season strong in the shot to climb to No. 2 in the 5A ranks. Thursday she won the regional title with a throw of 38-0. Newton senior Enyisha Peterson finished second at 32-7.5, followed by McNeal at 32-5, and Newton freshman Carly Anderson with qualification by an inch at 31-7.

Warren put up a 5A-leading discus throw of 120-9 to end the regular season. Thursday her throw of 116-4 was good enough for the bronze. Topeka West freshman Mikayla Wilkerson won with a PR of 119-1, and Geihsler grabbed the silver at 118-3. Emporia senior Trinity Ervin took the final qualifying spot with a chuck of 115-11.

The Lady Panthers picked up one more gold in the field where senior Lexi Deines led a trio of pole vaulters at 9-6 for the gold. Valley Center’s Maddy Phillips and Salina Central’s Anna Hogeland also cleared 9-6. Lady Hornet freshman Kaylee Kinsinger was the lone vaulter to clear 9-0 for fourth.

Beyond the hurdles, Great Bend picked up various points on the track. Junior Emilia Diaz won the 3200m run in 11:58.38, followed by Valley Center sophomore Hannah Grover in 12:09.14. Lady Panther freshman Addy Nicholson claimed the final state spot by 14 seconds in 12:16.92. Diaz and Grover put together a tighter race in the 1600m run where Diaz prevailed in 5:25.37, followed by Grover in 5:29.59.

In the 400m dash Great Bend freshman Daisy Gomez provided the points in third place in 63.29. Topeka West freshman Victoria Reed won by nearly two seconds in 59.97. Salina Central freshman Elle Denning and Newton sophomore Olivia Antonowich also qualified.

Valley Center senior Jalea Hoddy dominated the 800m run by five seconds in 2:22.74, followed by two Lady Panthers in junior Emma Loomis (2:27.49) and freshman Eliana Beckham (2:28.00). Hays sophomore Amelia Jaeger qualified in 2:29.20.

Great Bend picked up two silvers in the relays. The 4x400 team of Beckham, Spray, Gomez, and Premer ran second in 4:11.37, just behind Salina Central’s team of Makayla Cunningham, Kendyl Gary, Callan Hall, and Elle Denning for the win in 4:10.58. Valley Center and Newton also qualified by wide margins.

Valley Center’s 4x800 team of Kaylee Kinsinger, Hannah Grover, Teagan Horning, and Hoddy cut 14 seconds off its best time of the season for the win in 9:59.90. Great Bend’s team of Beckham, Olivia Rugan, Hannah Loomis, and Emma Loomis picked up the silver in 10:16.78. Hays and Salina South also advanced comfortably.

Thursday’s high jump event featured six of 5A’s top-14 jumpers, all separated but just three inches. Newton senior Asha Regier, a seventh-place finisher at state two years ago, matched her season best for the win at 5-4. Salina Central’s Cunningham also cleared 5-4 for the silver. Great Bend senior Candice Smith cleared 5-2 for the bronze, and Topeka West sophomore MaKinsey Jones grabbed the final qualifying spot as one of five jumpers to clear the bar at 5-0.

“I was a bit nervous just because there was a bunch of other girls who has the same PR as me,” Regier said. “Once I get here and I start jumping, I’m so competitive and just hate losing. I usually do pretty well at these kinds of meets.”

Regier cleared 5-0 at state as a sophomore two years ago. Minus the top-two jumpers, most of that state field could be back in Wichita next week in another highly-competitive event.

“My personal goal is just to do better than my sophomore year,” said Regier. “Hopefully I can jump 5-6. I know I’m close so hopefully I can get that at state.”

Hays senior Reanna Green entered the long jump ranked No. 6 in all of Kansas. She cleared the gold by just two inches at 17-4.5, followed by Topeka West’s Adina Davis at 17-2.5. Central’s Cunningham and Emporia’s Kaitlyn Ayer also qualified.

The triple jump featured two of the state’s top-10 jumpers this season. Newton junior Hayley Loewen added nearly seven inches to her best mark of the season for the win at 37-8, followed by Green at 35-4 for the silver. Topeka West’s Davis and MaKinsey Jones took the final two qualifying spots.

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