Great Bend girls beat Hutchinson for 5A regional title

5A Girls Regional Track & Field held at Maize South
5A Girls Regional Track & Field held at Maize South(Mike Courson)
Published: May. 19, 2023 at 1:11 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - The field athletes set the bar high for Great Bend at Thursday’s Class 5A Regional meet in Maize. Three Lady Panther high jumpers made the top four to punch their ticket to state, and two Great Bend javelin throwers also made the state field. Throw in several more wins on the track and the Lady Panthers finished with 118 points. Hutchinson scored 72 points for second, and Salina Central placed third with 69 points.

Three high jumpers cleared the bar at 5-4. Great Bend junior Sadie Spray did it first for the gold. Hays sophomore Katie Linenberger and Great Bend senior Valarie Luna, who is tied for the all-class lead at 5-7, also cleared 5-4. Cassie Ellegood cleared 5-0 for fourth.

Maize South’s Cece Young took a late lead in the javelin at 127-2. She had to settle for the silver as Great Bend’s Macy Nachtigal added three feet to a career best for the gold at 132-4. Hutchinson’s Aiyanna Green took the bronze at 122-1, and Lady Panther senior Kyndall Blessing celebrated a recent signing with Barton Community College in fourth at 121-9.

“I just was like, forget it,” Nachtigal said of her final throw. “(Young) threw like 127, so I was like okay, let’s go out and beat her.”

There were plenty of stars on the track, as well. Hutchinson senior AnnaLisa Cullens qualified in three individual events and a relay. After missing her freshman year due to COVID, Cullens won four hurdle golds for Class 4A Wellington before making the move to Hutchinson. The senior had the all-class lead for most of the season and ranks No. 8 all-time in Kansas in the 100m hurdles.

Cullens cruised to the 100m hurdle gold in 14.51, followed by Salina South’s Tamia Cheeks for the silver in 16.30. Cullens was just as good in the 300s, winning in 44.92. Reigning 5A runner-up Makenzie Premer of Great Bend won the silver in 46.21, and Spray finished third in 46.21. Cheeks took the other state spot by 1.5 seconds in 49.02.

Maize’s Parker Bender won the 100m dash gold in 12.60, followed by Salina Central’s Elle Denning in 12.68. Cullens grabbed the bronze in 12.79, and Goddard’s Leah LaPlant ran fourth in 12.99. Cullens teamed up with Avery Meier, Azariah Dawes, and KeiRre Martinez to win the 4x100m relay in 49.87. Maize ran second in 49.90, and Hays and Great Bend also qualified for state.

“I’m always used to running on different teams because I do summer track,” Cullens said. “It’s just an opportunity. I’m glad, especially for our 4x1.”

Salina Central sophomore Katelyn Rupe is the top distance runner in Class 5A and one of the best in the state. She won the 3200m run in 11:24.70. Great Bend junior Addy Nicholson collected the silver in 11:43.99. Maize South’s Isabella Ponce and Salina Central’s Mallory Renfro also qualified.

Rupe ran .03 seconds off her 5A leading time to win the 1600m run in 5:02.89. That pushed Nicholson to cut exactly 13 seconds off her career best, setting a new Great Bend High School record in 5:13.11. Ponce and Maize’s Abigail Grantham also qualified for state.

Great Bend’s 4x800m relay team of Premer, Ellegood, Eliana Beckham, and Sienna Smith cut 13 seconds off a season best for the win in 10:05.22. Salina South, Maize South, and Hays also qualified for state. Beckham blazed in the 800m run, cutting two seconds off a career best for the win in 2:21.86. Smith ran second in 2:26.22, and Grantham and Salina South’s Ava Lemaster also qualified.

Great Bend’s reigning state champion 4x400m relay team set a season best last week. Thursday, the girls cut two more seconds for the win in 4:05.47 to win by more than a second. Goddard, Maize, and Hays also qualified.