Best of the best: who to watch in final weeks of track season

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The 2019 prep track season has cross the midway point. A handful of athletes across the state have excelled in multiple events. Here are just a few of the many talented athletes to watch heading into upcoming league, regional, and state meets.

Maddie Righter, senior, Olathe Northwest (6A) – No single athlete has been more impressive than Lady Raven senior Maddie Righter. She was good last year with silvers in the Class 6A long jump and high jump, and a state medal in the 200m dash. But she’s been even better in 2019.

Righter’s best high jump of 5-10 this spring ranks No. 6 all-time in Kansas. Only one jumper in Kansas history, Wichita East’s Kym Carter in 1982, has ever surpassed six feet in the event (6-2.25). Righter currently leads Class 6A by five inches.

Righter is also having a banner year in the long jump, climbing to No. 13 all-time with a best mark of 19-5. No other prep jumper has hit 19 feet this spring, and Righter leads her class and the state by half a foot.

Righter has also been impressive on the track. Through five weeks of the season she ranks No. 3 in the 6A 100m hurdles (15.30) and No. 6 in the 6A 100m dash (25.89).

Timmy Lambert, senior, Smoky Valley (3A) – If the Viking was impressive as a junior with three state titles last May, he has been even more impressive in his final prep season. Lambert set state meet records on the way to titles in the 200m dash and 300m hurdles last season. He also won the 100m dash as a 4A sprinter.

This year Smoky Valley has dropped to Class 3A. Through five weeks of the track season, Lambert leads all of Kansas in the 100m dash (10.53), the 200m dash (21.55), and 300m hurdles (38.45). In Class 3A, he sits at No. 2 in the 110m hurdles (15.10).

Belle Peters, sophomore, Smoky Valley (3A) – The Lady Viking sophomore needed just one season to jump into the Kansas record books. Or more accurately, vaulted her way there. She topped out at 12-10 in the event to climb to No. 5 all-time in the state. She faltered at state behind three seniors with a fourth-place finish at 11-6. Peters recently cleared 12-6 to regain the state lead by six inches. She leads Class 3A by 15 inches.

The Class 3A 100m hurdle field is always competitive and Peters fits right in as a new member of the classification. She sits behind reigning 3A champion Layne Needham of Cheney in the 3A ranks but is one of just four hurdlers in Kansas this spring to crack 15 seconds FAT time. Peters will be looking to improve upon a seventh-place finish at state in the event last spring.

Hunter Jones, senior, Nickerson (4A) – The Panther senior returns as one of the most versatile athletes of the track season. Last spring, Jones cleared 6-8 for second place in Class 4A. He currently sits at No. 2 in the Class 4A ranks with the same height. Only four jumpers in Kansas have better marks this season. Jones also sits at No. 2 in the Class 4A ranks with a best javelin throw of 193-0. He finished seventh at state in that event last season and currently ranks No. 3 in all of Kansas.

Jones is also a force on the track where he ranks No. 8 in Class 4A in the 300m hurdles (40.95). That versatility makes Jones perhaps the best pentathlete in the state this spring. His 3,245 points in that event are more than 600 more than the next-best competitor (Maize’s Josh McLaughlin).

Emma Ruddle, junior, McPherson (5A) – McPherson moves to Class 5A at just the right time as Newton’s reign in the 100m and 200m dashes has partially ended. That leaves the door cracked for the reigning 4A 100m champion to earn a title in her new class. Newton’s Kalli Anderson still leads Kansas this spring at 11.89 and ranks No. 2 all-time in the state with her best time of 11.58. Ruddle sits at No. 2 in Class 5A with a best time of 12.47 this spring. She won her state title last year in 12.37.

But if Ruddle is a contender in the 100m dash, she’s the favorite in the 100m hurdles. Last year Ruddle blew away the 4A field by half a second to break the 4A state meet record in 14.36, the 13th-fastest all-time in Kansas.

Class 5A remains loaded in the 100m hurdles this year with thee of the top-four times in Kansas. Ruddle leads the state at 14.44 with Newton’s Maggie Remsberg (14.51) and Bishop Carroll’s Kindel Norhus nipping at her heels.

Wes Shaw, senior, Hillsboro (2A) – The Hillsboro thrower lacks some of the track and field versatility of other athletes on the list but make no mistake about it: his success on the basketball court last winter showed off his athleticism.

But Shaw’s complete domination in the throws make him a spectacle at each meet. Last spring, as the state leader, Shaw won the 2A shot put title by nearly 11 feet at 60-11.5. This spring he leads the classification by nearly 10 feet with a top throw of 63-1.75. That throw ranks No. 11 all-time in Kansas and is just 1.25 inches from a top-10 all-time mark.

Shaw has solid state competition in the discus where Winfield’s Matt Everett leads the state at 185-4. Shaw, who finished second in that event last year at state, sits at No. 2 in Kansas this spring and leads Class 3A by more than 22 feet at 176-7.

Brett Winsor, senior, Pratt (4A) – The Greenback senior finished third in the Class 4A 300m hurdle race last spring. This year he’s poised to contend for a handful of medals. With Smoky Valley and Timmy Lambert moving down to 3A, Winsor currently ranks No. 2 in Class 4A in the 300m hurdles (39.89) behind Winfield’s Jack Mull (39.48). Winsor’s time ranks No. 7 in Kansas this spring.

Winsor has also gained momentum in two other events. His best long jump of 22-8 leads Class 4A by 15 inches and sits just half an inch from a top-10 mark in Kansas. Winsor’s best 110m hurdle time of 15.33 makes him one of the best in Kansas but he presently sits at No. 8 in a loaded Class 4A field.

Layne Needham, senior, Cheney (3A) – The Cardinal senior was a force in the 3A ranks last year. She upended reigning champion Taya Wilson of Sterling by 0.03 seconds in the 100m hurdles for one title. She won her marquee event, the 300m hurdles, by nearly half a second in 46.24. The junior Needham also picked up state medals in the 100m and 200m dashes, including a bronze in the latter.

The 3A field gets a little more difficult with Smoky Valley’s Peters joining the mix from Class 4A, but Needham is still the hurdler to beat in the 300s. She ran a 44.87 at the KU Relays to break her sister’s school record and move to No. 4 in the Kansas ranks this spring. Also the school-record holder in the 100s, she has gone as fast as 14.88 in a hand-time meet and ranks No. 6 in Kansas this spring at 15.02.

Needham should also return as a force in the sprints. She sits close to the state top-10 and leads Class 3A with a hand-timed 26.21. She ranks No. 15 in the Class 3A 100m dash field.

Zach Williams, senior, Valley Center (5A) – The Hornet senior has the pedigree to be a track star. His father, Bobby, was a star for the Great Bend track team in the mid-1990s and still ranks No. 11 all-time in Kansas as a high jumper.

Zach picked up state medals in both the 5A 110m hurdles and long jump last spring, topping out with a sixth-place finish in the hurdles. This spring, Zach has gone as fast as 14.77 to rank No. 9 in Kansas. That time ranks No. 3 in a hyper-competitive Class 5A field this season.

In the field, Williams is one of just six long jumpers in the state this year to hit 23 feet. Again, the Class 5A field is looking tough in that event with five of the state’s top-10 marks this spring.

Taylor Savolt, senior, Garden City (6A) – Lady Buff senior Savolt has proved to be one her of classifications most versatile athletes over the last two seasons. As a junior last spring, won the Class 6A 300m hurdles in 45.05. She also picked up state medals with a pair of fifth-place finishes in the long and triple jumps.

Savolt continues her domination in the 300m hurdles this year. Her best time of 46.37 leads Class 6A and ranks No. 8 in all of Kansas this spring. She’s also gone as fast as 15.76 in the 100s to rank No. 7 in 6A.

Savolt should again be a medal contender in both jumps. Unfortunately for her, the Class 6A triple jump field includes two of the state’s all-time best in Lawrence Free State junior Auna Childress (40-9) and Olathe Northwest senior Jaleesa McWashington (39-2.5). Savolt ranks No. 7 in the state and No. 4 in her classification with a best mark of 37-5 this season.

Olathe Northwest’s Righter leads the state and classification in the long jump. Savolt presently sits at No. 11 in the 6A ranks with a best mark of 17-4.75.