GREAT BEND, Kan. Spring is trying to arrive. Last week the Great Bend track teams missed out on the Junction City track meet that was postponed due to weather. Friday afternoon the Panthers opened the 2019 track season at home.
Great Bend junior Peyton Duvall is a relative newcomer to the hurdles. In just his second career varsity race he cruised to the win in 16.36. Kiowa County’s Camden VandenHoek picked up the silver in 16.84, and Hays’ Ty Adams ran third in 17.50.
“I knew (VandenHoek) is a good runner so I wanted to get out before him. I thought I had a good quick step ahead of him and it kept my momentum knowing he was behind me” Duvall said. “My main thing is flexibility. I’ve really been working on that and my speed. (Coach Lyles) Lashley is a very good hurdles coach so it’s good having him around.”
Duvall threw the javelin at state for Great Bend last year with a 13th place finish. Friday he topped out at 147-1 for fourth. Pratt’s Caden Blankenship won with toss of 164-0. LaCrosse’s Hunter Morgan picked up the silver at 155-0.
A Lashley track team would not be complete without a solid group of distance runners. Junior McKenna Esfeld won a competitive 1600m race in 6:10.16. Pratt’s Addie Hoeme finished second in 6:10.62, and Lady Panther Emilia Diaz ran third in 6:14.52.
“I definitely think it was better for us because we were able to get more training in and prepare for our home meet,” Esfeld said of the extra days off.”
Esfeld placed 11th at state in the 5A 800m run last May. Friday she won that event in 2:36.21. Teammate Olivia Rugan followed in 2:37.63 for the silver. Esfeld teamed up with Rugan, Emma Loomis, and Taylor Lindberg for the gold-medal 4x800 team that won in 10:50.72. Kiowa County grabbed the silver in 10:56.80, still 42 seconds ahead of third-place Hays.
The girls’ long jump featured a group of returning state qualifiers. Kiowa County senior Casey Erickson, the reigning third-place finisher in 2A, dominated the pack at 17-2.25. Hays junior Tasiah Nunnery just missed a medal in 4A and finished second Friday at 16-6. Kiowa County’s Addi Heinson placed third at 16-5.75, five inches better than Great Bend’s Candice Smith.
The boys’ long jump featured reigning 3A runner-up Xavier Robinson of Hoisington. He hit 21-6.5 but Great Bend’s Bryce Brown reached the same mark first for the gold. Pratt’s Brett Winsor picked up the bronze at 21-3.
The girls’ shot put featured the top-two throwers in 2A a year ago. Reigning runner-up Tiana Epperson of Ness City got the gold with a throw of 38-9. Reigning state champ Sabrina Thomas of Kiowa County finished second at 36-6. Hays went big on the boys’ side with a gold from Trey Adams on a toss of 48-1. Logan Schulte won the silver with a throw of 47-1. Hoisington’s Wyatt Pedigo placed third at 45-1.
Back on the track, the girls’ 4x100m relay proved to be one of the tightest races of the day. Kiowa County’s Hannah Melton outlasted Hays’ Nunnery down the stretch for the win by 0.03 seconds in 51.75. Melton was joined by Gracie Gray, Kellie Rhodes, and Brecken VandenHoek.
Nunnery opened a successful day with a win in the 100m hurdles in 16.12. Teammate Brooklyn Schaffer followed in 16.99 for the silver, and Melton picked up the bronze in 17.37.