It has been a quiet start to the 2018 track and field season
in Kansas, largely because of when Spring Break has fallen this year, but there
were some early fireworks during at least one season-opening meet, including a Kansas athlete putting up the top mark in the United States.
The Mid-Winter Relays at Topeka's Hummer Park featured a rematch of the two best javelin throwers in Kansas.
A year ago at the class 6A state meet, Manhattan's Sam Hankins and Lawrence's Hunter Krom staged a back-and-forth classic for the individual state title, exchanging the lead several times through their first five throws.
Krom was in first place with a throw of 204-2 with just one thrower remaining. That was Manhattan's Hankins, who unleashed a throw of 204-10 to take the win.
Fast-forward to this year's season-opener and the two foes were at it again. Hankins got the win in an outstanding competition that featured four throwers who are among the best in Kansas this year.
Hankins pulled out a career best, throwing 211-10 for first place, which vaulted him to the top of the list of all throwers in the United States so far this season. Krom was second with a throw of 198-9 - which other than last year's state meet, is the best he's thrown in his high school career.
Lawrence's Harrison King was third with a throw of 180-6, a mark that would have placed third at last year's class 6A state meet, and Hayden's Evan Prohaska was fourth at 178-9 - which also would have placed him third at last year's 4A state meet.
To see four throwers in the same early-season meet putting up marks that would place them in the top 3 at state is pretty remarkable.
There were some great efforts in other field events, as Emporia's Myles Livingston - third in class 5A last year - tossed the discus 154-8 to win that event. That mark would have placed him second at state a year ago.
On the track, Manhattan's Clyde King, Jr. introduced himself in a big way, winning the 200 and 400 meter runs in times of 22.20 and 50.10. Those times would have placed him fourth in the 200 and sixth in the 400 at state last year.
The ladies were at it too. Emporia's Miranda Reisen won the long jump with a leap of 16-8.25, and teammate Allie Christensen took the triple jump in 35-0 - both marks that would have earned them medals in the class 5A state meet last year.
In the high jump, Emporia's Olivia Young and Manhattan's Bonnie Hegarty cleared 5-2, and in the pole vault, Lawrence's Josie Hickerson cleared 10-6. All of those efforts would have placed at their respective state meets a year ago.
Spring has sprung, though through most of Kansas, the weather may not seem like it. Let's all hope for some warmer weather in the coming week so that we can see more of what Kansas' athletes can do.
Lots of Returning State Champs This Year
In my preseason previews which ran on MileSplit last week, I held tight to some statistics indicating the overall quality of returners in Kansas this season.
I referred to returning state champions for each individual classification, but if you take all six classifications together, there are returning state champions in 90 of the 180 individual events.
Yep, exactly half of last year's state track and field champs were seniors, and the other half were underclassmen.
There were only three freshmen in Kansas who won state titles last year: Sylvan-Lucas distance star Autumn Princ won the class 1A 1600 and 3200; St. James Academy's Sarah Murrow won the class 5A 3200; and Manhattan's Sam Hankins won the class 6A javelin.
There were 17 sophomores winning state titles last year, and 55 juniors winning titles. The number of state champions don't exactly match 90 events, but that's because some of those athletes won multiple titles.
Also of interest: There are six athletes in Kansas who still have a chance to win four state titles in a single event - that is, win it every year they are in high school.
In addition to the freshmen Princ, Murrow and Hankins - who are 1 for 1 in their respective events - those athletes are:
If I've missed anyone on this list, please drop me a note at melgares@LetsGoRun.com, or write in the comments section below.