By Craig Martin
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Shawnee Mission West junior Alli Cash was named the female athlete of the KU Relays and for good reason.
Running in her fourth event of the track meet Saturday, Cash blew open the girls’ 1,600-meter run on the third lap and cruised across the finish line in a meet record time of 4:50.68.
“I was happy with my time for my fourth race,” said Cash, who also won the 800 on Friday. “I felt pretty good actually, weirdly.”
The victory gives Cash one half of the key to the Adidas Dream Mile in New York. Now she also has to hit the qualifying time of 4:48.32. She entered Saturday’s race unaware of what was at stake with a fast time and just ran to win the race.
“I didn’t know any of the details; I was just racing I guess,” said Cash, who broke the 2008 record of 4:51.42 set by Emily Sisson. “I’ll definitely keep that (qualifying time) in mind when I’m trying to motivate myself.”
A pair of freshmen – Rebekah Topham of Griswold (Iowa) and Hannah Long of Eureka (Mo.) – gave chase after Cash and were the other two to dip under the 4:55 mark.
Not to be outdone, Mill Valley junior Emily Brigham captured her second gold medal of the KU Relays with an 18 foot, 10 inch long jump. Blue Valley West’s Alyssa Kelly took the lead on her final jump with an 18-9 ¾, but Brigham followed right after with her winning mark.
All the measurements were being recorded in metrics, so the girls had not idea of what their converted marks were. Brigham was still able to listen to the numbers and knew her 5.74 meters had bettered Kelly’s 5.73.
“Down on that side of the field you get a swirl wind, and the competition is just so heavy,” said Brigham, who also won the pole vault on Friday. “It felt really good and was exciting.”
Free State’s Alexa Harmon-Thomas was also left scratching her head after the long jump concluded. She knew she had finished fifth with a 5.38-meter leap. That mark converts to a jump of 17-8.
“No one had any idea what they were jumping,” said Harmon-Thomas, who has jumped 18-0.5 this spring. “I didn’t see anyone with a conversion book so I wasn’t able to ask anybody.”
Harmon-Thomas still had plenty to smile about while competing in her own backyard. The sophomore cruised to a first-place 14.45 in the 100-meter hurdles. That reestablishes the state’s best mark after she ran a 14.61 in the preliminaries on Friday.
“I was nervous going into it because I wasn’t able to go over many hurdles before because I was long jumping,” Harmon-Thomas said. “I was more focused on long jump, so when I got over there it was just time to get ready.
“It’s really great to win in my hometown with all my friends here to watch me and support me.”
Olathe East senior Jacob Schultze climbed one spot in the Kansas long jump rankings with his first-place 22-10 ½ to sit in third on the season.
There were no automatic qualifiers for the Adidas Dream 1,600, but Shawnee Mission West’s Jonah Heng won his heat of the 1,600 in 4:21.16, which was good enough for third place overall and elevates him to third on the state rankings board.
Tianna Valentine of Hazelwood East (Mo.) did hit her qualifying mark for the Adidas Dream 100 with an 11.66. Valentine finished fourth at the New York showcase event last summer.