KANSAS STATE MEET: Another Glorious Finish to the Best State Meet in the Country

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WICHITA, Kan. -- In a very weak moment, one might wonder if maybe -- just maybe -- the luster of the Kansas State Track and Field Championships has dulled over the years.


And then days like Saturday happen and you know that the country's largest track and field meet is and always will be pure electricity, an adrenalin rush for athletes and spectators from the first event on Friday morning to a series of dramatic conclusions nearly 36 hours later.


Fittingly, 7 of 12 team titles came down to the last two events of the meet -- the 200 meters and the 4 X 400 relay.


Junction City's girls, in fact, needed precious points in both of those events to win the class 6A girls title, their first since 1993. First, junior Lyric Holman raced to a fourth place finish in the 200, pulling the Blue Jays to within three points, and then Nashaia Nixon ran a 59 second anchor leg to pull the squad from sixth place into fourth place and the five points needed to score the team victory.


The Blue Jays finished with 68 points to runner-up Olathe Northwest's 66.


Plainville clinched the class 2A boys' title when senior Hayden Friend sped from behind to win the 200 meters, and Samuel Kaup finished in third place. The 16 points was the difference as they beat a feisty Stanton County squad, 88 to 73.5.


And Centralia held on to defend the girls' 1A championship when it rallied for second place in the 4 X 400 relay. Hanover won that race, and would have moved from fourth place to first place if Centralia had finished third or lower. Instead, Hanover settled for second in the team standings.


Here's my rapid-fire look at some of the bigger moments in a remarkable second day of track and field:


SIMPLY THE BEST


Olpe's Kyler True got the crowd on its collective feet when he turned in the fastest 1600 time ever run at the state meet, regardless of classification. The senior speedster opened with three consecutive laps of 62 seconds, then brought it home in 61 for an All Class State Meet Record of 4:07.17.


The previous state meet record was 4:13.60 by Steven Smith of Shawnee Mission South.


Fans have come to expect fast times from True, who later also won the 800 meters to run his career total of track and field state titles to eight. But consider this: he ran a 4:07 mile just a little over an hour after running the anchor leg of Olpe's winning 4 X 800 relay, and a day after turning in a 9:12 time in winning the 3200 meters.


Noah Green swept the class 5A 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles for the second year in a row, but it was his win in the shorter event that really got the crowd going. His time of 13.90 tied the All Class State Meet Record shared by two others.


Green is just a junior and he'll get another chance next year to break the tie.


BUSY BIRTHDAY


Manhattan's Ko Saito qualified on Friday for finals in two events, the 110 hurdles and the 300 hurdles. But that was only part of a busy Saturday for the exchange student from Japan.


Saito was up early to sing the national anthem prior to the start of Saturday's events. Then, after winning the 110 hurdles mid-morning, famed announcer Don Stephens urged the crowd to sing Happy Birthday to the newly-minted Kansas state champion.


Saito, a junior who is returning to Japan in about a month to complete his senior year, also finished runner-up in the 300 hurdles, just getting edged by Derby's Adrian Brown. Both athletes ran career bests in that race; Brown won in 38.59 while Saito was second in 38.71.


I could not get final confirmation on this, but another Kansas standout celebrated a birthday with an individual state championship on Saturday. Pittsburg's Taylor Muff won the class 5A girls 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles, and was third in the shot put.


SPEED THRILLS


So, who gets the official titles of Fastest Boy and Girl in Kansas this year?


On the boys' side, that would be Phillip Landrum of Wichita South, who won the 6A 100 meters state title in 10.65. Big props to Jordan Hawkins of Buhler, who won the 4A title in 10.67, and to Landrum's teammate Deron Dudly, who had the day's third fastest 100 in 10.70.


Kalli Anderson of Newton topped all other sprinters on the girls' side, as she sped to the 5A title in 12.09. Ninti Little of Chapman won the 4A 100 meter title in 12.26, while 2016 sprint champion Aarika Lister of Leavenworth turned in the day's third-best time -- finishing second in 5A in 12.28.


SPRINTS KEY TWO BIG COMEBACKS


Both Newton's (5A) and Junction City's (6A) girls were thought to be the best in their respective divisions coming into the state championships. But for much of Saturday, they sat well back in the pack and the thought crossed my mind that they wouldn't be contending for the team titles after all.


And then the afternoon happened.


At noon, Newton trailed by 34 points as Mill Valley put together a series of strong field event finishes. That's when Newton came out swinging with a victory by Anderson, a third place by Savannah Simmons and seventh place by Jennifer Andres in the 100; a victory by the 4 X 100 relay team; and then a 1-5 finish by Simmons and Andres in the 200. Newton got edged by St. James Academy in the 4 X 400 relay, but by then the damage had been done.


By 6 p.m., Newton had erased the 34 point deficit and was 14 points ahead of St. James Academy for the 5A state title.


Junction City had scored just 16 points and was down by 43 as the afternoon started on Saturday.


Kiena Newman jump-started Junction City's afternoon onslaught when she won the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles. Amaya Booker and Lyric Holman placed 3-4 in the 100, and then the Blue Jays won the 4 X 100 relay in a season-best time of 48.38.


Of course, Junction City still needed Nixon's 59-second anchor to complete the comeback, but it never would have been possible if not for the afternoon speed lesson.


QUEEN OF THE HURDLES


As impressive as Kiena Newman was in 6A, the Junction City sophomore wasn't the best Kansas girls' hurdler on the track this weekend. That title still belongs to Andover Central's senior sensation Jewell Bolden, who won her fourth consecutive state title in the 100 hurdles.


Bolden won 3A state titles in 2014 and 2015 while competing for Wichita Collegiate, then won the last two years in 4A competing for Andover Central. She clocked 14.27 Saturday to break the state record.


Bolden also won her third state title in the girls long jump.


BEST RACE OF THE DAY


Well, everyone will have a different vote for this one, but I've got to look at the girls 6A 400 meters where Christal Mosley of Wichita Southeast and Yazmine Wright of Hutchinson went head-to-head for the third time in five weeks.


Each had won one of the previous two meetings, so this was the rubber match, and they certainly did not disappoint. Each ran a career best time in a thrilling finish line battle, but the junior Mosely was ruled the winner with a time of 55.50. Wright, a senior, settled for silver in 55.51.


Their times rank Nos. 105 and 108 among 400 meter times in the United States this spring.


A close second for me was the 4A girls 800 meters where Cailie Logue of Girard won her ninth state track and field title after a classic battle with Maize South's Kassidy Johnson. Logue set a blistering pace early, despite the wind on the backstretch, but Johnson pulled even with about 200 meters to go. Logue had to dig down deep to complete a sweep of the 800, 1600 and 3200 for the second year in a row.


Logue's time was a career-best 2:12.27. Johnson, who had held the state's best time in the event prior to Saturday, still ran a career-best 2:13.39. The two may meet again soon as members of the Big 12 Conference -- Logue is headed to Iowa State University and Johnson will continue her career at Kansas State University.


NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR


My vote goes to Hadley Splechter of Yates Center, who almost single-handedly kept his team in contention for the 2A boys title this weekend. Splechter, a sophomore, won his first-ever state title in the 3200 meters Friday morning, then pulled his team from third to first in winning the 4 X 800 relay. He then won his third state title an hour later when he put on a blistering kick to win the 1600 meters in 4:21.70 -- just barely catching a diving Caleb Carrasco of Stanton County at the tape. Carrasco was timed in 4:21.80.


My runner-up for Newcomer of the Year is also in the distances where Sylvan-Lucas freshman Autumn Princ won the 1600 and 3200 meter runs this weekend (she was also fifth in the 800). Princ was the cross country champion, so the two wins on the track give her a Triple Crown, of sorts, in Kansas distance running this school year.


HATS OFF TO NEMAHA CENTRAL


I wouldn't say I completely whiffed on the Nemaha Central girls as contenders for the 3A state title, but I probably didn't give them enough respect in my pre-meet predictions. Nemaha Central had pretty much knocked off defending champion Beloit by mid-afternoon Saturday, though the score might have indicated that it was a close battle.


At about 3 p.m., Nemaha Central held a slim lead of one-third point over Beloit, 54.33 to 54. But by that time, Beloit was already done scoring and Nemaha Central still had two sprinters and a relay to compete.


By the time they were done, Nemaha Central had scored a convincing 71.33 to 54 win over Beloit, a team that I had predicted would be near impossible to beat.


I don't mind eating crow on that one.


See all of the individual and team results from this year's Kansas State Track and Field Championships by visiting www.HeartlandTiming.com.


 


 


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