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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.