Wilks Leads Kansas Girls at Festival of Miles

Just five days after the thrill-ride that was the Kansas State Track and Field championships, a handful of the state's athletes were on the track again at the Festival of Miles in St. Louis.

Mckenzie Wilks of Pittsburg, who won the class 5A 800, 1600 and 3200 meter state titles last weekend, nearly pulled off another thrilling win in the girls championship mile.


Wilks sprinted down the homestretch with Blue Springs South's Victoria Findley before settling for second place in a career-best 4:50.68. Findley, who is well-known in Kansas after having won the Rim Rock Cross Country Classic as well as the 1600 and 3200 meter titles at the Kansas Relays, won this year's Festival of Miles in a time of 4:49.35.


Sophie Scott of Blue Valley North, the class 6A state runner-up in the 800, 1600 and 3200, placed fourth in a career-best time of 4:53.93, and Manhattan's Clara Mayfield also posted a career-best, placing 11th in 4:59.55.


In the girls championship 800, St. James Academy sophomore Katie Moore - the class 5A state champion at 400 meters last week - placed sixth in 2:14.42. The race was won by Marlena Preigh, a junior at Fairview High School (Boulder, Colo.).


There were no Kansas athletes in the boys championship mile or 800 this year.


The Festival of Miles is in its 11th year, featuring junior high, high school, professional and even mascot races. This year's Elite Men's mile was won by Tripp Hurt in a time of 3:58.54, beating six others who also ran under 4:00. The Professional Women's 800 was won by Lindsey Butterworth of New Balance, who clocked 2:01.13.


Speaking of the Kansas Track and Field Championships....


This is my chance to highlight a few of the great performances from last week's state track and field championships.


My picks for outstanding performers of the 2018 Kansas State Track and Field championships are as follows:


Sprints - The wealth was spread around, but I'm going with Aarika Lister of Leavenworth for the girls and Timmy Lambert of Smoky Valley on the boys' side.


Lister proved to be a champion - twice. First, she clocked 11.64 to win a showdown against Newton's Kalli Anderson and Savannah Simmons in the class 5A girls 100 meter dash. Then, after suffering a right quadriceps injury in the finals of the 4 X 100 meter relay, she lined up anyway for the 200 meter dash and jogged from start to finish to give her team one point for the eighth place finish.


Lister was interviewed on television after the 200 and, though disappointed, she was grateful to have represented her school.


Lambert blazed to class 4A state titles in the 100 (10.82), 200 (22.11) and 300 hurdles (37.95). A little perspective here: Lambert did not even qualify for state in the 100 and 200 last year, and didn't make the finals in the 300 hurdles. His winning time in the 300 hurdles is the fastest time by a Kansas high schooler this season.


Smoky Valley placed 35th at state last year with five points, but on Lambert's legs this year, was sixth with 33 points - just 1.5 points from bringing home the third place trophy.


Distances - To me, it's no contest: McKenzie Wilks of Pittsburg and Hadley Splechter of Yates Center.


Wilks won class 5A state titles in the 800, 1600 and 3200, putting on a display of speed and power in each event. The victory in the 800 was against super sophomore Katie Moore of St. James Academy, who had run a state best 2:13 in the event earlier this year. Wilks followed that up by running a leg of Pittsburg's 4 X 400 relay, which finished fourth.


Splechter is, plain and simple, the best male distance runner in Kansas right now. He won class 2A state titles in the 800, 1600 and 3200. He also ran the anchor leg on Yates Center's 4 X 800 relay where he got the baton in fifth place, and caught everyone to give the Yates Center team the gold medal. He accounted for all of Yates Center's 40 points, which was just two points short of placing third in the team standings.


Field Events --  There are several girls I could go with - Sydney Johnson of Beloit comes to mind - but I've got to stick with Dana Baker of Olathe North. Baker broke the all-class state record in the javelin and is the No. 1 high school thrower in the United States currently.


But Baker also won the class 6A state title in the discus and medalled in the shot put, 21 points that helped her team to fourth place in the team standings.


Michael Hoffer of Shawnee Heights gets my nod for the top boys' performance at this year's state. Hoffer won class 5A state titles in the high jump, long jump and triple jump. He was ranked No. 1 in class 5A in each of those events going into the meet, and the lofty expectations were not too much for him to handle. He's also nationally-ranked in each of those events.


Still more to come...


Kansas will be well-represented at the USA Track and Field Junior National Championships in Bloomington, Indiana on Jne 15-17. The junior championships are for athletes 19 years old and younger, and the winner of each individual event will represent Team USA at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Finland in July.


Former Lawrence Free State High School standout Emily Venters, now running at Boise State University, has the top-seeded time in the women's 5000 meter run, having clocked 15:49 during her freshman season for the Broncos.


Iowa State University freshman Cailie Logue, a 13-time state champion in Kansas during her prep years, has the second-fastest time in the 5000 (15:59). She's also entered in the 3000 meters and 1500 meters, where she has the third fastest times. It's not known which of those events - or how many - Logue will run.


Olathe North's Baker is also the No. 1 ranked thrower entering the javelin competition.


Here's a complete rundown of athletes with Kansas or Kansas City connections who are currently entered to run at the USATF Junior Nationals:


Friday, June 15

Javelin - Dana Baker, Olathe North (2:30 p.m.); Clayton Herdman, Washburn University/Lacrosse HS (6:30 p.m.)


Pole vault - KC Lightfoot, Lee's Summit HS (4:15 p.m.)


Discus - Taylor Latimer, Kansas State/Valley Center (4:30 p.m.)


Long jump - Rayvon Allen, Wichita State (5 p.m.)


3000 steeplechase - Cara Melgares, Kansas State/Manhattan HS (7 p.m.)


Decathlon - Grant Downs, Wichita State/Park Hill HS


Saturday, June 16

5000 meters - Emily Venters, Boise State/Lawrence Free State; Cailie Logue, Iowa State/Girard HS; Sierra Mortensen, Washburn University/Maize South (8 p.m.)


Sunday, June 17

High jump - Richard Newman, Hutchinson CC/Topeka HS (2:45 p.m.)


Shot put - Taylor Latimer, Kansas State/Valley Center HS (3 p.m.)


400 - Honour Finley, Univ. of Kansas (3:15 p.m.)


1500 - Cailie Logue, Iowa State/Girard HS (3:55 p.m.)


1500 - Kyler True, Oklahoma State/Olpe HS (4:05 p.m.)


200 - Demitra Carter, Baylor/Sumner Academy HS (4:15 p.m.)


3000 -- Cailie Logue, Iowa State/Girard HS; Sierra Mortensen, Washburn University/Maize South (4:45 p.m.)