Distance Races Highlight Exciting Week in Kansas

You would have thought that after the week he's had, Terry Robinson of Lansing was filling up on a steady diet of Wheaties.

You know...Breakfast of Champions, right?


Well, the junior's secret on his breakfast staple is out, and there ain't nothin' even closely resembling whole grain.


Chex cereal. Every. Single. Day.


To that I say: Whatever works, Terry...whatever works, because you did just take down the state's top rankings in two distance events.


On April 5, Robinson snared the state's No. 1 mark in the 1600 when he won the Lansing Invitational in 4:24.48. Then on Tuesday, he demolished the state's previous best in the 800, winning the Tonganoxie Invitational in 1:56.68 - a full three and one-half seconds better than the next best time in Kansas so far.


It was a breakthrough week for the Lansing junior. But he wasn't the only Kansas distance runner who was smashing the state's listings.


In fact, in about a 30 minute stretch, the Kansas girls' 3200 meter mark went down twice. First, Sarah Murrow of St. James Academy whooped a solid field at the Barrier Breakers Invitational at Lawrence Free State High School, winning in what was the best time in the state to that point - 10:52.34. Murrow's throw-down came just a couple hours after she won the 1600 in 5:05.84.


But about a half hour later in Manhattan, Clara Mayfield was on her way to a big win at her team's home meet, running the 3200 in a state-best time of 10:36.00. The time puts her at No. 46 in the United States rankings currently.


It was a thrilling volley between the two distance stars, each of whom have held the top time in the state twice this year. Right now, Murrow is far and away the best distance runner in 5A, while Mayfield is way ahead of everyone else in class 6A.


It's too bad that these two won't eventually match up at the state meet, but we can look forward to a possible matchup at this week's Kansas Relays, where the two will be among the favorites to win against the best runners in the region.

Another exciting distance race of note: It won't go down as the state's best 1600 for the outdoor track season because it was run indoors at Pittsburg State University, but Yates Center's Hadley Splechter hammered 4:18.99 to win a special indoors portion of the Jock's Nitch/Pitt State Relays. He beat an all star field of Missouri runners, as well as Maize senior Kael Ecord, who was sixth with a time of 4:22.63.

There could be some debate on whether the indoor track helped Splechter to the fast time or not, but does anybody really doubt that the Yates Center senior isn't capable of that time? I didn't think so...

Ecord also turned in a time of 1:59.53 for second place in the 800 meters. The remarkable double, compared to outdoor times, would place Ecord at No. 2 in Kansas in both events.


Other highlights from this week in Kansas track and field:


Wesley Shaw of Hillsboro is on a roll. Tuesday at the Elyria Invitational at Marion High School, Shaw threw a career-best 62-4 to win the shot put. It's the best mark in Kansas this season, and lifted him to No. 16 in the United States currently.


Shaw also won the discus with a throw of 171-5, which is his best mark this season. It's No. 4 in Kansas right now, and No. 89 in the U.S.


Grace Thompson of Sedgwick also let the discus fly this weekend, to the tune of a career-best 137-8 and the No. 1 mark in Kansas this season. Thompson's throw was nine feet better than the 128-8 she had to finish third in the class 3A state meet last year.


Creed Puyear of Stanton County stretched his class 2A, No. 1 marks in the triple jump and long jump this week. He won both events at the Sublette Larks Invitational with jumps of 22-0 and 43-9.


Davonte' Yates of Parsons went to the top of the state rankings in class 4A when he soared 44-0 to win the triple jump at the Montgomery County Classic. The senior is seeking his first state title this season, having finished second in the triple jump and third in the long jump at last year's championships.


The top mark in the class 6A boys shot put also went down this week. Darius O'Connell of Manhattan, who is just a sophomore, threw a career best of 52-5 to win the Junction City Invitational, then beat his career best again by throwing 53-3 at the Manhattan Invitational on Friday.


O'Connell was a junior varsity performer last year, but is quickly climbing the ranks of the state's best.


In the javelin, Trey Patterson of Cheney let fly with a throw of 193-1.25 to win the Shocker Pre-state Challenge, and move to No. 2 in Kansas. It also moves Patterson to No. 10 in the United States.


Samuel Macklin of Shawnee Mission South grew wings this week - well, not really, but it sure seemed like it because he was flying in the long jump at the Mid Season Invitational hosted by Shawnee Mission Northeast. Macklin moved to the top of the state's rankings with a mark of 23-6.75, which also is good for the No. 28 spot in the U.S.


Sophomore Tyus Wilson of Sterling jumped 6-9 to win the Shocker Pre-State Challenge. He moved to No. 3 in Kansas, just an inch behind the state's best jump this season. He's also No. 15 in the U.S. currently.


Speed Check...


The early part of the past week was much better weather for track performances than what the end of the week turned out to be. And Gabe Valentine of Eureka took full advantage of that.


The sophomore sprinter burst into the top three of the class 3A rankings, clocking 10.84 in the prelims and 10.87 in the finals of the 100 meter dash at the West Elk Invitational. He's just an eyelash behind Cheney's Jason Hubener (10.72) and Smoky Valley's Timmy Lambert (10.76).


Valentine did get one No. 1 mark this week: His 22-2.25 in the long jump was good enough for first in the long jump and the best mark so far this year in class 3A.


Lambert is a household name in Kansas track and field, so it probably surprised no one that he nabbed a state-leading time in the 200 meters. But, Lambert went wayyyyy low...21.55 is a smoking fast time at this point in the season, and is good for No. 90 in the U.S. rankings. He also won the 100 in 10.85 Friday.


Among the ladies, Destiny Ray of Shawnee Mission East put up one of the best performances of the week, winning the 100 (12.59) and 200 (25.53) at the Barrier Breakers Invitational. Her win in the 200 is No. 2 in class 6A this season, just one-tenth of a second behind Leavenworth's freshman sensation Dhakiya Blake. Speaking of which....


Blake and her Leavenworth teammates were plenty busy running relays this Friday. For the third straight week, they lowered the state's best times in the 4 X 100 and 4 X 400 meter relays - putting up times of 49.21 and 4:04.38 at the Baker University High School Relays.


Baldwin's girls finished second to Leavenworth in the 4 X 400, clocking 4:09.83 for the best time in class 4A this season.


A few other highlights among the sprinters this week include Alleigh Kramer of Nemaha Central, who clocked 12.49 at her home meet, good for the No. 1 time in class 3A this season; Rylee Gleason of Kinsley, who was timed in 26.38 for 200 meters at the Ness City invitational to grab the No. 1 spot in class 1A; and Sian Helfrich of Pratt, who clocked 26.33 for 200 meters at the Ellsworth Invitational for the No. 1 spot in class 4A.


Matti Price of Riverton, a junior, set a career best and jumped to No. 1 in Kansas when she won the 400 in 57.82 at the Jock's Nitch/Pitt State Gorilla Relays. Katie Moore of St. James Academy also joined the sub-60 Club this week, clocking 59.40 to win the Barrier Breakers Meet on Friday.


Shane Quinlan of Perry LeCompton had the fastest open 400 among Kansas boys this week, winning the Shocker Pre-State Challenge in 49.97 - just the second sub-50 run by a Kansas athlete this season. Andrew Wilson of Arkansas City won the Montgomery County Classic in 50.75, and Elijah Mosely of Wichita Heights won at Manhattan (50.78), putting those two at No. 3 and No. 4 in Kansas so far this season.


How high can he go...


Ethan Hull of Bishop Carroll continues to wow Kansas track and field fans. The senior pushed his state-leading vault even higher this week, this time clearing 15-3.75 to win the Shocker Pre-State Challenge. It also moves him to No. 71 in the U.S. rankings.


Matt Lindhorst of Marysville cleared 13-7 at the Smith Center Invitational, which was the second-best vault in Kansas this week. It moves Lindhorst to No. 3 in class 3A for the season.


The Best Meet This Week...


No doubt about it, the Barrier Breakers Invitational hosted by Lawrence Free State was the best meet in Kansas this past week. There were 76 elite performances at the meet as determined by U.S. MileSplit standards for first, second or third team recognition. Several of those have already been mentioned here.


Others that stand out in my mind include:


Hannah Robinson of St. James Academy made a very good field look pedestrian as she won the 800 meters in a state-leading time of 2:16.31. That race included five girls at 2:25 or better, and all who have placed third or higher in state competition within the past year.


Seth Richmond of Paola won the javelin with a throw of 185-7, good for No. 1 in class 4A. He's also at No. 3 in Kansas and No. 15 in the U.S.


Cooper Beebe of Piper heaved the shot put 58-2.25, beating out teammate Lemoses White, whose best was 53-0.25. Beebe now sits at No. 1 and White at No. 4 in class 4A this season. White also was second in the discus at 169-1, which also is good for No. 4 in class 4A.


Jack Moore of St. James Academy won the 3200 meter run in 9:33.60, another solid time for the senior whose season best (9:30.08) has him at No. 2 in class 5A. Aiden Higgerson, a newbie in the long line of distance stars from St. Thomas Aquinas, finished second in 9:41.84, which puts him at No. 4 in class 5A.


Some of my favorites...


Kendra Wait of Gardner-Edgerton hasn't gotten much publicity this season, but she is certainly deserving. Some - myself included - could make a case for Wait being the best all-around track and field athlete in Kansas.


Case in point: A week ago, Wait won the 100 (12.33), 200 (26.49) and pole vault (12-0) at the Olathe Invitational. She also was second in the shot put (39-7).


This week at the Mid Season Invitational at Shawnee Mission Northeast, Wait won the 100 (12.72), pole vault (12-0) and shot put (38-9).


Oh, and she's just a sophomore. Those marks are all going to get better as this season, and future seasons, move along. I have a hunch that there are quite a few college coaches with an eye on a future heptathlete.


Also, a tip of the hat to junior Faith Turner of Pittsburg, who is well on her way to being the next in a line of standout track athletes that program has produced. This week, Turner won the 100 (12.57), long jump (18-2.5) and triple jump (37-0) at the Jock's Nitch/Pitt State Gorilla Relays.


Turner is unbeaten so far this season in the two jumps, and in fact has not lost a meet (including last year's class 5A championships) in either of those events since April 13, 2018. Yep, she just passed 365 days since anyone was able to out-jump her in a Kansas high school meet.