Kansas track and field rolled into championship season this
week as the state's teams headed to their respective league meets.
While little more than bragging rights were at stake, that was plenty incentive for the state's athletes to put on a great show, including a sprint throw down in the Wichita Athletic League; a hold-your-breath photo finish in the 110 hurdles at the Ark Valley/Chisholm Trail League; the first sub-49 in the 4 X 100 relay for Kansas girls, courtesy of the defending class 6A state champs; and a pair of distance gems in the Centennial League and Eastern Kansas League.
Let's start in Wichita where Wichita South's Deron Dudley put up two of the state's top four times in the 100 en route to winning the Wichita Athletic League title. First, he clocked 10.92 to easily qualify through the prelims, then smoked the finals in 10.70.
But the 200 meter finals at the Wichita Athletic League is where fans got more than their money's worth on Friday. Dudley grabbed the state's best time in the prelims with a time of 21.51, while Wichita West's Jaleel Montgomery moved to No. 3 in Kansas with a time of 21.66 in the prelims.
Dudley then gave an encore in the finals, winning in 21.70 to Montgomery's runner-up in 22.10.
It was probably Dudley's best meet of the season, though he's been pretty good up to now. He's the defending class 6A state champ in the 100, and seems to be coming around just in time to keep his title against what is shaping up to be a game field.
In the Ark Valley/Chisholm Trail League, a division I matchup between Newton's Jerik Ochoa and Hutchinson's Tayezhan Crough got hearts pumping. Heading into this week, Crough was the state leader in the event, clocking 14.27 at his home meet two weeks ago.
But Ochoa pulled off the upset Friday, clocking 14.55 - the second-best time of his career - to edge Crough in a photo finish. Crough's time was 14.57.
Crough is the defending state champion in class 6A in the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles. Ochoa's time on Friday was more than a second faster than he ran to finish eighth at state a year ago.
Lawrence's girls won the class 6A state title a year ago with a heavy load of points in the sprints, relays and middle distances. All of that was on full display at Friday's Sunflower League championships.
The Lions' 4 X 100 meter relay squad lit up the track with the No. 1 time in Kansas this year, 48.36, beating runner-up Shawnee Mission West by nearly one and one-half seconds. Lawrence was nearly perfect at each exchange as the squad put up the first - and only - sub-49 second time by Kansas girls this season. Lawrence heads into the next two weeks as the prohibitive favorite to defend its state title in that event -- if not the overall team title.
Lawrence's Sunflower League haul included wins by Hannah Stewart in the 800 (2:20.64) and its' 4 X 400 (4:03.59) and 4 X 800 (9:50.69) relay teams; as well as top three finishes from Asjah Harris in the 100 (third, 12.54) and 200 (second, 25.68); and Evann Seratte in the 400 (second, 58.72) and 800 (second, 2:21.34).
Gardner-Edgerton's Kendra Wait was perhaps the biggest star of this year's Sunflower League championships. The senior rolled to victories in the 100 (12.34), 200 (25.47), pole vault (12-0) and shot put (42-8), again solidifying her standing as one of Kansas' best all-around track and field athletes.
Wait's wins in the 200 and pole vault were career bests. It's impressive that she won that combination of events; even more so that she did it in the perennially-tough Sunflower League.
Josie Hickerson of Lawrence matched Wait's state-best of 12-0 in the pole vault, but was edged for the Sunflower League title based on having one more miss in the competition.
Two distance races had fans on their feet as the top boys and girls 1600 meter times went down this weekend.
On Thursday, Manhattan's Clara Mayfield smashed her career-best in the 1600 by six seconds in winning the event in 4:52.83 But Mayfield needed just about every bit of that PR because Washburn Rural's Jaybe Shufelberger was in hot pursuit.
Shufelberger, the runner-up in cross country and a qualifier for the Nike Cross Nationals last Fall, also put up her career best in the event, clocking 4:54.76 for second place.
Those times rank as the top two 1600 times in Kansas this year, and land Mayfield and Shufelberger in the top 10 all time for Kansas girls in the 1600.
For Mayfield, it was part of a busy day. She later won the 800 (2:21.08), was second in the 3200 (11:19.75) and ran a leg on Manhattan's third place 1600 relay. She was a workhorse for the Indians, who won their eighth league title in the past 10 years.
Shufelberger seems to be rounding into top form at the right time. She came back to win the 3200 in another career best time, 10:48.34, which ranks third in Kansas this season behind Mayfield (10:36.00) and St. James Academy's Sarah Murrow (10:46.85).
The hot name in Kansas distance running right now is Tommy Hazen and the St. Thomas Aquinas sophomore has handled the attention well. Hazen has, quite literally, been a terror on the track for the past month, nabbing the state's top times in the 1600 and 3200 along the way.
He did it again on Friday, lowering his state-leading time in the 1600 to 4:20.53, but it was by no means easy. Jack Moore of St. James Academy put up his career best time and was within a whisker of grabbing the Eastern Kansas League title, but fell just three-hundredths of a second short. His time of 4:20.56 is now the No. 2 time among Kansas boys this season.
Kansas boys are running well in that event right now. The top 10 times at league meets this week came in at just a shade over 4:27 or better.
Other highlights from league meets this week:
* Newton's Kalli Anderson, who holds the No. 1 time for the girls 100 meters this season (11.89), welcomed the post-season with a business-like 12.15 to win the Ark Valley/Chisholm Trail division 1 title on Friday. It was the top time by Kansas girls this week. Eleecya Birney of Hutchinson finished second in 12.39.
Anderson and fellow senior Maggie Remsberg will lead their team's quest to win its fourth consecutive class 5A state championship - one for every year they have been in high school. Anderson also won the 200 (25.66) and ran on her team's winning 4 X 100 relay (49.49) while Remsberg won league titles in the 100 hurdles (14.78) and 300 hurdles (44.20). Both could win those same events at state in two weeks.
* You should make it a point to watch Smoky Valley's Timmy Lambert anytime he steps on the track. He is, quite frankly, electricity. On Thursday, he racked up three more Central Kansas League titles in the 100 (10.91), 200 (22.41) and 300 hurdles (37.95). His win in the hurdles marks the best time in Kansas this season, and is just one-tenth of a second off his career-best 37.85 in winning the class 3A state title last year. Lambert also holds the top 100 meter time in Kansas, 10.53 run in late April.
* Jordan Hawkins of Buhler had the state's second fastest 100 meters this week, clocking 10.87 for the Ark Valley/Chisholm Trail Division 3 league title. Other sprint champions this week were Jaylen Carter of Washburn Rural in the Centennial League (10.92); Carter Cox of Olpe in the Lyon County League (10.94); Jaiel Johnson of Dodge City in the Western Athletic Conference (10.95), Nevan Tebb Lolar of Blue Valley West in the East Kansas League (10.95); and Dequan Johnson of Parsons in the Southeast Kansas League (10.96).
* Isaiah Armstrong of Holcomb ran the fastest 400 in Kansas this year, clocking 48.40 to win the Great West Athletic Conference. Armstrong, a junior, was the class 4A state runner-up in the event last year, but now looks to be the man to beat. He takes over the state's top time in that event from Leavenworth's Guy Ramos, who won the 200 (22.48) and 400 (49.40) at the United Kansas Conference. Ramos now has run sub-50 for the 400 in six of seven races this season.
* Two other Leavenworth sprint stars shined at the UKC meet. Sophomore Wynter Ramos (25.00) and freshman Dhakiya Blake (25.25) went 1-2 in the 200 with the top two times posted in Kansas this week. Ramos also won the 100 in 12.25 while Blake was second in 12.40.
* McPherson junior Emma Ruddle picked up titles in her two specialties at the Ark Valley/Chisholm Trail Division 1 meet. Ruddle won the 100 in 12.15, and the 100 hurdles in 14.48; her time in the hurdles was the best this week among all Kansas girls.
* Another of Kansas' top track athletes had a big day at the Central Plains League championships. Layne Needham of Cheney won the 200 (26.34), 400 (59.48) and 100 hurdles (14.94). She's also one of the state's best in the 300 hurdles, but she skipped that event at this year's league meet.
* In the Eastern Kansas League, a pair of St. James Academy stars warmed up for the bigger meets to come. Katie Moore put up the state's best time in the 800 meters with a winning time of 2:15.50, while fellow junior Sarah Murrow posted a career-best 5:00.90 to win the 1600. St. James' top runners seemed to get a bit of a reprieve before what will likely be a thundering herd of middle distance and distance stars from that school at regionals and state.
* Bishop Carroll sisters Kindel Nordhus, a senior, and Adrie Nordhus, a junior, put up a 1-2 finish in the 300 hurdles at the Greater Wichita Athletic Conference championships. Kindel's time was 44.45 while Adrie was clocked at 46.74.
* Olathe Northwest's boys took over the state's top spot in the 4 X 400 relay, winning the Sunflower League title in 3:23.06.
Field Event Highlights
For most of the current season, Kansas' field event performers have stolen the spotlight from the track athletes. But it was a bit more mellow in Kansas in the field events at the various league meets.
Trey Patterson of Cheney was one of the brighter spots. He posted a career best throw of 206-11 to win the javelin at the Central Plains League championships. It was the first time this season that someone in Kansas actually had a throw further than Manhattan's Sam Hankins, whose best throw of 201-7 was still plenty good enough to win the Centennial League.
Abbee Rhodes of Augusta swept the shot put (43-6.25) and discus (135-4) titles at the Ark Valley/Chisholm Trail division 3 meet. Rhodes, the class 4A state champ in the shot put last year, has now won all eight of her meets in the shot put, and seven of eight in the discus this season.
Jayla Bynum of Hutchinson swept the shot put (40-6) and discus (127-4) at the Ark Valley/Chisholm Trail division 1 meet, while Grace Thompson of Sedgwick also swept those two events at the Heart of America conference meet (42-11.75 and 121-0).
Maddie Righter of Olathe Northwest rolled to a pair of titles in the Sunflower League, winning the long jump (18-7.5) and high jump (5-6). In the long jump, she edged teammate Jaleesa Mcwashington (18-4), who came back to win the triple jump with a mark of 38-7.5.
Faith Turner of Pittsburg rolled to four wins at the Southeast Kansas League championships, showing her versatility in the 100 (12.56), 200 (26.15), long jump (17-3.5) and triple jump (40-0.5). Her win in the triple jump marked the best jump in Kansas this week, and was a career best for Turner.
Madison Lueger of Centralia won the Tri Valley League with a throw of 137-9 in the javelin, while Kayla Kurtz won the javelin at the Frontier League with a throw of 135-10, and Lexy Farrington of Blue Valley North won the Eastern Kansas League at 133-9. Those were the top three throws by Kansas girls this week.
Ethan Hull of Bishop Carroll had the best mark in the pole vault this week, clearing 15-3 to win the Greater Wichita Athletic Conference. Blake Olmsted of Salina Central won the Ark Valley/Chisholm Trail division 1 title with the state's second best vault, 14-0.
Stay tuned folks...regionals is just days away and the stakes are getting progressively higher on the Kansas track and field scene.