Enjoy Memories, and Get Excited to Make More

Happy Easter to all!

Next to Christmas, I have to say that Easter is my favorite Holiday. I love the peacefulness of the week leading up to Easter Sunday. And we all certainly can use the peace of mind this year, right?

Easter also calls to mind one of my favorite meets growing up in Colorado in the 1980s. The Air Force Academy would host the Easter Relays - later called the Easter Races - on a 300-meter indoor track. That track was the jewel of indoor tracks, in my mind; the only tracks I knew up to that point were a 150-meter, dusty astroturf track at Adams State College in my hometown of Alamosa, Colorado; and a 200-meter dirt oval at the Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

The Easter Races at the Air Force Academy required qualifying times to get in, so typically the competition featured many of the best track and field athletes in Colorado. For the distance events, they rarely ran separate heats, so it was common to line up on the six-lane track with 30 or more runners in a one mile run.

I remember one year, in particular, when we lined up with 32 runners for a one mile race and it turned into something akin of roller derby. A friend of mine who ran for Pueblo Central, Greg Castro, was quoted in a newspaper article afterwards as saying it was the roughest race he ever ran: "I was kicked, pushed and even punched," he told the reporter.

This spring, we have our memories of past races, past competitions to hold on to. As time goes on, those memories will be even more special. Cherish each and every one.

My wish for all of you this Easter is that you are able to enjoy time with families or friends. And be safe...

Catching up with...Timmy Lambert

I was able to catch up with former Smoky Valley speedster Timmy Lambert, who had his freshman season at Kansas State University cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lambert was in the middle of a strong freshman year, having just completed the indoor season as a key member of the Wildcats' sprint and relay teams.

"I have really enjoyed my experience at K-State," Lambert said. "Competing, traveling, and training with my team has been a blessing, and I have been pushed to become the best runner that I can be. My first indoor season was full of learning opportunities and amazing competitions. The biggest difference from high school to college is the level of competition. Before college, I knew that I would be challenged more, but I never fully understood how much different the races would be, and I don't think that you can ever be fully prepared until you get a race or two under your belt."

Like so many others, he remembers the shock of having a promising season cut short.

"When our season was cancelled I was very disappointed because I was really excited and prepared to begin the outdoor season," Lambert said. "I had just finished my first indoor season, and I was ready to finally compete on a normal track and compete outside. All the cancellations happened within the same week or so, and it was a really strange situation to be in. I had gone home for spring break, and the next thing I knew, I was going to stay home until next fall. I was very discouraged at first, but I knew that next season starts now, and that is what my focus has transitioned to."

Lambert was a dominant force in Kansas high school sprinting the past two years, having won class 4A state championships in the 100, 200 and 300 hurdles in 2018; and the 100 and 200 in 2019. But perhaps the most impressive race of his two-year run was the state finals of the 300 hurdles in 2019 in which he finished second.

Lambert crashed into the second to last hurdle, fell down, then got back up and still almost caught Riley Petz of Cheney for the win. Lambert's time of 39.48 was just five one-hundredths behind Petz, and nearly one second slower than his time in the preliminaries.

"I can't even imagine what the seniors this year are feeling," Lambert said. "I know that when I was a senior, my state meet experience was a highlight of my athletic career. I sympathize for those athletes who don't get a chance to prove what they (have), and I know that there will be some kids that don't get the chance to compete at the next level because they don't get a potential breakout senior season.

"My biggest piece of advice to these athletes would be to not get caught up in this situation. It is a very unfortunate situation, but you have to play with the cards you are dealt. If an athlete believes that he or she has the capability to compete at the next level, then they need to take that initiative and reach out to coaches and fill out questionnaires. Athletes know what their capabilities are, and in this moment, they need to take the chance and bet on themselves."

Five years ago...

A couple of young sprinters from Newton made a big splash on the Kansas track and field scene five years ago this week.

Freshman Savannah Simmons and sophomore Kade Remsberg of Newton took over the state's top ranking in the 100- and 200-meter dashes as they blazed to impressive wins at the Wichita Heights Invitational.

Simmons won the 100 in 12.24 and the 200 in 25.61, while Remsberg was clocked in 10.84 and 21.76, foreshadowing their looming impact on the state's track and field scene.

Simmons won 15 of 16 races her freshman year leading up to the state meet, where she grabbed top five finishes in both events. For the next three years, she was never out of the top three at the state meet and won the class 5A 200 meter title in 2017.

Remsberg went on to the sweep the 100- and 200-meter titles in class 5A that season, was injured his junior year, and came back to finish second (200) and third (100) as a senior.

Also five years ago, class 2A cross country champion Dylan Hodgson of Washington County just edged class 5A cross country champion Stuart McNutt to become the top Kansas finisher in the Kansas Relays 1600 meter run. Hodgson's time was 4:17.81, while McNutt finished in 4:18.45. Riley Osen of Winfield won the Kansas Relays 3200 meters in 9:13.43.

Also in that year's Relays, Leavenworth's Willie Morrison won the shot put with a throw of 64-11.5, and placed second in the discus with a throw of 189-1.

Ten years ago...

Kansas track and field fans probably also remember the name of Johannes Swanepoel. Ten years ago this week, the Shawnee Mission South senior rocked the Kansas Relays with a throw of 215-8.5 to win the javelin.

And there was a pretty exciting race between middle distance runners that day, too. Manhattan's Reid Buchanan, a junior, found the after-burners to win the 800 meters in 1:54.68, just edging Osawatomie senior Brendan Soucie, who finished in 1:54.89. Buchanan went on to Division I All American honors in the 10,000 meter run, and was the 10,000 meter silver medalist at last year's Pan American Games. The two were later teammates at the University of Kansas; Soucie was a seven-time All-Conference performer in the Big 12.

Josh Munsch, later a 4:00 miler at KU, was third at that year's Relays in a time of 1:56.71.

Send me your stories...

I'd love to hear stories from Kansas athletes and coaches to include in this column in future weeks.

Respond to any of the following three categories:

1) Describe the most unusual thing that ever happened to you during your high school athletic career.

2) Describe the funniest experience you have ever had as a high school athlete.

3) Describe your greatest surprise - maybe a great race memory? - you have ever had as a high school athlete.

Email to melgares@LetsGoRun.com and I'll share some of your memories and experiences.