Chapman's Briggs in rare air among Kansas distance running royalty
This might set off a great debate, but my picks for the Mt. Rushmore of Kansas girl's distance running would include Claflin's Jackie Stiles, Riley County's Amy Mortimer, Salina South's Alysun Deckert and Girard's Cailie Logue.
Combined, those four athletes won 49 Kansas state titles in cross country and track and field during their high school careers. Mortimer (Kansas State) and Logue (Iowa State) went on to become Big XII champions and NCAA Division I All Americans, while Stiles became one of the greatest scorers in NCAA Division I women's basketball history and a first round pick in the WNBA.
And yet, none of those athletes were able to accomplish what Chapman's Taylor Briggs is on the cusp of doing during this spring's track and field season. Unlike many of the most decorated distance runners in the state's history, Briggs could finish her high school career unbeaten in state meet races - cross country and track and field.
Briggs, who last fall became just the sixth Kansas girl ever to win four state cross country titles, is a perfect 8-0 in state meet races during her career. If not for COVID-19 and the axe it put to last year's state track and field meet, she may well be 10-0 at this point.
It's difficult to find statistics on every female distance runner over 50 years of Kansas distance running, so I can't really say that Briggs is the first and only distance runner to remain undefeated in state meet competition. It doesn't matter. It's pretty dang good, and considering the fact that the girls who have dominated distance running in Kansas each ran into at least one bump in the road, Briggs' quest should be celebrated.
Stiles is the most decorated state champion in Kansas history, having won 14 state track and field titles between 1994-1997. That number still stands as the most track and field titles ever won by any athlete in Kansas.
Stiles won four titles in each the 800, 1600 and 3200, and added a 400 meter title in 1996 and a triple jump title in 1994. The only blemishes to her state meet record were a second place finish in the triple jump in 1995 (she came up 19 inches short of a title), and a second place finish in the 400 in 1997 (she was just 1.12 seconds behind the winner).
Stiles' state meet record while at Claflin was 14-2.
Mortimer came up just one title short of matching Stiles for state titles, though four of her wins came on the cross country course. Mortimer finished her prep career at 13-1 in state meets, winning four state titles in cross country and the 3200 meter run, three in the 1600, and two in the 800 between 1995-2009.
Mortimer's only defeat in a state meet race came in 1996; she finished third in the 1600 as a freshman. After an All American career at Kansas State, Mortimer traveled throughout the country and Europe competing, and was one of the United States' top 1500 meter runners for several years.
Deckert was one of the very first truly dominating female distance runners in Kansas, competing for Salina South from 1980 to 1984. She was coached by her father, Andy, whose coaching tree in Kansas has sprouted more than a few branches.
Alysun Deckert's state meet record was 9-1, winning three titles each in cross country, the 1600 and 3200. Her only defeat in a state meet race was an 11th place finish at the cross country championships as a freshman in 1980; she then missed her freshman track and field season due to anemia.
Logue's record between 2013-2018 includes four state titles in cross country and the 3200 meter run. But she was beaten in the 800 meters in 2015 (she finished second), and the 1600 meters in 2014 (she was third), and finished her high school years at 13-2 in state cross country and track and field meets.
Many current fans of Kansas track and field are well-versed on Logue's career. She was a dominating force almost from the time she stepped foot on the cross country course as a freshman, and by the time she was a senior, Logue was considered one of the top prep runners in all of the United States. She's won eight Big XII titles while at Iowa State University.
All of those ladies are also outstanding human beings, which then brings us back to Briggs. Quiet and unassuming, Briggs is one of those athletes who is easy to cheer for. To get an idea of her personality, check out the interview I had with Taylor just prior to the state cross country championships last fall.
This past week's announcement by the Kansas State High School Activities Association that the track and field championships will move to a one-day format for each classification means that it is going to be a lot tougher for the middle distance and distance runners to pull the "triple" - 800, 1600 and 3200.
It probably doesn't matter to Briggs, who will be a teammate with Logue at Iowa State next year. She sees herself as a long distance runner. She's never run the 800 at the state meet and likely will stick to the two longer events anyway.
If she can win those two, she'd finish at 10-0 in her high school career. And that could be reason enough to make a little more room at the top of Kansas high school girls' distance running.
Honorable mention: Kansas distance running royalty
There are three Kansas girls who I gave deep thought to include on my "Mt. Rushmore," each of whom were outstanding, as well. They are Blue Valley Northwest's Laura Roxberg, Shawnee Mission West's Alli Cash, and Shawnee Mission Northwest's Molly Born.
Roxberg seemed destined to complete an undefeated career, winning four cross country titles and five track and field titles in her first nine races at the state meet. But as a senior in 2008, she was on the wrong side of a pair of upsets, finishing second in the 3200 meter and 800 meter runs. She finished her high school years with a state meet record of 9-2.
Cash was actually 0-3 in her first three state races, but then put on one of the most dominating stretches in state history, winning two cross country and 1600 meter titles, and three 3200 meter titles. She went on to become a first team NCAA Division I All American for the University of Oregon.
Born and Logue put on an all-out attack on the nation's leader lists during an exciting 2017 track and field season. They smashed the 3200 meter record at the Kansas Relays, clocking 10:09.97 (Logue) and 10:10.64 (Born) - the fifth and sixth fastest times in the United States at that time. Born later suffered a devastating injury that kept her out of competition for more than a year, but she won eight state titles during her high school years (two in cross country and three each in the 1600 and 3200). Her only two losses in state meet races came in her first race as a freshman (fifth in the 2014 cross country championships) and her last race as a senior (fifth in the 800 at the state track and field meet).For those of you reading this and saying, "Well, what about..." my ears and eyes are open. Who are the most dominating female distance runners you've seen in Kansas and what were their high school records? If you send me that info, I may include them in a future Sunday column. Contact me at melgares@LetsGoRun.com.