What's so great about Kansas high school track and field?
Well, for starters, here in about four weeks the state championships will take place at Wichita's Cessna Stadium. And while we won't have the sheer electricity of six divisions competing on the same track and on the same day - making Kansas' championships one of the largest (maybe the largest) in the entire country - the series of three one-day championships will still be pretty special.
In the meantime, we have high jumper Tyus Wilson, who cleared 7-foot-3 to win the James Thomas Invitational in Hillsboro on Friday, moving him into a tie for the best high jump in the United States this season. That jump is a career best for the Sterling senior, a University of Nebraska commit who previously was No. 2 in the United States with a jump of 7-2.
And we have meets like Friday's Bob Camien/Claudia Welch Invitational at Seaman High School to remind us that this state's track and field athletes have plenty of moxie.
Year in and year out, the Camien/Welch Invitational lands on everybody's Top Five list
of meets in Kansas. This year's field was a little smaller, but there were
still some big performances.
The highlight of that meet was a distance dual between the reigning king in Kansas and a freshman who appears capable of taking distance running in this state to even greater heights over the next three years.
Manhattan senior Daniel Harkin - the two-time Gatorade Runner of the Year in Kansas - won a great battle against Shawnee Mission North's Micah Blomker. Harkin, who surged to a five-second lead three laps into the race, goes to No. 2 in Kansas for the current season, winning the fight with a time of 9:11.31. Blomker was game to the end - finishing in 9:15.32.
Everyone else was nearly a half lap behind. Harkin's time is a career best and lands him at No. 66 in the U.S. rankings, while Blomker - who finished second at the class 4A cross country championships running for Bishop Miege last fall -- takes over the No. 3 spot in Kansas and No. 2 time in the United States among all high school freshman (No. 120 among all grades).
From the longest events to the shortest: The Camien/Welch Invite also featured some exciting sprint matchups.
Ka'Liyah McGinnis of Olathe North won a close finish with Leavenworth speedsters Wynter Ramos and Dhakiya Blake in the 100 meters. McGinnis - who already had the state's best time of 12.18 - won in 11.81, while Ramos finished in 12.06 and Blake was third at 12.07.
Those are the top three girls 100 meter times in Kansas this season. McGinnis also jumps to No. 15 in the United States, while Ramos and Blake are just inside the top 200 in the nation right now.
Blake, a junior, later won the 200 in 25.87 over Ramos, a senior, who finished in 26.13.
Malik Benson of Lansing continued to run roughshod over most of his Kansas competition. The senior cruised to wins in the 100 meters (10.55) and 200 (21.97). His 200 meter time ties Wichita Heights' Elijah Mosley for No. 1 in Kansas, while his finish in the 100 is a career best and currently No. 3 in Kansas.
Benson also won the long jump, flying 23-5 to beat Manhattan senior Charles Jones (22-6.5), whose season-best of 22-8.5 is No. 1 in class 6A. Benson's win in that event was still more than a foot short of his season-best of 24-8.5, which is not only the best in Kansas this season, but also No. 3 in the United States.
Rossville senior Woodrow Rezac - No. 1 in the class 3A 100 meters with a season-best of 10.68 - was runner-up to Benson on Friday, clocking 10.89, while Silver Lake junior Brogan Renfro clocked 22.75 to finish second in the 200 meters.
Some other outstanding performances at the Camien/Welch Invitational Friday included:
* Rossville junior Briar Gillum threw a career-best 40-7 to win the girls shot put. It's the fifth best throw in Kansas this season. She remains at No. 2 in class 3A, but moves her a bit closer to that division's leading thrower, Ames Burton of Riley County (41-11).
* Santa Fe Trail junior Brett Schwartz launched a career best throw of 183-11 in the discus (beating his previous best by nearly a foot and a half) to top Manhattan senior Jaden Magana - the No. 2 ranked thrower in class 6A. Magana also improved his career best to 174-2, about five feet better than he threw two weeks ago.
* Manhattan senior Julian Avila-Vargas edged junior teammate Ben Mosier in an 800 meter photo finish. Avila-Vargas finished in 1:57.55 while Mosier was just a slight lean behind, 1:57.72. Vargas' season-best of 1:57.15 already had him at No. 3 in the state, but Mosier is now No. 4; they are also No. 2 and No. 3 in class 6A.
* Manhattan, the No. 1 ranked team in class 6A boys, kept the train rolling with career bests by senior Darius O'Connell in the shot (61-3, improving his own state-leading mark), and senior Jaden Magana in the javelin (188-5, No. 3 in Kansas and No. 1 in class 6A)
* Three girls dipped under 60 seconds for 400 meters. Leavenworth's Blake won in a season-best 57.48 (which takes over the No. 1 spot in Kansas), while Lansing's Jessi Ritchhart (58.42) and Rossville's Amelia Foster (59.91) were right on her heels.
* Olathe North's girls briefly took over the state's No. 1 spot in the 4 X 100 relay, winning a hold-your-breath finish against Leavenworth. Olathe North crossed at 49.22 while Leavenworth was runner-up in 49.26. Those were the two best times in the state until Olathe West eclipsed those times later on Friday; Lansing (49.89) finished third at the Camien/Welch Invite and sits at No. 5 on the season.
* Lansing's boys lowered their own-state leading time in the 4 X 100 relay, winning Friday in 42.79. Benson ran the anchor leg for his fourth gold of the meet.
* In the girls 4 X 400 relay, Shawnee Mission Northwest held off Leavenworth to win in the state's second-best time this year, 4:05.09. Leavenworth finished in 4:06.70, good for No. 3 in Kansas so far. Manhattan won the boys 4 X 400 in 3:27.94 - the third best time in the state this year, and No. 2 in class 6A.
Distance Times Coming Down
The distance runners are starting to come on as four state-leading marks were set in the past week.
On April 22, St. Thomas Aquinas junior Logan Seger clocked 9:10.85 to win the Barrier Breakers Invitational at Lawrence Free State High School. The next day, Southeast of Saline junior Dylan Sprecker, grabbed the state's fastest 1600, winning the Abilene Invitational in 4:18.84. Riley Vandaveer of Olathe South then took the top spot on Saturday when he won the high school boys 1600 at the Trials of Miles in Leavenworth, clocking 4:18.04.
Taylor Briggs of Chapman notched the top girl's 1600 on April 23, clocking 5:01.07 at the Abilene Invitational. That time, however, was beaten Saturday afternoon by Blue Valley Northwest senior Riley Beach at the Trials of Miles in Leavenworth; Beach clocked the state's first sub-5:00 1600 by a Kansas girl this season when she won in 4:58.53.
More State Leaders
Others grabbing state-leading times or marks this past week include:
Olathe West girls, 49.02 in the 4 X 100 relay
Wichita East boys, 42.70, in the 4 X 100 relay
Blue Valley boys, 3:25.35, in the 4 X 400 relay
Kansas track and field is getting better and better with each passing week. League meets are less than two weeks away. Then regionals...and state. Ah, it's good to be back.