Don't let the hype fool you, the Shawnee Mission North Relays is just another home invitational. SM North does a swell job of bringing in the announcers from KSHSAA State, and the Booster Club grilled some tasty burgers. Yes, those do put SMN in the upper-echelon of home meets, but it still feels like a traditional high school track meet. Many of the meet officials are with the school, the facility is just a nice stadium next to the school, and the JV kids get stuck hurdle hustling. Just about every school with a track has a meet like this. There is one small difference, though: literally everyone is there and the competition is of the highest caliber.
This was my first time experiencing this meet in person, and to be completely honest, I was expecting a knock-off KU Relays. To my pleasant surprise, it wasn't that way at all. The North Relays doesn't try to be something it isn't. It's focused on being the best version of what it is. It is the ideal home meet.
With such high-level competition across the board, I had a few events picked out to be excited for. Of course, those events didn't pan out as expected and I was utterly blown away by others.
To lead off the day, the girls' high jump was turned on its head when the favorite Reese Hulcher failed on her final attempt at 5-5. Lawrence's Paige Platt and Olathe South's Kaitlyn Otroszko cleared that height to tie for the winning mark. Platt took gold on the tiebreaker.
Josh Parrish had a surprisingly smooth victory in the long jump. I was expecting a major battle there, but the other favorites just didn't have their day. Instead, the triple jump was where it was at. Three athletes went over 45 feet, led by Olathe West's Elijah Hakim. Hakim later PR'd in the high jump at 6-9 to take second to the new state leader, Tyson Ruud at 6-11. Parrish had quite the day as well, PR'ing and taking 3rd. He would later go on to PR in the 110 hurdles as well at 14.03.
On the girls' sand pit, Rosjai Curtis took down a strong triple jump field, including heavy favorite Ella Capling of DeSoto. Very cool for Curtis to pull off the upset victory at home, where she was the only SM North athlete to do so.
Despite not winning a gold medal, Olathe Northwest's Val Galligan was the best thrower out there on Friday. She claimed 2nd in all three events, setting personal bests in the Javelin (139ft) and Discus (129-10).
On the track, KaLiyah Jordan from Olathe North continued her dominance in the sprints, winning the 100 and 200. Olathe East's Damiya Richards gave her a nice run in the 100, though. For the boys, Nen Matlock of Mill Valley was the highlight sprinter, easily winning the 400, then outpowering Leavenworth's Isaac Ativie to win the 200.
The Mile Run was a fun one. Between prelims and finals, several Kansas college alumni gathered for a sub-4:00 attempt. Brett Meyer (Scott City / Fort Hays State) came remarkably close, about half-a-second shy of the magical 3:59.
Race Video of the Elite Mile
(Video by Matt Goeckel)
In the high school ranks, Paige Mullen from SM Northwest broke 5:00 for the first time, crushing the field in 4:55. A bit later, Wichita Trinity's Clay Shively overpowered SM East's Wyatt Haughton to run 4:07 for a full mile.
In the boys' 800, Shively & Haughton scratched. Maybe they were tired from the mile, or maybe they had inside information that Alex Waldie was about to drop a 1:52. The Aquinas senior and defending 5A champion cruised to victory in a loaded field with 15 athletes under 2:00.
The 4x100 relays were blisteringly fast. Blue Valley North's girls shined once again, clocking 48.13. Riverton, a team I was excited to see compete with the big-dogs, had a competitive first three legs, but dropped the baton at the final exchange, erasing their hopes at a major upset. Olathe North's boys wowed the crowd with a 41.92. Blue Valley North was 0.3 behind in what felt like a blowout.
On the girls' side, it was Olathe West. Their 4x800 team broke the all-time state record at 9:03, then came back with the same four girls to win the 4x400. It was an all-time day for Olathe West, and one worthy of further detail in a separate article.
Speaking of state records, there were actually two of them set on Friday night. Andover Central's Bryce Barkdull waited all day for his turn to pole vault, and he ended up with the greatest mark in state history: 17-6.25. Again, keep an eye out for a deep-dive article on his record performance.