What a wild ride it was at 1A state this weekend. The 118-team division showcased some of the most intriguing matchups, closest finishes, and dramatic endings of the entire KSHSAA State Track & Field Meet.
In the end, Washington County's girls and Axtell's boys were crowned team champions, but the journey to get there was a wild one. In the girls' events, South Gray led after Friday and deep into Saturday. Washington County finally took the lead with Kriesten Tholstrup taking runner-up in the 400 and Addy Goeckel winning the 300 hurdles.
The Rebels responded in the very next event, with Kylie Stapleton winning the 800. Washington County got a few more points out of Tholstrup in the 200 to retake the lead. With the two teams trading blows late Saturday afternoon, it all came down to the 4x400. Already with a slim lead, the Tigers grabbed third in the relay, while South Gray had to come from behind just to claim 5th.
Final Score: Washington County 55, South Gray 51.
The individuals were highlighted by a handful of athletes with unique combinations of events. Macy Hammerschmidt (Victoria) emerged the champion in the 100 and long jump. In the latter, she won over Sevy Wurtz (Clifton-Clyde) by 1/2 inch, securing an undefeated 10-0 season.
Another athlete found her way to a perfect 10-0 season in the 400. Anna Jueneman (Hanover) earned medals in the 100 & 200, but it was the 400 where she separated herself and became a champion.
In the throws, Ja'Asia Stafford (Wallace Co) won her second shot put title, while Toree Slavik (Thunder Ridge) won her second discus title. Additionally, Mayce Russell (Macksville) became a first-time champ in the javelin in state record fashion.
Ness City had some impressive races in the 4x100 and 4x400. That young team brings everyone back, so watch for the Eagles to be favorites next spring.
On the boys side, it was a 2-way battle heading into the 4x400. Axtell 59, Quinter 54, with both teams highly seeded in the final event. Quinter was in front of Axtell most of the way, and pulled in front with 150 left in the final leg and crossed the finish line first. Axtell, meanwhile, crossed the line in 5th.
As it would appear, Quinter pulled off a 1-point win. Celebration ensued for the Bulldogs, but joy was replaced with dread after officials called the Quinter coach to the finish line.
A call to the finish line almost always means a disqualification. Quinter had cut off Kiowa County when taking the lead on the last lap, a tough call to make, but it was the official's decision. The Mavericks, who were the first team across the finish line after Quinter, were awarded the gold medal and 10 points, which was just enough to move past Quinter in the team standings.
Final Scores: Axtell 64, Kiowa County 55, Quinter 54.
If it's any consolation, all three teams involved walked away with a trophy after a season full of highlights.
Individually, there were a handful of notable performances. Axtell's hero was Grady Buessing, who anchored the gold-medal 4x800 and won the 1600 and 800. His 1600m race was one of the closest races of the weekend, with Buessing and Evan Pearce (Wallace Co) battling neck-and-neck all the way down the homestretch.
Bryson Turner (Madison) and Alec Carlson (Pawnee Hts) both had excellent Friday performances. Carlson won the Long Jump over Turner, and the two traded places in the Triple Jump. Turner breezed through prelims in the 100 & 200, and returned on Saturday to win both.