Kiowa County's girls are primed to take a huge leap at this
year's Kansas class 1A track and field state championships, while the race for
the boys' team title is a free-for-all that could have as many as a dozen teams
chasing the podium late into the meet.
Kiowa County's girls did not place in the top five at last
year's state meet, but they have romped through the competition this season.
The squad is loaded with top-end talent and depth, something that no other team
seems to match heading into this week's meet, which gets underway Friday at
Wichita's Cessna Stadium.
Kiowa County has strong state championship contenders in
senior pole vaulter Hannah Melton; junior shot put and disc thrower Sabrina Thomas (who won both of those events in class 2A last year); and freshman sprinter Addi Heinson.
Heinson is especially intriguing as she appears to be on the
verge of becoming one of Kansas track and field's newest stars. She swept the
100, 200 and 400 titles at this week's regional meet and is undefeated in the
100 and 200 this season with bests of 12.18 and 26.29.
She also pairs with junior Kelli Rhodes - a strong medal
contender in the 200 and 400 - to form the nucleus of Kiowa County's No. 1
ranked 4 X 100 and 4 X 400 relays, which swept their regional meets handily.
But Heinson will have to tangle with Osborn's Afftin Conway
and Moundridge's Jamya O'Quinn in the 100 and 200. Conway is the defending
class 1A state champion in the 100 (she also won the 300 hurdles last year, as
well as second in the 100 hurdles and third in the 200).
O'Quinn, a senior, won the two sprint titles in class 2A
last year, but she's now taking on the 1A ranks. O'Quinn's season bests are
12.17 and 25.73.
Lincoln's girls may have the best shot at taking down Kiowa
Like Moundridge, Lincoln has moved from class 2A, and
already has made an impact in class 1A. The girl's cross country team romped to
the state title last fall, and now those same distance stars stand to put
Lincoln smack dab in the middle of the race for a state track and field title.
Sophomore Jaycee Vath won the state cross country title, and
senior Aubry Donley was the runner-up as Lincoln won the team title by 25
Donley was the class 2A state track and field champion in
the 400 and 800 meters a year ago. This year, she'll match up with defending
champions in both events: Northern Valley's Paige Baird in the 400, and Tipton
Catholic's Jaylyn Wiese in the 800.
Vath is a solid favorite in the 1600 and 3200 meter runs.
She's become the dominant force in class 1A girls' distance running.
Lincoln may also get points in the 3200 from freshmen Raegan Stewart and Shelbie Ford, and the team's 4 X 800 relay is a strong contender
for a title.
The darkhorse picks in this year's class 1A girls team chase
are Berean Academy, Centralia and Frankfort.
Berean Academy also has strength in the middle and long
distances with senior Erin Topham (1600 and 3200), junior Brooke Wiebe (800)
and senior Sonya Zimmerman (800). All three of those girls are strong
contenders for a top three finish. Berean Academy also will field very strong 4
X 400 and 4 X 800 relays.
Centralia always seems to find its way to the top of the
state standings. The squad was the state runner-up a year ago, and return two
athletes who just may be unbeatable at this year's meet in senior pole vaulter
Breanna Schmitz and senior javelin
thrower Madison Lueger.
Both have been state champs, Schmitz in 2017 and Lueger last
year. Lueger is the No. 1 javelin thrower in all of Kansas, and top five in the
U.S. with a season best of 157-2. Centralia also should field very strong
relays in the 4 X 100 and 4 X 400.
Frankfort has top-rated relays in the 4 X 100 and 4 X 800,
but should also get solid points from senior Emilee Ebert in the long jump.
Osborne's Conway and Kinsley's Rylee Gleason will likely
meet head-to-head in the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles. Both won their regional
meets and are exciting to watch in the hurdling events. Conway is the defending
state champ in the 300 hurdles but Gleason, who also won the 200 at her
regional meet, is No. 1 in class 1A 300 hurdles.
The class 1A girls meet also will feature Rolla high jumper
Alexandra Hart, a junior who has cleared 5-7 this season.
Class 1A track and field fans will be doing a lot of
scoreboard watching late Saturday afternoon. The race for the boys' team title
could flip-flop several times as there are 14 schools who enter with the
possibility of scoring 21 points or more.
But Osborne, St. Francis and Berean Academy seem to have a
bit more depth to pull away from the pack.
Osborne junior Darrian Holloway is the defending state
champion in the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles, and a strong favorite to repeat
this season. But at last week's regionals, his brother, Darnell Holloway (a senior), who had the No. 1 time in class
1A for 100 meters, pulled up limp in the finals and failed to qualify for the state meet.
That incident took Osborne from being a very strong favorite for the team title to joining the rest of the pack needing to scratch and fight for every single point.
Darrian Holloway's path to defending his title will have to
go through a very good hurdler from Berean Academy, junior David Entz; as well
as Kinsley senior Tyler Heyen Gerhardt. Those three are likely to have fans on
the edge of their seats during Saturday's finals.
Osborne sophomore Reagan Bales (800 and 1600) and junior
Cameron Delaney (1600 and 3200) should boost their team's point total, as well.
St. Francis sprinter Brady Dinkel, a junior is one to watch in the short sprints, while Jordan Raby is a top contender in the 400. St. Francis
also has the top-ranked 4 X 100 and 4 X 400 relays in class 1A, and pole
vaulter Tiernan Poling, a senior, has the division's best mark in the pole vault this season (12-9).
Beloit-St. Johns and Centralia are the darkhorse picks in
class 1A boys.
St. Johns-Beloit is led by junior Brandon Bates (800 and
1600) and sophomore Caleb Eilert (1600 and 3200), and junior Brady Palen in the
high jump (where he has the division's top leap of 6-10.25) and the long jump.
Centralia senior Daegan Steinlage, seeking his first state
title, sits at No. 1 in the shot put and discus rankings. Senior teammate Derek VanDorn also is ranked in the top 3 in the discus.
Gabriel Salas of Satanta soared 22-8.25 at regionals to grab
the top mark in the class 1A boys long jump. He leads a strong field that
includes Udall senior Joshua Fielder and Wallace County's Trevor Medina.
Medina and Fielder also will be strong contenders in the
triple jump, where they will face off against defending class 1A state champion
Blake Harnden of Attica.
We'll need to keep an eye on Medina, however. He could be nursing an injury sustained sometime after qualifying in the jumps at regionals. He had been a strong contender in the 200 meters, but failed to qualify -- potentially due to a leg injury.
Among distance runners, watch for Central Christian
sophomore distance runner Colin Oswalt in the 1600 and 3200 meter runs. Oswalt
won the class 1A cross country title last fall.
Class 1A State Track
and Field at a Glance
Returning Individual State Champions
100 - Afftin Conway, senior, Osborne; * Jamya O'Quinn,
200 - Tori Poe, junior, Norwich; * O'Quinn, senior,
400 - Paige Baird, senior, Northern Valley; *Aubry Donley,
800 - Jaylyn Wiese, sophomore, Tipton Catholic; *Aubry
Donley, senior, Lincoln
3200 - Autumn Princ, junior, Sylvan Lucas
300 hurdles - Conway, senior, Osborne
Long jump - Kaycee Miller, senior, Golden Plains
Triple jump - Macy Doebele, senior, Hanover
Javelin - Madison Lueger, senior, Centralia