By BRETT MARSHALL
LAKIN — Cimarron girls track coach Dennis Hornung was all smiles when his 4x400-meter relay team posted a season-best time of 4:17.17 to win the final event Friday night at the Kearny County Invitational.
And for good reason.
That victory, worth 10 team points, allowed the Lady Bluejays to clinch the team championship to ease past Ulysses' Lady Tigers, 125-119.
The relay triumph, with three freshmen in Charise Friesen, Kari Blattner, Morgan Ediger and one senior anchoring — Lindsay Wehkamp, trimmed more than four seconds off their previous best of 4:21.50.
"We're getting everything going down with our times," a happy Hornung said at the end. "Our young kids continue to do a great job and we've got some really good seniors who have given us great leadership."
Considering that the Lady 'Jays won only two other events, both individual, and their depth across the 18-event meet was evident.
Wehkamp, last year's Class 2A state high jump champion, won the event with a leap of 5-04 while her freshman teammate Eva Koopman, also cleared 5-04, but Wehkamp won with fewer misses. Koopman captured the 100-meter hurdles for the other Cimarron event win.
It was a day that saw Stanton County freshman sensation Jenna Black capture the 1,600- and 3,200-meters, besting southwest Kansas' two other small-class school distance aces — Paige Wells of Wichita County and Greeley County's Kennedy Schneider — in the 1,600.
Black was impressive, running her season best at 5:17.98, while Wells was clocked in 5:26.0 and Schneider back at 5:30.34. Black's time also set a school record in the event, and not just any school record. The previous mark of 5:18.60 was set by multiple state champion Dodie Martin.
Another freshman who is making a big splash on the track scene this spring — Ulysses' Jessi Arnold — had an impressive double-gold performance by claiming the 400-meter dash (1:02.39) and the 300-meter hurdles (47.17) in back-to-back events. Arnold's hurdle mark was the fastest of the season in The Telegram's Honor Roll and she lowered her previous best mark by 0.81 of a second.
Schneider came back to capture the 800 in her season-best time of 2:24.74. Black's winning 3,200-meters was 12:08.68, well off her season-best of 11:42.14.
In the field events, Stanton County sophomore Mauri Steimel won the discus with a throw of 118-03, beating Ulysses' Kaylea Britton by over three feet.
It marked the second time that the 2A Lady Trojan had bested her nearby Class 4A rival. Britton returned the favor by winning the shot put with a toss of 41-09.5 to Steimel's 39-05.5.
The much-anticipated showdown between the big three distance runners — Black, Wells and Schneider — never really materialized as Black jumped off to a commanding lead two laps into the 1,600-meters and dominated the race as Wells and Schneider battled for second place.
For Black's school record, it was one big accomplishment to erase Martin's time set more than a decade ago.
"It was a blur. It doesn't seem like it happened," Black said after running in 90-degree heat late in the afternoon. "I wanted to get out to the lead early; that was the plan. I didn't know where Paige or Kennedy were. I was just hoping they weren't gaining on me in the second half of the race."
Later, it would become known that Wells has been battling a physical condition called Compartment Syndrome, which affects the shin area of the leg. It's a condition she's battled for some time, said assistant coach Shad Mehl, who also coached her in cross country last fall.
"We're just going to take it easy on her the rest of the season, get her through the last three meets (league, regional and state)," Mehl said. "They've got surgery scheduled for June 3 and it's on both legs. She should be able to make it back for the fall cross country season. That's our hope."
So when Schneider lined up for her 800, neither Black nor Wells were on the track.
"I would have really liked to have run against Jenna in the 800," Schneider said. "It was cooler than the 1,600 and I'm not a great hot weather runner. I hadn't run against her all season and I was excited for the opportunity. I'm happy with my 800 time. I keep lowering it and I think I'm on target as we get to the last few weeks of the season."
Cimarron's Wehkamp said she was pleased with her 5-04 jump, but both her and teammate Koopman missed all three attempts at 5-06, a height Koopman achieved earlier in the season, but a height that has been Wehkamp's stumbling block all season. She had a season best 5-05 a year ago.
"I'm still working on my technique," Wehkamp said. "I'm using my arms better, so I've been more consistent this year. The jump's there, I just need to let the momentum take me up and over. I've been jumping more into the bar rather than over."
For Steimel, the victory over Britton allowed her to continue to build her confidence as she heads into the stretch run of her sophomore season.
"It's been competing with Kaylea, she's a great competitor and we've gone back and forth," Steimel said. "I've got some goals for my distances in both the shot and discus, so I'm a ways back of what I hope to do. But today was good, it's a lot of fun to throw against somebody like her."
Ulysses' Arnold said she was most surprised by her 300 hurdle effort, basically because it was an event she ran as a seventh grader but not as an eighth grader before re-starting it this year.
"It's my strongest race and I like the last 100; that's where I think I'm best," Arnold said. Her 47.18 eclipsed the school record of 47.4 set by Jenny Britton. "I did way better than I thought. I'm a little surprised by how good I'm doing."
See results in Scoreboard, Page D2.