By BRETT MARSHALL
LAKIN — With the month of May coming in like the tail wind of Old Man Winter, high school track and field athletes finally caught a break on Friday as Mother Nature greeted them at the Kearny County Invitational with mild temperatures in the 60s, light wind and plenty of sunshine.
And with that near-picture perfect day, many of the area's top girl athletes came through with performances that come with those high
expectations of May.
Ulysses rode the double-gold effort of Jessi Arnold in the 300-meter hurdles and 200-meter dash to just squeak past Cimarron for the team title, with a 91 to 89 edge. Hugoton (78.5), Meade (75) and Lakin (49.5) rounded out the top five teams in the 12-team meet.
And it was Arnold, running the second leg of the winning 4x400-meter relay, the meet's final event, that carried the Lady Tigers to the win, with a time of 4:23.90, finishing ahead of Cimarron. That provided the two point margin for the team title.
For Arnold, Friday provided a measure of optimism in what had otherwise been a forgettable month of track competition for her and
hundreds of other area athletes in April.
"The 200 (26.83) was probably the better of the two wins," Arnold said after she previously had clocked a 47.76 in the 300-meter hurdles. "I'm getting better in the 300s each day. My starts I've struggled with and I'm just trying to come out of the blocks faster. Today was better, but I've still got room to improve."
Early April was tough for the Ulysses speedster, as she battled bronchitis which forced her to miss much of a 7 to 14 period of training.
"I knew the competition would be good here today and that just makes me compete better," Arnold said.
Other top performers were plentiful and if the names sound familiar, it is because they have been among the elite track standouts over the
past several seasons.
Wichita County's Paige Wells, running the difficult triple of the 800 (2:26.03), 1,600 (5:43.41) and the 3,200 (12:43.92), accomplished the rare three wins by running those for the first time in nearly a year.
It was just last June, three days after the state track meet that Wells had surgery on both legs to repair what is called compartment syndrome, a painful condition that made running nearly impossible and jeopardized her career. Now fully healed and regaining form, Wells is excited about the finalfew weeks of her prep career before heading off to Wichita State University to run for the Shockers.
"Everything about running right now is about how I feel and not so much my times today," Wells said, especially considering she had but 18 minutes of recovery time between the 800 and the 3,200 events. "I feel like I'm getting back into the swing of things and we wanted to see how I'd do running all three before getting to regionals (May 17). I just ran enough to win, and in the 3,200 I had so much at the end, but coach told me not to go all out, just to pace myself."
Stanton County's Mauri Steimel doubled in her specialty field events — shot put and discus — as she threw a season-best and a school-record 42-04 in the shot, then came up with a solid 115-01 in the discus.
"It was on my last throw and I just was really feeling it today," Steimel said. "My warmup was good and I just thought it was gonna be a good day. And it was a great day. I was super excited and I just was running around hugging everyone. I still need to improve on my form in the discus, but it's not bad."
Cimarron's Eva Koopman captured two golds, those coming in her specialty, the high jump (5-04), and the 100-meter hurdles (16.59), while adding silvers in the javelin with a personal best throw of 105-0 and the long jump (16-11.50).
"I felt a little better in the hurdles," said Koopman. "It was better than it has been because I've had bad starts. I'm disappointed in the high jump because I've been getting 5-5, 5-6 all season and today I only get 5-4. I hope the weather continues to improve. I'm not disappointed in the javelin at all."
For homegrown Lakin senior Shirea Woodrow, the home turf proved beneficial as the Lady Bronc senior cleared a school record 8-07 to win the pole vault in her final home appearance.
"I've been trying to get it a while now," Woodrow said of the school mark. "It was a little more pressure with the pep crowd and family around, but it also helped some too being familiar with the approach. It was not too windy and not too cold. It was just perfect."
That pretty much summed up perhaps one of the best days of weather in an otherwise rotten spring of conditions.