By BRETT MARSHALL
Some high school athletes peak when they are freshmen or sophomores.
Others peak when they are juniors or seniors.
For Scott City's Kelly Wycoff and Garden City's Jonathan DuVall, it seems clear that experience has been the best teacher.
As some would say, the proof is in the pudding. In their cases, results count.
Wycoff, just finishing her junior year at Scott City, brought home two gold medals from the Class 3A state track meet, and added in two silver medals while DuVall claimed two Class 6A state hurdle titles for the second straight year, winning the 110-meter highs and the 300-meter intermediates to go along with a fourth-place finish in the long jump.
Those two have been selected as The Telegram's 2013 Track and Field Athletes of the Year.
In a year where there were other multiple state champions from area schools, Wycoff and DuVall were the most dominant in their events within their own classification.
Wycoff lost only two individual races all year — the 400-meters at the 3A regionals and state track meet — while DuVall's only defeats came in the 300-meter hurdles to Class 5A state champion Trenton Hammond of Liberal.
For Wycoff, the journey through her first three seasons of high school competition has seen her improve from a freshman season in which she failed to qualify for state in the 100-meters while finishing sixth in the 400 (1:00.56) and seventh in the 200 (26.77). In her sophomore year, Wycoff blossomed and took seconds in both the 100 (12.22) and 400 (57.96) while winning the 200 (25.39). Her just-completed junior campaign saw her run her personal best in the 200, a race she says is her favorite, in a time of 25.02 seconds which was the fastest in the state in all classes for 2013. She clocked a season best of 12.31 in the 100-meters and then ran her season best of 58.14, seventh best in all classes, in a runner-up finish at the state meet.
"I wasn't exactly expecting the 100 win I guess," Wycoff said recently in an interview with The Telegram. "I was looking forward to it and I was anxious to see how I compared to everyone else in 3A. In the 400, I did better than I expected. There were lots of really fast girls in the 400 and I just kinda struggled mentally with that. The 200 is my favorite and winning this year was sweet."
Wycoff teamed up with fellow juniors Bailey Nickel, Megan Thornburg and Aubrey Davis to take second in the 4x400-meter relay (4:12.91) and that proved to be icing on the cake for the junior speedster.
"The relay was probably my favorite, I think," Wycoff said. "I just like being part of a team. Those three girls are probably my closest friends and it was really cool to get second in the relay and then get third in the team (standings). That was neat."
DuVall's progression from his freshman season to senior campaign is perhaps even more dramatic.
Going back to the 2010 track season, there's no mention of him on the 110-meter hurdle honor roll and his best time in the 300s was 40.1 seconds, perhaps giving a glimpse as to what the future would bring. He just missed making the finals at the state track meet that year.
In his sophomore season, he ran a personal best at the time of 15.11 to win the 6A regional and then pulled a muscle in the 300-meters, which ultimately forced him to completely miss the 2011 state track meet.
"My freshman year, I never thought I'd be doing the things that I've done," said DuVall when looking back on his four years at GCHS. "Being hurt at the end of my sophomore year was so disappointing, but to come back that next year (junior, 2012), compete and win both hurdles, that's something I'll always remember. I've grown a lot, learned a lot and hopefully I can do that in my college years."
DuVall will be headed to Wichita State University in the fall where he will compete for the Shockers, with an emphasis on the 400-meter hurdles.
The highlight for DuVall in his senior season was running the 13.89 seconds in the finals of the 110-meter high hurdles, setting a Class 6A state meet mark by bettering the 13.90 mark set by Willie Vaughn of Kansas City-Wyandotte and Doug Hedrick of Shawnee Mission East in 1985, when the two tied for first.
"I was in shock," DuVall said when he looked up at the jumbo video screen at the south end of Cessna Stadium after he finished the race. "I didn't know what to think. It was almost unreal to me. I didn't know how to react. Everybody (crowd) was real excited, but I didn't know how to feel because I was still in shock breaking that state record. I could hear them roaring and clapping and whistling. That put a lot of adrenaline in me. It was a rush."
Later that Saturday afternoon in his final high school race, he easily won the 300-meters in 38.43, off his personal best of 38.14 that he ran in the regionals the week prior.
"I didn't have big enough goals in the 300s," DuVall said. "I knew I was close to being able to break the record in the 110s. I wanted to break 14 (seconds). I didn't have any big goals in the 300s because I wasn't that close to the state record. I just wanted to make sure I won another state (title)."
When looking at DuVall's marks through his career, the improvement is eye-popping. In the 300s, he went from 40.1 (freshman) to 39.99 (sophomore) before lowering that to 38.92 (junior) and capping it off with his 38.14 this past season. In the 110s, the improvement is even greater. He clocked a 15.11 his sophomore season, dropped that to 14.50 as a junior before running the blistering 13.89 at the state meet.
But DuVall's accolades don't stop with the hurdles. He placed fourth in the state in the long jump after setting a school record the week before in winning the regionals with a leap of 22-11.50, his third individual school mark. He also was on the school's 4x100-meter relay team that placed fifth at state and earlier in the year established a school mark of 42.88 seconds.
"This has definitely been a big step forward in my track career," DuVall said of his senior season. "It's made me think a little bit bigger scale about what I can do later on in life. It's been a lot of fun and there's a lot of memories."
Other state champions who dot the All-Area first team include Tate Annis of Ulysses (Class 4A boys long jump, 200 meters); Nicole Kinser of Hugoton (Class 4A girls long and triple jumps); Brenner Wells of Scott City (Class 3A javelin); Heath Tucker of Holcomb (Class 3A boys 300-meter hurdles); Rigo Bustillos of Moscow (Class 1A boys shot put); Morgan Ediger of Cimarron (Class 3A girls 300-meter hurdles); Mauri Steimel of Stanton County (Class 2A girls shot put and discus); Dusty Tempel of Garden City (Class 6A boys long jump); and Garden City's Class 6A girls 4x800-meter relay team of Alex Miller, Neysa Harman, Katy Doll and Kayla Doll, which won gold at the state meet and went unbeaten through the track season.