By BRETT MARSHALL
GREENSBURG — It just seems like Mother Nature can't leave well enough alone.
Friday, the biggest day to date of the spring track and field season, nature reared its ugly, windy head and battered and blew during the Class 2A regional track meet at Kiowa County High School.
Those who dealt with the gusty (wind above 30 mph) conditions were able to finish in the top four of their respective events and were able to qualify for Friday and Saturday's KSHSAA track and field championship at Cessna Stadium in Wichita.
It was a good day to be a Stanton County athlete.
Mauri Steimel was a double-gold winner for the Lady Trojans, winning her shot put and discus specialties, while Jenna Black took first place in her best race, the 3,200 meters, despite battling a wind that blew at a constant 30 to 40 mph, with gusts around 45 mph. That wreaked havoc with many field event marks and times on the track.
Wichita County's Paige Wells captured a pair of golds, as well, beating Black in the 1,600 meters and also winning the 800-meters later. The two premier distance runners of Class 2A each bowed out of one race, both having entered those races, as first Black dropped out of the 800 shortly after the start, while Wells did the same in the 3,200 meters.
Both cited a desire to be in top physical condition heading to Wichita for the state meet.
"I couldn't have asked for a better day," said Andrea Jones, Stanton County's sixth-year coach. "I'm happy with most everything; so we're excited about who we'll be taking to state."
The biggest smile for Jones came with a win in the meet's final event — the boys 4x400 meter — where the Trojans had endured disappointment in the event for two years. In 2010, the team was disqualified for a false start and a year ago Daniel Molina, who ran brilliantly on Friday night, fell just before the finish line and the team missed fourth place.
"This makes the day complete," a jubilant Jones said afterward. "We can go to Wichita with individuals in both track and field events and our relay teams."
In the team races, the Trojans were second on the boys side with 75 points to winner Meade's 104 while the Lady Trojans were fourth with 66 points. Kiowa County won with 97, Ellinwood second with 89 and Ness City third with 70.
Stanton County's boys had all three relay teams qualify, getting first in the 4x100 (44.41), the 4x400 (3:37.02) and then placing third in the 4x800 (9:00.02).
Wichita County's Wells had a big day, winning the 1,600 and defeating her Hi-Plains League rival Black in the only head-to-head matchup of the day. Black took an early lead, then Wells overtook her on the last 150 meters of the third lap and then finished ahead in a time of 5:39.02 to Black's 5:48.02. Their season best times have been within a second of each other.
"The wind was tough, but not as difficult as I would have thought," said Wells. "I just tried to get behind the lead girls for the early laps and set my pace. I really thought the wind would be more of a factor."
She opted out of the 3,200, as she has been battling a condition called compartment syndrome and will have surgery the week following the state meet.
"We just felt like if I ran the 3,200, that I might risk the 800 and 1,600 and it wasn't worth it," said Wells. "I feel really strong and very positive going to Wichita in the two events."
For Black, the wind was a deciding factor as well, with her time of 12:33.22 well off her season best of 11:42.14. She said she was pleased, but looking ahead to Wichita as well.
"Today was just about getting out there and getting qualified," Black said. "I've had a wonderful freshman season, and I'm excited to be going to Wichita. I'll just go and run and see how things work out."
With the 3,200 being run on Friday, it will be the first time all season that she will get to run the 3,200 with fresh legs.
"We're excited to see how she will do without having to run the other events," Jones said of her standout rookie. "We look for her to improve on her best time."
Steimel said the windy conditions made it tough for her two throwing events, especially the discus, which was into the teeth of the wind.
"You just had to throw it more flat today and not let it get up in the air and just die," Steimel said. "The shot put was OK (39-03) and the discus went as well as it could (112-02)."
Another Lady Trojan equaled her best mark of the season, as junior Kristina Gerard cleared 5-04 to win the high jump.
"It was amazing, 5-04 has been my goal all season," a jubilant Gerard said. "I was really nervous, and today just gives me a big boost for state. I've been working on the box, my arch and jumping up and today I just had to really keep focused."
And for good measure for the Trojans, pole vaulter Quinn Kendrick easily cleared 14-0 on his second attempt and then promptly put his pole away, calling it a good day.
"No need to try to go any higher in these conditions," Kendrick said. "Just glad to get in a couple of good jumps, and I'll be ready to go next week."
Syracuse qualified Kyle Dupree in the pole vault (13-0) and triple jump (42-09), Mia Wilson in the two jumps (16-05 and 34-07.75) while Delaney Pollart earned a spot in the high jump at 5-02.
For Sublette, the boys qualified Jake Gesling in the triple jump (43-01), Alex White in the long jump (21-09) and Cole Sjeklocha in the javelin (156-06). Jantz Budde of Wichita County took third in the 100 meters (10.91) while Molina was second (10.78). Molina clocked a 54.52 in the 400 to finish second and Raul Pantoja had a 2:05.88 to place fourth in the 800 meters.
Logan was third in the 110-meter hurdles (14.75) and fourth in the high jump (5-10).
On the girls side, Black's freshman teammate, Haley Floyd, qualified in two races — finishing second to Black in the 3,200 (12:38.94) and fourth in the 1,600 (5:48.43).
See results in Scoreboard, Page D2.