By BRETT MARSHALL
When the Hi-Plains League track and field meet gets underway on Friday at Hugoton High School, it will have 11 teams listed as competing.
Two of those — Holcomb and Hugoton — will be competing for the final time as they make plans to move into the Great West Athletic Conference for the 2010-2011 school year along with Ulysses, Scott City (Mid-State Activities Association members), and Colby and Goodland (Northwest Kansas League members).
The HPL, long one of the premier small to mid-class size leagues in western Kansas, is losing one of its longtime staple schools in Holcomb.
When it joined the HPL back in the 1960s, the Longhorns were a small Class BB school and when classifications changed in the late 1960s they were a Class 1A league member. Through the years, they have slowly climbed the ladder through 2A, 3A and next year will be Class 4A in football for the first time.
So it should come as no surprise when Lindall Cox, the boys track coach at Holcomb, will have some sentimental feelings when he sees his peers for the final time as a league member.
It was just a year ago that Holcomb and Sublette's boys tied for the league meet title in Lakin. The Longhorns have won four league titles, sharing the 2009 crown with Sublette in the boys division.
"I guess I've not thought about it a lot, but it will certainly be different since it is our last time to be part of the Hi-Plains," Cox said. "There's been a lot of great athletes run in the league and we've been fortunate to have our share."
The all-time Hi-Plains League track honor roll shows two Longhorn boys at the top of the elite list in their respective events. Current pole vaulter Levi Koehn cleared 15-0 two weeks ago at the Garden City Invitational to tie an all-time league best. The other came from Kale Katt who threw the shot put 57-1 1/2 in 2002 before transferring to Scott City.
On the girls side, the Lady Longhorns' top league efforts include Kelsey Martin's 14.48 100-meter hurdle mark in 2007 and Melissa Henry (Savolt) at 18-5 1/2 in the long jump in 1991. Michelle Baier's 1990 standard of 136-10 1/2 in the discus rates as the all-time HPL best.
For Hugoton, the Eagles became members of the HPL back in the 1970s and despite being the biggest school in the league, has not dominated sports like many people would have expected.
This year, the Eagles have some top individual performers, especially coming from the girls side of the track in freshman Nicole Kinser. She holds down the top mark in the triple jump at 37-5 1/2 and is also on the top five honor roll in the 200 and 400.
Hugoton athletic director Lee Gillen, completing his first year at the school, is excited about the new league for next season while at the same time paying tribute to the Hi-Plains League schools.
"It's been a great league, with great kids, great coaches through the years," Gillen said of the HPL. "You build tons of relationships with people through time and you have a lot of the same coaches around. But we know that the decision to move leagues is what is best for our kids. Especially our middle school. The opportunities for more kids, more teams to participate will be enhanced. It's not a knock on the Hi-Plains at all. It's just a matter of the numbers being more in line with what we needed for our kids."
The HPL meet will begin at 2 p.m. with the boys and girls javelin field event. The remaining field events will begin at 3 p.m. Track preliminaries in the 100 and 200 dashes and the 100/110 hurdles will start at 5 p.m. Finals for the track events are slated for approximately 6:15 p.m.