By BRETT MARSHALL
SUBLETTE — Cimarron's Eva Koopman has been competing in the high jump and long jump events for many years despite being just a freshman for the Lady Bluejays track and field team.
Jake Gesling of Sublette had been running distance races for the Larks during his first two years in high school.
On Thursday, Koopman made a big splash onto the prep scene by winning three individual events — the two jump specialties and the 100-meter hurdles — while Gesling competed in his very first triple jump event and came away with a surprising victory and then also tacked on a win in the 400-meter dash.
Koopman won her high jump competition with a school-record leap of 5-6, just edging out senior teammate Lindsay Wehkamp — the reigning Class 2A state champion — who cleared 5-4 to finish second.
"I'm very happy about it," Koopman said of her high jump effort. "I love it. It's great to have somebody like her (Wehkamp) as competition. She makes me happy, she helps me, it's fun. We're very close."
Koopman's family moved two years ago from just outside Hamburg, Germany, and her performance Thursday was made even better when she claimed the long jump with a leap of 16-10 while Wehkamp (last year's state 2A third-place medalist) was right behind at 16-8.
She concluded her triple gold day by winning the 100-meter hurdles in a time of 16.72 seconds.
"It was a pretty good day but I actually have no idea how it happened," she said. "I didn't think I'd do this good. I just felt good this morning, and just jumped over and forgot everything, and I just made it."
Koopman said the daily competition she has with Wehkamp has made both of them better.
"Lindsay's always encouraging me, I'm always encouraging her," Koopman said.
Gesling's performance was perhaps as much surprising as any of the day on the boys side of the competition. He won the triple jump by soaring 41-05.75 on his third and final leap in his first-ever try in the event.
"I'm stunned, absolutely, for the first doing that," a jubilant Gesling said. "I'm pretty excited. My first jump was just kind of strange because for some reason I started on the wrong foot and when I came to the board, I hit it with my left foot. I still got about 37 feet and I was kinda disappointed. But we got that straightened out and then I went 41-0 and then 41-05.75."
The Sublette junior has been competing in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter events the past couple of years, but two weeks prior to the first meet, Larks' coach Steve Simpson pulled Gesling aside at the end of practice one day.
"Coach Simpson told me to follow him to the long jump pit and we tried it for a little while and I guess I was doing ok," Gesling said. "It was just out of the blue. I asked him what he was thinking and he said, 'I've been watching you and you're getting stronger and I want to try this out. He must've seen something that I didn't. I don't know what he saw, but I'm glad to be doing this. It changes all my focus for this season."
And while Gesling's winning time in the 400 (55.92) isn't anything to write home about, it was still a good start for his first effort in that event, too.
"I guess I've turned into a sprinter and a jumper now," Gesling said with a smile.
Wichita County distance runner Paige Wells showed that she is a force to be reckoned with once again as she embarks on her junior season. With multiple state runner-up finishes at the 2011 state track meet, Wells is gearing up for a strong year. She captured both the 800-meters (2:29.03) and 1,600-meters (5:37.03) and was happy with her times.
"I feel like it's a good goal because I want to run faster early in the season," Wells said. "So then I can run faster at the end of the season at the state. We've had good weather, good workouts and I'm on pace with splits."
Wells, appearing to be stronger than in previous seasons, said she had been doing more workouts.
With temperatures in the mid 50s and virtually no wind, the weather was ideal for Wells.
"I love cooler weather, it's just what I like, so today was a good day to run and see where I'm at," Wells said.
For Lakin's Joe McCombs, the fact that he was even on the track made Thursday a special day.
McCombs suffered a severe hip injury last fall during football season and the Broncs' senior speedster was not sure he'd be seeing the track this spring. In fact, his doctor had told him it would be six months after surgery before he'd be able to do any serious training. He's well ahead of schedule.
He captured the 100-meters in 11.49 seconds, placed third in the 200-meters and ran on one of the relay teams.
"For what I went through, there was a lot of therapy, really had to hit the pool hard and glad to be out here and compete," McCombs said. "Today I just went out there and tried my best. It seemed like it worked good today. Feel like I'm competing to where I need to be. I just need to get better. This helps the motivation and boosts my confidence."
Cimarron also had several other multiple winners as Breanna Bryant matched Koopman as a three-event winner, capturing the shot put (28-01), discus (79-11) and javelin (90-00) while Charise Friesen captured the 100- (13.87) and 400-meter (1:07.80) events.
See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.