By The Telegram Sports Staff
During his sophomore year Osvaldo Granillo left last year's state track meet with a fourth-place medal in the 100-meter dash and two golds as part of two relay teams.
This year he decided to raise the stakes and make it a "four-fer" on finals Saturday.
Four events; four gold medals.
For his accomplishments, the Moscow speedster earned the Telegram's Track and Field Athlete of the Year award.
Not bad for a junior who, admittedly, really wasn't all that fast of a runner two years ago.
"I used to be slow and never really liked track," Granillo said. "My freshman year I couldn't really run, so they'd take me individually so I could work on form. My feet would be all over the place. My sophomore year I just started lifting and the speed came. It was weird."
In ninth grade he was a size 12 shoe in a 5-7 body. Now he's six feet tall and fits the shoes. And there was no stopping him this year.
"It's a lot more fun when you go to state and you win all your events," he said.
Of his two individual races, Granillo said the 200 is his favorite.
"Last year I was slow in that event and I hated it," he said. "But now I like it. I started training a lot for it, and working on my form and the 200 just came along."
His strategy in both sprints was burn-stride-burn, or strong out of the blocks, smooth in the middle, and all-out sprint at the end.
"Last year, I just burned the whole way and died at the end," he said of his fourth-place in 2010.
"I'd work a lot on meditating, and blocking everything out and just exploding as soon as the gun pops," he said.
But he admits his start in the 100 at state didn't go according to plan.
"I thought I was about to fall down. I'm surprised I didn't get DQ'd," he said. "That would have ruined my day."
The meditation helps him focus, especially in front of the thousands of fans at the state meet, he said.
"I get down in my blocks, and just stare at the asphalt, and just block everything out and listen for the gun," he said.
Confidence was also key to his day, he said. Being ranked first in both sprints helped him know that all he had to do was run properly to win.
Crossing the finish line in first place is an incomparable feeling, Granillo said.
Stephanie Caro, Satanta
Entering her senior season, Stephanie Caro had a couple of goals in the forefront of her mind - improve on her 2010 state track meet performance (fourth in the 100-meter dash) and come home with a first-place finish.
She accomplished one goal and came oh-so close on the second. She ran second to Victoria's Taylor Kisner in the 100-meter finals, clocking a 12.63 to Kisner's 12.55. Those two would collide again in the 200-meters, with Kisner once again finishing just ahead of Caro, winning by a 25.95 to 26.38 margin.
"I came back a little disappointed in the 100," Caro said. "If I'd run my best time from earlier in the year, I would have won."
For Caro, the 200 was icing on the cake since she had not previously competed in the event until this season. It was at the urging of her new coach (Janie Lutz) to give the 200 a try.
"I'm happy with the progress I made," said Caro. "My starts were better, we worked on getting out of the blocks quicker and it really helped."
Caro will take her sprinting skills to Dodge City Community College track team next season.
Heber Jimenez, Hugoton
As a senior at Hugoton High School, Heber Jimenez finished his career on a very high note at the Class 4A state meet in Wichita.
Jimenez placed ninth in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 4:34.57 and third in the 3,200-meters with a time of 9:54.49.
His time in the 1,600 was just off of his season-best time of 4:32.12. But his time in the 3,200 was a personal best and also was the top mark on The Telegram's Honor Roll for 2011.
Nicole Kinser, Hugoton
Winning an individual gold medal at the state track meet is one of the top accomplishments for any high school athlete.
Nicole Kinser found that out in 2010 when she captured the Class 4A triple jump in Wichita. She came back her sophomore season, and avoided that "sophomore slump," by repeating the accomplishment with a jump of 36-10.50, 7.50 inches clear of Andale's Josie Eck, another sophomore.
"I did better than last year and there was a little more pressure," Kinser said. "People were closer and everyone was watching. It was a nice day (cooler/cloudy). I like colder weather and it was better than the hot weather we had last year."
Kinser got her winning effort on her second jump after opening with a 36-05.50 leap. Eck's runner-up mark came on her second jump.
Kinser said she is hoping to work on the third part of the triple jump, saying her coach describes her style as a hop, skip and fall into the pits.
"I need to pick my knees up and get them to 90 degrees," she said. "I don't do that right now. I could probably get another foot if I can make those improvements."
Garrison LeRock, Cimarron
Two-time state meet qualifier, a state title in the high jump, broken school records and a long career of traveling the country to compete in track and field events is a resume one would expect from an older, more seasoned veteran.
However, those are all things that describe the career of Cimarron sophomore high jumper Garrison LeRock.
"I felt really good about this season because I kept progressing on my height for high jump," LeRock said. "Last year's record was 6-2, then I went up to 6-5 and then 6-8. It got better every track meet. I usually do my best in the first track meet, but this year I kept progressing."
In late May, LeRock won the Class 2A state high jump at 6-4, just a little under his season-best of 6-8. This comes after his freshman year where he placed 12th at state.
LeRock has already achieved the goal of breaking the school record; he said by the end of his high school career, he hopes to clear 7-0.
But if LeRock will achieve that goal, it will have to be at a new school. Next year, he and his family will be moving to Andale.
It will be a change of pace for LeRock but moving around is something he has gotten used to with his competitive career of traveling across the country for AAU Junior Olympics.
Greeley County's three-sport star Jonathan Miller is no stranger to recognition for his on-field success. That is why his most recent selection to the Telegram's All-Area team should come as no surprise.
Miller represented the depleted Greeley County track and field team at the state meet in Wichita and repeated as the Class 1A discus champ with a toss of 159-4.
Miller also placed fifth in the 400-meter with a time of 52.50 seconds.
Despite all the success he found at Wichita, it was a disappointment for Miller.
"Winning state was nice and honestly I wouldn't be satisfied if I lost but really my goal since I was a freshman was to be in the 190-200 area," Miller said. "I was right on pace mid-season, and then everything dropped off and I ended up just doing really terrible."
For some, winning state may be good enough to end a career on. However, Miller has set such high standards for himself he believes anything less than his best is a disappointment.
"I try not to go by how well everyone does," Miller said. "I would've rather got 16th and thrown 190. It's nice to win, it's another feather in my cap but I'm really just more preparing myself the best I can for the meets."
Miller entered the state meet hoping for a toss of 190, not only for his personal goal but for a much bigger incentive. Had he achieved his goal, he would've received a scholarship to throw from the University of Kansas.
Moscow relay teams
A year ago, four underclassmen from Moscow defied the odds and won two titles at the state track meet in Wichita.
In May, they returned to defend those titles and, in dramatic fashion, did just that.
Senior Raymundo Garcia teamed with juniors Breck Roop, Jonatan Manriquez and Osvaldo Granillo to claim the 1A gold medals in both the 4x800- and 4x400-meter relays.
Though their black, yellow and gold vertically-striped track jerseys don't display any team logo or name (they're known as "the stripes," Granillo said), the 10,000-plus fans at Cessna Stadium knew it was the Moscow Wildcats crossing the finish line first and standing atop the medals podium.
They won the 4x800 event by the closest of margins, .15 of a second over Pretty Prairie, who had beat them the week before in regionals.
Garcia took over the lead from Pretty Prairie 100 meters into his 800 anchor leg and held off all challengers to start the defense of the gold medals.
It wasn't quite as close in the other relay as they defeated Hope by .52 seconds, 3:31.58-3:32.10.
In that race, Granillo made up 35 meters on the final leg to overtake two runners on the backstretch then sling-shotted around the lead runner on the final curve to claim gold.
"I saw he was bringing in the baton, and he wasn't getting up ahead and getting us in a higher place," he said. "But I just knew I was going to have to run and not catch them too fast but I was going to have to go faster than I usually do to catch them."
Manriquez ran the first leg of the 4x400. Since the others had all ran individual races sometime on Saturday, he said it was the natural choice for him to start to give the other three extra rest, even if just an extra 50 seconds.
Kennedy Schneider, Greeley County
In her big picture goal, Greeley County's Schneider sees perhaps four gold medals draped around her neck when she leaves the 2012 Kansas State Track and Field Championship in Wichita.
For now, she'll settle for two golds and a silver medal, a result of her sterling performance at the 2011 state meet where she claimed gold in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters while finishing second in the 800-meters.
"It was definitely a good start to my big picture goal for next year," Schneider said. "The best was the 3,200 and it was exciting. I wish I would have had more competition to see if I could have gone faster (11:45.42)."
Schneider said she enjoyed the 1,600-meter race in part because of how close the race was comparatively. While she won the longer distance by nearly 11 seconds, she finished the 1,600 in a time of 5:22.56 to runnerup Katelyn Henderson of Olpe who was at 5:27.48.
In the 800-meters, a race that came down to the final 10 meters, Schneider lost to Vanessa Kresin of Beloit-St. John's by a time of 2:24.65 to 2:25.79.
"I feel the 800 could have been better if I'd just had a better kick at the finish," Schneider said. "I told (coach Greg) Cook that I wanted to add the 400 next year to help with the speed that I need for the 800."
With lofty goals of running in the middle 11-minute range for the 3,200, and closer to a five-minute mile, Schneider knows what it will take to take it up another level.
Wyatt Slaven, South Gray
For Wyatt Slaven, the South Gray junior who ran the 400-meters in 50.88 to win the Class 1A state title, this season was quite the eventful one.
Slaven enjoyed a great deal of success this year. He began the season at Cimarron by placing third with a time of 54 seconds. He proceeded to improve his time each meet.
He admitted this season's success was helped by the fact that he was an upperclassman who would be looked upon to be a leader.
"It gave me some more kick," Slaven said. "Just had to try hard and train hard. My coach was always pushing me and saying that we needed to cut off seconds."
The team also helped motivate Slaven.
"They were pushing me to succeed," Slaven said. "I had a couple of friends who were right there and they were always motivating me."
Dalton Smith, Scott City
As a freshman, Dalton Smith earned a fourth-place medal at the state track meet in the 100-meter dash.
The experience in front of thousands motivated the Scott City athlete to return and do even better.
But a lower back injury just before his sophomore season sidelined him in 2010, putting his dream of standing on the medal podium in one of the top three spots on hold.
So Smith made it his goal to make up for lost time. Just last month, the junior found himself atop the medal stand not once, not twice, but three times.
Smith finished third in the 200-meter dash (22.98), second in the 100 (11.15), and struck gold as one leg of the 4x100-meter relay (43.70).
"Finishing at least third in everything was a pretty good goal for me," Smith said. "Going 1-2-3, that felt pretty good."
Lindsay Wehkamp, Cimarron
All track and field season, Wehkamp saw her performances in both the high jump and long jump vary.
One week she would do well in the high jump (season best 5-5) and then another week it would be the long jump (season best 17-4.75). At the state meet, it was the high jump's turn to take center stage as the junior captured the gold medal with a leap of 5-4, just missing 5-6 after sewing up the state title.
"I had the 4x400 (relay) in the middle of high jumping and I hadn't done so well at the start," Wehkamp said. "I think (the relay) gave me some adrenaline when I came back."
The long jump saw Wehkamp finish third with a leap of 16-4.25, a foot short of her best.
"This will push me to work a little more on the long jump," Wehkamp said. "I know I could get that and now that I've won high jump, I want the long jump really bad."
Paige Wells, Wichita County
The sophomore distance runner went to state with a number of goals in mind, fully aware there were some top-notch competitors in her three individual races.
When the two days were completed, Wells had three second-place silver medals and the knowledge she had surpassed all of her goals.
"I did better than I expected," said Wells. "I was thinking just top five because of the girls who I ran against in cross country. We just kind of went with the flow."
First, Wells was second to Jenna Ferris (11:37.01) of Lincoln despite running a personal best time of 11:42.22, nearly 30 seconds faster than her previous fastest time.
Then, she was surprised by Ell-Saline freshman Aubrey Wilson in the 1,600-meters, again running a personal best 5:22.04 to Wilson's 5:19.85.
In the 800, it was once again Wilson eking out a victory, 2:23.76 to Wells' 2:24.50 in a classic finish.
"That kinda of surprised me," Wells said. "She has a very good kick at the end. That's something I need to work on this summer — getting stronger, much more than this last year."