By BRETT MARSHALL
SUBLETTE — Two weeks into the track and field season coaches from southwest Kansas schools are wondering if the wind machine will ever be shut off.
For the second consecutive Tuesday, Hi-Plains League teams had to fight the elements of the wind.
Last week, it forced meet officials to cancel the Holcomb HPL divisional meet when the wind was between 45 to 55 miles per hour. Tuesday, the HPL schools had to battle much of the same conditions, with the wind blowing at up to 35 miles per hour.
While team scores weren't tabulated, athletes tried to get in some competitive work and to use the day as another early season training workout. Hugoton and Wichita County did not send teams because the schools decided to not put buses on the highway while Stanton County, Syracuse and Holcomb all competed.
For Stanton County distance runner Eric Ruth, Tuesday was about getting his conditioning work in for upcoming bigger races. He did win the 800 (2:16.08), 1,600 (5:37.18), the 3,200-meters (11:23.14) and ran a leg of the 1,600 relay, but all of his times were well above his personal best of a year ago when he claimed the Class 2A state title in the 3,200, second in the 1,600 and third in the 800.
"At some of these smaller meets, it's all about getting a good workout in," Ruth said. "It gives the coaches a lot of opportunity for us to work on things that will help us out when we get to the bigger meets. I'm really looking forward to seeing the guys from Lakin, Hugoton and Holcomb."
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For Syracuse senior Kamie Rash, Tuesday provided her the second opportunity of the early season to establish herself as one of the best sprinters in the area. Rash is headed to Pratt Community College on a basketball scholarship.
Rash won both the 100 (12.84) and 200 (29.72). A torn anterior cruciate ligament she suffered during the basketball season caused her to miss her entire junior track season.
"It just feels awesome to be out here running again," Rash said. "My start on the 100 wasn't very good. My blocks were set wrong and I popped up instead of coming out low and smooth. It was a tricky wind, even running with it. I was a little skeptical about how I'd do coming back, but so far it just feels great doing my thing. I feel stronger in a lot of ways than before I got hurt."
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Sublette's senior sprinter Mason Hibbard finds himself in a strange situation this season. He's the lone returner from last year's state champion 400 and 1,600 relay teams and he also placed third in the 100 and seventh in the 200 in helping the Larks to the school's first boys team championship.
He won the three individual races he entered Tuesday, the 100, the 200 and the 400. He also anchored the winning 1,600 relay team.
"It's different this year being the main one back," Hibbard said. "But this is the first meet for us and I'm just glad to get out and run and see where I'm at. It was horribly windy, but still felt good to compete."
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Holcomb freshman Karissa Pena overcame the strong wind conditions to post a personal best in winning the high jump at 5-foot. The jump pit at the north end of the field forced jumpers to approach going into the wind and slightly to the side.
"It was difficult to figure out the stepping because when I jump in the air, I maneuver my body to turn and go over the bar," said Pena, who matched her personal best from her eighth grade year. "You don't necessarily jump harder, but you do have to jump quicker."
Pena cleared every height from 4-2 to 5-foot and once she had the victory in hand, opted to stop for the day.
"There's no reason to try to jump anymore," Pena said. "The wind really wears on you. I had to really adjust my steps because I was either to far from or too close to the bar. I'm surprised that I got that height because of the wind, but I'm very happy."
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Holcomb will have several runners competing on Friday and Saturday at the KU Relays in Lawrence after competing in the Shocker pre-state invitational at Wichita State University on Saturday and Sunday. JaCee Jarnagin placed ninth in the elite 1,600 with a time of 4:38.85.
Lakin's Kayson Matthews also competed at WSU meet in the 3,200 elite run and placed eighth with a time of 9:57.05, while Holcomb's Michael Wolf was 11th in 10:10.75. Holcomb's Levi Koehn placed second in the elite pole vault competition by clearing 14-0 after going 14-6 at Cimarron two weeks ago. The Longhorns' Brett Robinson cleared 11-6 to place second in the Class 1-3A vault event. Holcomb's 3,200 relay team of Mitchell Gaede, Brendon Thomas, Wolf and Jarnagin placed fifth in the elite division with a time of 8:39.54.
See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.