Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a series of 10 stories counting down The Telegram's top 10 sports stories of 2011 as chosen by The Telegram staff.
By KEVIN THOMPSON
Kennedy Schneider went to the Kansas State High School Track Chanpionship the last weekend of May on a mission — win gold medals in each of her long distance events.
A third gold in her middle distance event would be a nice bonus.
A double gold performance in the 1,600 meters and 3,200 meters and a silver medal in the 800 meters got the Greeley County junior just what she ordered.
Schneider won her first gold that Friday, running the 3,200 meter race in 11:45.42 (a personal best and a school record), and 11 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher.
By comparison, her time was 40 seconds better than it was in 2010, when she placed fifth in the event.
In the 1,600-meter run on Saturday, Schneider turned in another personal record (5:22.56), winning by five seconds.
Her winning time was 23 seconds better than her run in 2010, when she placed 10th.
By the time she ran the 800 meters, she had already eclipsed her expectations, so placing second (2:25.79) wasn't that terrible, though it did leave her wanting more the next time around.
With only four hours between the two Saturday races, Schneider did not have the kick against the winner, who was more fresh, and lost by less than a second.
"Overall, I thought things went better than I had hoped," Schneider said. "Trying to get the three was extra motivation. I can't really be disappointed in what I did. I'm proud of the effort and happy with the results."
Schneider scored 28 of her team's 29 points, helping the Lady Jackrabbits tie for fourth place in the team standings.
With one season left in her high school career, she already has visualized herself wearing four gold medals around her neck.
That vision is more of a motivator, and even if it doesn't happen, Schneider knows she will have worked hard to improve.
Resting on her past accomplishments and reputation is not part of Schneider's training philosophy.
A key component to her goal will be to lower her times while working on increasing her speed, especially her kick.
The 3,200-meter race was exciting, she said, but having more challengers might have pushed her.
"I wish I would have had more competition to see if I could have gone faster," she said.
She got more of a push in the 1,600 meters, but it was the neck-and-neck race --and loss-- in the 800 meters that will be her motivation to try even harder next spring.
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.
"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."
That sound readers just heard was the collective groan from 400-meter runners from across the state. Schneider will be mining for more gold.