24 Karat: Wycoff, Tucker named track athletes of year
By BRETT MARSHALL
By BRETT MARSHALL
If one could take a time machine trip backward, there's always certain things that can be discovered.
For Kelly Wycoff and Heath Tucker, who are The Telegram's Track and Field Female and Male Athletes of the Year, that's just what they reflected on during recent interviews after completing their senior seasons in the sport.
As a freshman, Wycoff placed sixth in Class 3A in the 400-meter dash with a time of 1:01.65, and was seventh in the 200 meters in a time of 26.77 seconds. She didn't make it to state in the 100-meter dash, nor did her 4x400-meter relay team.
In his rookie season of 2011, Tucker didn't qualify in either the 110 or 300-meter hurdles, with his lone state competition coming in the 4x400-meter relay, where he anchored a state gold medal team with a time of 3:27.89.
Progression came quickly for the two standout track stars. By the time May 31 of this year came to a close, Scott City's Wycoff had harvested 13 state medals — three golds, six silvers, one bronze, along with a fifth, sixth and seventh-place finish. Tucker's haul finished at 11 state medals — two individual golds, two 4x400-meter relay golds, a silver in the 4x4, three bronze medals in the 110-meter hurdles and one bronze in the 300 hurdles. He added a pair of fourth-place finishes in the 4x100-meter relay and the 200-meter dash.
For Wycoff, who is headed to Fort Hays State University on a track scholarship, it was her sophomore year that provided the breakout season to put her among the elite sprinters in Kansas.
"It was definitely my sophomore year when I made that jump of improvement at the state track when I won the 200," Wycoff said. "But probably the most memorable I think would be my junior year, when our girls team (4x400 relay) got second, and the team got third. That's when I won the 100 and 200. That whole entire meet we didn't know we had a chance in the team standings, so when we got second in the relay and got the team trophy that was pretty cool."
Wycoff considers the 200 meters her favorite race, having won golds in Class 3A both her sophomore and junior years. But the 400 meters may well have become her best race during her senior season, despite the fact she didn't win gold at the Class 4A state meet. In her final individual race of her stellar career, Wycoff ran a blistering 56.98 in the 400, but came up just .16 of a second short of Baldwin's Morgan Lober. For the 2014 track season, those were the two fastest times in Kansas for all classes.
"My freshman season, I was always stuck at about one minute, but that sophomore year I made that big jump (57.96). That was a big deal for me. I didn't break 58 in my junior year, but this year I made another jump, and yeah, that was good. It gave me a different perspective and a lot of confidence. I didn't know I was capable of that time."
It was the 200, though, where Wycoff has some of her best memories, and best performances.
"It's always been my favorite, and probably always will be," Wycoff said with a big smile. "Even though I knew (this year) was gonna be really tough, I was still anxious to run it because I like it so much. I did run a good race (25.38). I was pleased with my start. I just wasn't the fastest that day. That whole season, my goal was to win the 200, but I wasn't sad about it when it was over."
Class 4A proved to be the sternest test for sprinters at the 2014 state track meet, and perhaps the 100-meter dash was the most revealing of just how tough it was for Wycoff. Her 12.55 seconds time was good for just fifth place, yet that time would have won Classes 1-2-3-5A, and placed second in 6A. In the 200, her 25.38 time would have won gold in every other classification.
"That was kind of interesting, because when I got done with my 100, and got my fifth-place medal, my mediocre time would have won several other classes," Wycoff said with a bit of melancholy. "You can't change anything about it. I hadn't really looked at the other girls' events, how 4A matched up, but when I saw the times, 4A definitely was the most difficult in the sprints."
And the final surprise of her senior season came on the final event of the state meet — the 4x400-meter relay. They had been ranked seventh entering regionals, but qualified third for state. Then, they weren't ranked among the top eight teams of the 16 qualifiers, yet managed to make it out of the Friday prelims. They followed that with a best time of 4:08.60 to place third, capping off Wycoff's brilliant career.
"It just was really an awesome feeling and exciting for us," Wycoff said of the four seniors on the relay team. "Most of the group has been running together for three years. It was really cool, emotional."
Wycoff plans to pursue a degree in education and school administration and hopes that coaching might be in her future plans as well.
"One of the biggest things I've learned from other sports is learning about teamwork, discipline and determination," Wycoff said. "You know hard work is gonna pay off."
For Holcomb's Tucker, his senior season saw him pursue a couple of new events just to make the sport more enjoyable in his final year.
"I knew what I was going to do (for college), so in my senior year I just tried to have some fun and tried to break a couple more school records," Tucker said.
That he did, eclipsing the school long jump record with a leap of 22-6 1/4 (second on the GCT Honor Roll), while also running the 200 meters for the first time. At the end of the season, he was ranked on the area honor roll in six events — 100 (3rd), 200 (1st), 400 (1st), 110-meter hurdles (1st), 300-meter hurdles (1st) and the long jump (2nd).
"I think my junior year was probably my best year," Tucker said. "I was training harder and for specific events, so I was stronger. The extra conditioning helped me with the 300 hurdles and the 400-meters (where he ran a 49.92)."
From a lanky freshman to a solidly-built 185-pounder as a senior, Tucker said he could look back and see his improvement and feel good about his accomplishments.
"I was just a little freshman and it's been fun to see how I've gotten bigger and stronger," Tucker said.
And while he has enjoyed competing in multiple events, he has fond memories of his 300-meter hurdle battles with 2013 Class 5A and 6A state champions Trenton Hammond of Liberal and Jonathan DuVall of Garden City.
"I beat Trent once as a freshman and then beat Jonathan as a sophomore, so those are special meets I remember," Tucker said. "It was special to compete against the best. That was the race to watch. I enjoy looking back on those. They're a couple of good guys and it's fun to know you've beaten a 5A and 6A state champion."
Tucker, who will play basketball next year at Washburn University in Topeka, said that his three-sport days are over, and he is excited to focus on just one sport.
"Football was just gonna be too hard on my body," said Tucker, who was a Telegram All-Area selection in the sport as well as in basketball. "My hips are not too good (he underwent surgery his junior year to repair an injured one). Now I can focus on one sport. I never really wanted to do track so I'm looking forward to concentrating on basketball and getting better."
It will be a busy summer for Tucker, who will play in the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association all-star game later this month in Salina before going on in July to play for the West team in the annual Kansas Shrine Bowl football contest.
"The football and basketball sports have taught me mental toughness, how to get through long seasons and morning practices," Tucker said. "I can look back on everything and know I gave it my best shot."
He plans to pursue an undergraduate degree in physics before transferring and earning a degree in engineering.
Garden City girls 4x800-meter relay team
(Alex Miller-1,600/3,200), Katy Doll, Aileen Gurrola (400m), (Kayla Doll)-800/1600).
With three of the four runners returning from the 2013 state championship team, and adding in the speedy Gurrola, the Lady Buffs were among the top seeds entering the state track meet.
And despite the fact that they ran the fastest time in school history (9:32.63), which also was the 16th fastest all-time in Kansas girls track and field history, the time wasn't good enough to earn a repeat gold medal in Class 6A at the state track meet in Wichita.
There simply wasn't much the Lady Buffs could do about the Olathe East squad that posted a mind-boggling time of 9:24.55, the fifth fastest in state history. The Lady Buffs' time knocked off nearly three seconds from their 2013 winning time of 9:35.41.
Kayla Doll, who along with teammate Miller, is headed to Kansas State University to run cross country and track next fall. In her senior season, Doll established a new school record in the 1,600-meter run when she clocked a 5:05.90 and placed third at the state track meet. Her previous best had been 5:09.28. Laura Ostmeyer held the previous mark of 5:07.80 set in 1986.
In her other specialty, the 800-meters, Doll ran a personal best of 2:18.92 yet managed just a third-place behind Olathe East's Kelsey Lathrop (2:16.91) and Lawrence Free State's Bailey Sullivan (2:17.80). She was within earshot of Ostmeyer's school record of 2:16.41, established in 1985.
Miller posted a season best time of 11:27.53 in the 3,200-meters, and then clocked an 11:28.10 to place sixth at the state track meet. She also ran a 5:11.25 in the 1,600-meters during the regular season, second best on The Telegram's Honor Roll this season. At the state meet, she ran a 5:14.38 and placed fifth, just behind her teammate Kayla Doll. Her official split in her 800 was a personal best 2:20.87.
Gurrola, a freshman, ran the second fastest 400-meter time of the area athletes this season in 59.49 to qualify for the 6A finals at the state meet, where she eventually placed seventh. She ran a 2:28.78 and finished fourth among area 800-meter runners.
Katy Doll earned her way on as part of the 4x800-meter relay unit, where she clocked a 2:26.36 split. She also high jumped this season, clearing 5-02, tying for second best on the all-area list. Her jump of 5-00 at the state meet earned her a tie for eighth place.
Taryn Tempel, Garden City
The multi-sport Tempel, who is headed to the University of Kansas and will walk on to the track program, had perhaps the toughest schedule of any athlete at the state track meet.
She had to compete, nearly simultaneously, in the triple jump, the 400-meter prelims, and then come back for one of the legs of the 4x400-meter relay team, and then finish up with the triple jump, all between 9:45 a.m. and 2 p.m. It took a toll.
After posting season bests of 36-11 1/4 and 17-8 in the triple and long jumps, she could produce no better than 35-3 1/2 and 16-5 3/4, putting her in seventh and sixth, respectively, in her two events. Still, her marks led the GCT honor roll during the season and her triple jump established a new school record, breaking her own leap of 36-7 set in 2013. She also ran the opening leg of the 4x400 relay to help the Lady Buffs to a fourth-place finish. She had a season-best 59.68 in the 400-meters.
Kaylee Kipp, Garden City
The junior transfer from Manhattan High School made an immediate impact on the Lady Buffs track team, scoring consistently in both the shot put and discus events.
Having placed in both as a sophomore at MHS, Kipp came back with a solid junior campaign in which she registered season best marks of 40-2 1/4 in the shot put and 121-2 1/4 in the discus. At the state meet, she struggled and didn't place in the discus, but did earn a fourth-place medal in the shot put with a heave of 38-7.
Jessi Arnold, Ulysses
The junior hurdler and sprinter also ran into speed merchants in the Class 4A hurdles, where she placed second in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles with times of 15.73 and 46.59. Her 100-meter time was just a shade behind winner Talia Highbarger of Circle (15.66) while she finished well back of the speedy Leah Reichenberger of Andale, who blitzed the field in 44.73 seconds. Arnold, who didn't qualify in her other two events — the 100- and 200-meters — still had the second fastest times in the area, trailing only Wycoff, with marks of 12.93 and 26.09.
Kaylee Line, Lakin
Line made a big splash onto the track and field scene in her freshman season.
She posted a season best 5-05 in the high jump and took second in the Class 3A competition with a jump of 5-04. The 5-05 mark was tops by three inches on the 2014 GCT honor roll.
Jake Peters, South Gray
The junior field event specialist continued his steady improvement in the shot put and discus this past season.
The Rebels' thrower had season best marks of 52-06 in the shot put and 170-0 in the discus, both top marks on the GCT honor roll.
Peters garnered runner-up finishes in Class 2A at the state meet with his personal best of 52-06 coming on his second try while he managed just a 159-00 in the discus, that coming on his sixth and final attempt. Peters' improvement from his sophomore season is evident with his earlier bests of 48-08 and 158-06.
Dusty Tempel, Garden City
Tempel began the season on a strong note, leaping 22-11 1/2 to tie the school record set just a year earlier by teammate Jonathan DuVall. Tempel, the 2013 Class 6A state champion (22-3 1/2), suffered a tough day on Friday at this year's state meet, where he was unable to secure a clean jump on any of his three preliminary leaps, thus missing the finals. He also had triple jumped 43-08 during the regular season and both marks were season bests on the GCT honor roll.
Wichita County boys 4x800-meter relay team
(Jorge Gallegos, Layton Tankersley, Thomas Ridder, Josh Mehl).
The Indians' relay team came out of nowhere at the Class 2A state meet, clocking a season-best area time of 8:09.80, beating their previous season mark by nearly 20 seconds en route to the gold medal. Gallegos, a freshman, ran an opening leg of 2:04.87 while Tankersley followed in 2:03.66. Ridder was next up and ran a 2:03.40 and Mehl brought it home for the Indians with a blistering 1:57.88 anchor leg.
2014 Garden City Telegram All-Area Track Field
Name School Class Event(s)
Jessi Arnold Ulysses Jr. 100m/300m hurdles, 100/200m
Garden City 4x800m relay
(Alex Miller, Sr.; Katy Doll, Jr.; Aileen Gurrola, Fr.; Kayla Doll, Sr.)
Kayla Doll Garden City Sr. 800m/1600m/4x400 relay
Katy Doll Garden City Jr. High jump
Aileen Gurrola Garden City Fr. 400m
Kaylee Kipp Garden City Jr. Shot put/Discus
Kaylee Line Lakin Fr. High jump
Alex Miller Garden City Sr. 1600m/3200m
Jake Peters South Gray Jr. Shot put/Discus
Dusty Tempel Garden City Sr. Long jump/Triple jump
Taryn Tempel Garden City Sr. Long jump/Triple jump/400/4x400 relay
Heath Tucker Holcomb Sr. 110m/300m hurdles; 200m/Long jump
Wichita County 4x800m relay
(Jorge Gallegos, Fr.; Layton Tankersley, So.; Thomas Ridder, Sr.; Josh Mehl, Sr.)
Kelly Wycoff Scott City Sr. 100m/200m/400m/4x400m relay
Female Athlete of the Year — Kelly Wycoff, Scott City, Sr.
Male Athlete of the Year — Heath Tucker, Holcomb, Sr.