No. 9: Area track athletes are golden at state meet
Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of 10 stories counting down the top sports stories of 2013 as voted on by The Telegram staff.
By KEVIN THOMPSON
Southwest Kansas had its share of gold medalists at the state track meet in Wichita the final weekend in May.
Four area athletes recorded double golds, and five other individuals and one relay team took home the others.
All of the seniors who won individual gold medals are currently competing at the collegiate level.
Tate Annis of Ulysses made the most of his final season by winning the Class 4A 200-meter dash and the long jump.
His 22.52 seconds matched his qualifying time, and it was .32 seconds faster than the runner-up.He won the long jump by three inches with a leap of 23-02. Annis had lost the 200 meters at regionals against Colton Mays of Rose Hill.
"I found my way back to the drawing board, having to strategize where he beat me," Annis said. "It was on the straightaway. I wanted to burn the curve hard and then float just a little bit and kick it on the last 60 (meters). And it worked."
Winning double-gold couldn't be sweeter, he added, on a track he came to know well in his high school career. He is now running on that same track after signing with Wichita State University.
Fellow senior Mauri Steimel of Stanton County made her marks in winning the Class 2A shot put and discus.
Steimel won the shot put with a throw of 41-10, with her closest competitor at 39-00.5. Her discus winning throw of 118-09 beat out 116-01.
Her shot put winning mark came on her final throw. Her next best throw had been 39-05, still good enough for gold, but going farther was even more rewarding.
"I love coming to this (state) meet, having a chance to throw in front of a lot of people," Steimel said after winning. "My throws were good, not great. I scratched on a throw that would have been over 43 (feet)."
Her final throw was just five inches short of her all-time best throw of 42-04. Steimel is currently on the Emporia State University track and field roster.
Senior Nicole Kinser of Hugoton was queen of the sand pits as she won both the Class 4A long jump and the triple jump.
She landed her best long jump at 17-06.5 to win by 1.25 inches. She won by the same margin in the triple jump with a leap of 37-03.25.
Now playing volleyball and committed to jumping for Hutchinson Community College, the 6-2 Kinser used her final prep career jump to claim the long jump title for the second time.
She won that jump in 2012 with a leap of 17-05. She had been jumping from behind the board until the final jump after her coach told her to just run and jump.
"That's what I did and it worked at the end. It's a good way to finish and I'm glad it finally happened," Kinser said.
She ended her high school career with the two titles in the long jump and three in the triple jump.
Rigo Bustillos capped off his senior year in winning the Class 1A shot put. The Moscow senior threw 48-03, a full 12.5 inches farther than second place. Bustillos came into the state meet with the best throw in 1A, and he didn't disappoint in his return trip to state.
"I wasn't as nervous as I was last year," the senior said the first day of the meet. "I felt like throwing today."
Bustillos said his competition, especially three Lacrosse throwers who finished second, fourth and fifth, inspired him. Though not his best throw, he said it was great to win.
He stayed loose, got some good warmups and practices, and shot for a personal record. While he didn't get the PR, he got the gold by just more than a foot. Bustillos hit the winning throw on his first throw.
He is currently on the roster for Garden City Community College's track and field team to throw in the spring.
Brenner Wells of Scott City surprised even himself with a belated gold graduation gift in winning the javelin.
His best throw in the finals was 191-08, which he nailed on his first throw. Second place was 190-06. At regionals, Wells threw 176 feet, the same distance that got him fourth at state the year before. The senior said he had been working on getting stronger over the year and working on steps, and some adrenaline helped.
"I was just hoping to place top three," he said. "Winning's not too bad of a thing."
It also helped ease the pressure by throwing that far on his first attempt. Wells signed to do track at Hutchinson Community College, possibly as a decathlete.
Underclassmen who won gold are all juniors looking for repeats at state this year.
Kelly Wycoff of Scott City was the fastest girl in Class 3A, taking titles in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, while taking a silver medal in the 400-meters.
Wycoff's 100 meters time was 12.38 seconds, nearly a quarter second ahead of second place.
Her 200 win was a title defense, while she was runner-up in 2012 in the 100.
"It's really nice, being a junior and knowing that I can still run well and have some success," Wycoff said. "I've been here (at state) and I still get a little nervous, but not about the crowds."
In the 100, Wycoff got out of the blocks quickly and cleanly. In the 200, her favorite race, she ran strongly into the teeth of a south wind, finishing more than a second better than her fastest time of the season (25.02).
"Coming around the curve in the 200, it (the wind) just hit me in the face," she said. "I guess that's an advantage western Kansas kids have since we run in it all the time."
Wycoff was also recognized as The Telegram's Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
Heath Tucker of Holcomb overcame hip surgery in the fall to take home a gold medal in the Class 3A 300-meter hurdles.
The junior's winning time came in 38.19 seconds. His qualifying time was 38.97, and second place was 38.68 seconds.
Tucker called it the best race he's ever run.
"I think, with all the adrenaline, I took one less step (between each hurdle) and it worked out great," he said.
The only hurdle he clipped was the last one, allowing him to run his fastest time ever in that event.
Coming off his fall hip surgery, the win was even more amazing, he said. Having close competition throughout the season helped make him a stronger runner.
Morgan Ediger of Cimarron eclipsed nearly a second off her qualifying time to take home gold in the Class 3A 300-meter hurdles.
Her winning time was 46.64 seconds, well ahead of her previous day's qualifying time of 47.55.
And that was done in a final stretch head wind.
"It's awesome. I can't explain it," she said immediately following the race.
She said she ran the race exactly as she wanted, staying with the pack and finishing strong.
"It has been a goal all year," the junior said. As a freshman, Ediger finished fourth.
Only one area team won a relay title.
Out of nowhere came a win in the Class 1A 4x400-meter relay for a foursome from Satanta.
Senior Veronica Longoria, junior Emma Stalker, and freshmen sisters Vanessa and Valerie Caro, running just their fifth relay of the season, won easily in 4:17.75, more than two seconds ahead of second place.
Longoria ran the first leg, Valerie Caro the second, Vanessa Caro the third and Stalker the final leg.
Stalker took the baton in the lead and never looked back as the Lady Indian quartet wrapped up gold.
"Winning this is an amazing experience," Longoria said. "It's my first time coming to state in any sport and to be a senior and win this, first place is just amazing."
Stalker echoed those thoughts.
"Winning is like the most amazing thing in the world," she said. "We've never been a state champion in anything. I knew we were in first and I just had to keep running."
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