By BRETT MARSHALL
Everything's primed and ready for the 2013 Kansas State High School Track and Field Championship.
Will the weather once again be a major story at the final high school sports event of the 2012-13 school year?
That's what will be facing more than 70 athletes from the 12-county, 19-school Telegram area who will compete Friday and Saturday at Wichita State University's Cessna Stadium.
The two-day extravaganza, which is the only high school sport to bring all classes together at one venue for the state championship, begins at 7:45 a.m. Friday with the 3,200-meter run for Classes 1-2-3A girls and boys. The same event for Classes 4-5-6A will be run Friday evening, with preliminary qualifying in the track events scheduled for the three smaller classes on Friday morning, with the larger classes running in the afternoon and early evening.
Field event finals are set to get under way at 8 a.m. on Friday and continue throughout the day and conclude mid-afternoon Saturday.
Southwest Kansas, as it always seems to be, will be well represented at the 2013 "Big Show."
Headlining the area list will be Scott City junior Kelly Wycoff, who claimed the Class 3A 200-meter title after finishing second in both the 100 and 400-meter events in 2012. She has the state's fastest time, for all classes, in the 200 (25.02) and has the fastest 3A 100-meter mark (12.31) while ranking fourth in the 400 (59.72). She ran a 57.96 to finish second in the 400 a year ago.
"If I had to look at the three races, I think the 200 is her favorite, then the 400 and then the 100," said Scott City coach Jim Turner of Wycoff. "She was bummed about getting beat in the 400 (at regionals last Friday), but she came back strong in the 200. Track is so mental. There's the lane assignments, which are critical. You just want to get out of prelims with a good lane assignment for the finals. I think she's been a lot stronger on her starts and of course in the dashes, that is so important."
Stanton County's Mauri Steimel returns to defend her Class 2A shot put title, and has thrown more than three feet farther than she did when she won in 2012. Her season best of 42-4 is tops in 2A and ranks seventh for all classes. She placed second in the discus a year ago and ranks second by just five inches this year in 2A with a throw of 122-3.
For Wichita County's Paige Wells, it will be her final run at winning gold. The Lady Indians' distance runner has medaled all three years in the distance races, but has never finished first. In a dramatic race a year ago, she was edged in a photo-finish by Lincoln's Jenna Farris in the 1,600 meters (5:16.94 to 5:16.88). She was fifth in the 800, and then less than a week later underwent surgery to repair both legs, suffering from compartment syndrome, an especially painful debilitating condition. Wells has returned strong and will compete in all three of her specialties (800, 1600 and 3200). Her times are off her personal bests, but Wichita County distance coach Shad Mehl believes she is ready for her final appearance as a high schooler. She has signed to run for Wichita State next year.
"I don't know if Paige has gotten there for a full recovery just yet," Mehl said. "Her times haven't been where they were last year, but I know that her workouts are there, the ability is there. She's just got to go out there and trust those workouts and run with your heart. Nobody's got a bigger heart to compete than Paige. I think we'll see her best when she runs this weekend. She just needs to run smart, and I really believe she'll rise to the occasion once again."
Cimarron sophomore Eva Koopman enters the state meet with the best Class 3A high jump at 5-7 and ranks second in the long jump at 17-10.
Hugoton senior Nicole Kinser, who has signed to play volleyball and compete in track at Hutchinson Community College next year, returns to defend her Class 4A long jump title (season best of 17-8 1/2) and also has her sights set on the triple jump, where her mark of 38-1 ranks second overall and tops in 4A. She had won the triple jump in both 2010 and 2011 before a disappointing third-place effort a year ago.
Holcomb's boys will be well represented once again, with senior Tyler LaSalle qualifying in the 400 meters (50.6) and long jump (21-9), and the Longhorn senior will be part of the 4x400-meter relay team (Aaron Hernandez, Michael Banderas and Heath Tucker) that will be gunning for a third straight state title.
Tucker, the speedy HHS junior who missed the early part of the season with an ankle sprain, has come back strong and has improved each week, running season bests of 15.06 in the 110-meter high hurdles and 38.57 in the 300-hurdles at the 3A regional on his home track last Friday. He was third a year ago at the state in the 110s and second in the 300s, finishing behind Phillipsburg's Sean Newlan, who also ran at Holcomb in regionals, beating Tucker in the 110s, but losing to Tucker in the 300s.
"I think we're ready to run, and we always point to having our best times when we go to Wichita," Holcomb coach Lindall Cox said. "Heath's had a good week of practice and he's gotten better each week. Regionals were just the fourth time he's run the 110s all season, so I think we haven't seen his best yet. I wouldn't put anything past him. There's a bunch of good hurdlers in 3A, and he's right in the mix."
Hugoton's Patrick Weaver, who has a season best of 1:57.15 in the 800 meters, will defend his title in Class 4A, while Scott City's Joey Meyer, second in the same event a year ago in Class 3A, has run a season best of 2:00.06.
Wichita County junior Josh Mehl, who also had compartment syndrome surgery in early 2012, has bounced back and is among the top 1,600-meter qualifiers in Class 2A with a time of 4:31.22. His father, and coach, believes he's ready for this year's state meet.
"Josh has had a textbook recovery," coach Mehl said. "He's trained so well and he's confident and it's fun to watch him having fun running again."
Stanton County's Quinn Kendrick and Syracuse's Kyle Dupree have battled back and forth all season in the pole vault and will be among the favorites for Class 2A. Kendrick has a season best of 15-0, while Dupree cleared 14-6 in winning regionals a week ago. The two tied for fifth place in 2012.
Another Wichita State-bound track athlete, Ulysses' Tate Annis, hopes to improve on his 2012 effort when he was fifth in the 200 meters and sixth in the long jump. He has season best marks of 22.23 and 22-10 1/2, which is more than a foot farther than he went as a junior.
State schedule, qualifiers on Page A11.