Both Hugoton and Holcomb expected Thursday’s Class 4A regional track meet to be a rough challenge to qualify competitors in the top four to advance to next week’s state track event in Wichita.
That’s what you have when you’re in the mix with defending state champion Andale in both girls and boys divisions, as well as top-level teams in Buhler, McPherson and Smoky Valley.
So Hugoton coach Nick Rodriguez was pleased with his Eagle boys team, which placed third with 69 points behind Andale (108) and Buhler (94), while Holcomb shared fourth place with McPherson with 55 points.
For Holcomb, the highlights of the day came from its 100-, 200- and 400-meter individual performers, and the 4x100 and 4x400-meter relay teams.
The Longhorns’ 4x100 once again lowered the school record with a brilliant 42.50 time, just edging out Mulvane by .01 of a second. That group consisted of Devin Mader, Garrett Williams, Peyton Leonard and Isaiah Armstrong.
Armstrong, a sophomore, lowered his school record in the open 400 by winning the event in a blistering 49.05, two-hundredths of a second faster than he ran a few weeks earlier at the Holcomb Invitational, where he broke Heath Tucker’s school mark.
“It was a very difficult meet, which we knew it would be, with a lot of great results,” said Holcomb assistant coach Michelle Baier, subbing in for head coach Lindall Cox, who was driving the team bus home afterward. “That would be the case most every year in 4A. A lot of kids who were 5th through 8th might have medaled at state.”
Mader also was a double qualifier in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, clocking times of 11.15 and 22.90 to finish third in each event.
The Longhorns and Eagles went toe-to-toe in the 4x400-meter relay as Holcomb clocked a 3:25.34 to Hugoton’s 3:25.89. That winning team was comprised of Williams, Zeke Leyva, Carter Blackburn and Armstrong.
“We’re proud of our guys, and our girls, too, although they just had a tough field of competitors,” Baier said. “Our 4x100 girls may have run their fastest time of the year, but didn’t qualify. That’s just how difficult it was.”
Carter Blackburn, who was a double-gold winner in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles a year ago, qualified third in the 110s (15.11), but didn’t finish in the top four in the 300s. Blackburn had been injured at the beginning of the season and was still working his way back into condition.
Baier said perhaps the most pleasing and maybe surprising qualifier was Efrain Flores, whose 4:37.52 in the 1,600 meters placed him fourth behind two Hugoton runners and a Wichita Collegiate runner.
“Everybody just competed their hearts out, and there were a lot of tough distance runners, so we’re excited for Efrain to get to state,” Baier said.
For veteran coach Nick Rodriguez, who will be leaving Hugoton to return to his hometown of Ellsworth next year, the Eagles’ effort was satisfying.
“I thought coming into the day, it was going to be a tough meet,” he said. “When you have the western and central Kansas at the same meet, you're going to have some tough competition. I thought we came together and competed well.”
Even with the tough competition, Hugoton had a strong showing from its team. Senior Mitchell Hamlin qualified in two events, placing third in the 400 meters with a time of 50.23, and also in the long jump, finishing second with a mark of 22-00.
“Hamlin had a great day,” Rodriguez said. “He had a good day on the track and had a possible personal record on the long jump.”
Hamlin was not the only Eagle to qualifying in two events. Abraham Garcia-Aguirre and Ethan Fox are also going to the state meet in two events. Garcia-Aguirre finished second in the 1,600 meters with a time of 4:33.95, and also finished second in the 3,200 with a time of 10:07.91.
Fox finished right behind Garcia-Aguirre, placing third with times of 4:37.06 and 10:12.17, respectively.
“We knew Fox would compete in those races, and Abraham just got his cast off so he felt a little lighter today and did a good job for us,” Rodriguez said.
Eric Eckert also qualified for state, finishing in third in the 800 meters with a time of 2:01.74. Eckert, along with Jahaziel Garcia, Eric Perry and Ivan Villa Train, qualified for the 4x800 relay, winning with a time of 8:21.51. The Eagle 4X400-meter relay team is also going after placing in second with a time of 3:25.89, just on the heels of the winning Holcomb crew.
Ulysses had just a few qualifiers, with pole vaulter Eduardo Mendoza finishing third in the event at 13-00.
On the girls side, Riley Oglevie had a season best 5-02 mark in the high jump to finish fourth and nail down the final spot. The Tigers’ 4x800-meter relay team of Alyssa Castilleja, Oglevie, Yessenia Ornelas and Ray Lynn Wartman clocked a 10:34.51 to place fourth and punch their ticket to state.
The state track meet will begin next Friday at Wichita State University’s Cessna Stadium, with many preliminary races and field events being contested. Class 4-5-6A schools will compete Friday morning. Most track finals are on May 26.