Editor's note: This is the third in a series of stories highlighting the top 10 local sports stories of 2018.
The 2018 track and field season for Garden City High School’s Taylor Savolt was two years in the making — or perhaps her entire life in the making, considering her mom, Melissa, was a high school track star in the early '90s.
But after a couple of years of improving on the details surrounding track and field, Savolt had a breakout performance at the 2018 Class 6A state track and field championships, breaking a school record and winning a gold medal in the 300-meter hurdles.
The performance is The Telegram’s No. 8 local sports story of 2018.
As a sophomore, Savolt finished in second place in the 300-meter hurdles to rival Keian Newman from Junction City, as the Bluejay finished with a time of 44.26 while Savolt’s 45.83 was good enough for the silver medal.
This time around, Savolt was able to catch Newman as her season long chase culminated in Savolt passing Newman at the final hurdle to claim her first gold medal — she now has 12 medals in total during her high school career.
Savolt’s junior year, and consequently, her school records during that stretch could be argued as one of the best athletic stretches in Garden City high school history. On her way to her first gold medal, Savolt also set two school records and placed second in another.
Key stats and figures
Savolt keeps improving her marks as she is now in her senior year, with her last track and field season on the horizon.
As a junior, Savolt improved on her marks as a sophomore, where she long jumped 17-09, triple jumped 37-8 1/2 and ran a 45.83, which were better from her freshman year.
As a junior, she set two school records — 38-00 in triple jump and the 45.05 in the 300 hurdles — and is No. 2 in the long jump at 18- 17 ¼.
Savolt’s special season capped off with first gold medal
Editor’s note: The following story, written by former Telegram sports editor Brett Marshall, first appeared in The Telegram’s June 9 edition and is re-published below.
It’s an inescapable fact that one cannot ignore when looking at the track and field accomplishments of Taylor Savolt.
Savolt, who just recently completed her junior year at Garden City High School, capped off her third high school athletic year by winning the Class 6A 300-meter hurdles, while also placing fifth in the long and triple jump events, then running the second leg of the Buffs’ 4x400-meter relay team which placed fifth.
All of these accomplishments has earned Savolt The Garden City Telegram’s Track and Field Female Athlete of the Year award.
Taken in its entirety, Savolt’s season picture looks like this:
• School records set in the 300 hurdles as she lowered her previous school mark of 45.83 to 45.05, when she won her first gold medal at the state track meet.
• School record of 38-00 in the triple jump while placing fifth at state.
• Second all-time best in GCHS history in the long jump (18-71/4) while also clicking off a 1:01.54 in the open 400 meters.
• She also clocked a 16.17 100-meter hurdles and ranked No. 1 on The Telegram’s Honor Roll in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles, the long and triple jumps.
“A lot of this season was about perfecting every little thing in each event,” Savolt said during a recent sit-down interview to discuss her junior year’s performance. “You start working on consistency, and once you start doing that, then you can work on really giving some of the jumps that extra effort to get that one good jump.”
Savolt’s marks compare favorably across the state of Kansas and bridges all six classifications. She had the fifth fastest 300-hurdle mark, but just .43 of a second off the fastest time; she ranked sixth in the long jump and 12th in the triple jump.
The inescapable fact for Savolt is that she is following in the footsteps of her mother, Melissa, who was a Class 3A state long jump champion in 1990 while a junior at Holcomb High School. Then known as Melissa Henry, she also competed in the triple jump (36-10 P.R.), and 300-meter hurdles (45.9 fastest time), a carbon copy of the same events in which Taylor now competes. Both also have run the 4x400-meter relays for their respective schools.
It would be hard to decipher in which event Savolt made the most improvements during her junior year.
In her sophomore season, she had long jumped 17-09, triple jumped 37-81/2 and ran a 45.83 in placing second at the 6A state track meet. Those marks were an step up from her freshman season, too, when she had times of 46.47 in the 300 hurdles, 17-03 3/4 long jump and 36-11 3/4 triple jump.
“I think everything has just gotten better each year,” the younger Savolt said in describing her improvement. “I’ve worked hard to getting consistent on the board. My sophomore year, I was just all over the board and fouled more times than I would have liked. I’m holding in the air longer and making sure I can scoop (a term describing her landing with her feet, and then seeing her back side move forward and land in the same place as her feet did).”
So three years into her high school career, the younger Savolt has competed in 12 events at the state track meet and earned 12 medals.
With the marks going farther and the hurdle times becoming faster, it proved to be a satisfying year for Savolt.
“I was happy with it because I was finally hitting some marks that I had set as goals,” she said. “In the past, I think I had some of my best marks early in the year and then tailed off, but this year I got most of my best marks late in the year, and especially those at the state meet (hurdles, triple jump).”
Savolt said that running cross country in the fall helped her overall physical conditioning for the spring track season, too, and looks forward to a summer of putting in more miles to build her base for the fall 2018 cross country season.
“I just kind of got tired of volleyball and then decided to do cross country, so I didn’t really put in the miles necessary to be that good in cross country last fall,” Savolt said. “This year, I’ll be putting in the necessary miles to just be better at the longer distances. Cross country is a lot of mental toughness, and I think it really helped my track workouts.”
Savolt said that she continues to work with her jump coaches on those little things as she now sets her sights on the 19-foot long jump and 39-foot triple jump levels heading to her senior year.
“I’ll try to extend up a little more and get higher in the air, and hold it longer,” Taylor said. “We use a pop-up board to help with that. Doing weights with a squat and power clean has helped in driving up through the legs, and I’ll also use a box jump.”
Looking into the crystal ball for her final high school season, Savolt said she wants to drop her 300-hurdles time into the 44-second range. She also, at least for the moment, expects to add the 100-meter hurdles into her folder of events, possibly not running the 4x400-meter relay.
“I’ve got a lot of work to do on my form for both the 100 and 300 races,” Savolt said of the two hurdle events. “I need to be able to just run, and not break stride when going over the hurdles, and then to clear the hurdles lower and not glide over them. The great ones (hurdlers) don’t slow down. The big thing is working on my left leg and getting it down more quickly.”
Already being recruited for college track, Savolt said that the heptathlon, a competition that involves seven events — 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter dash, long jump, javelin throw and 800-meters — will be a focus for college days and not this summer.
Several Division I and II schools have already expressed an interest in Savolt, and she hopes to be able to narrow her list of schools and have a decision made in November during the early signing period. That would take pressure off her senior spring track season.
So running faster, clearing the hurdles better, jumping higher for farther distances — all goals for her fourth and final year in high school.