Free State's traveling party for the Class 6A state track and field meet in Wichita continues to grow each season.
Nineteen Firebirds left Thursday for Wichita. FSHS will have entries in 11 girls events and nine boys events.
"If we go in and have average performances for both the girls and boys, we could score in the high 20s or low 30s, which would be good for seventh place," FSHS coach Steve Heffernan said. "If we put it all together we could jump as high as third."
Free State's 4x800 boys relay of Adrian Ludwig, Jason Jenny, Nick Ens and Justin White is in position to win a gold medal. The Firebird foursome finished in 7 minutes, 55.9 seconds to win regional last week and is the lone team to run below 8 minutes all spring.
"They're a very good bet to win," Heffernan said of his relay, which will run at 1:05 p.m. Saturday.
Free State's boys have never won a gold medal at state track. The Firebirds' 4x800 finished second last year at state.
Free State should also fare well in the boys 4x400. Owen Cox, Pat Johnson, Tyler Pearce and White form that team. The relay won regional in 3:23.4, the second-best regional performance behind Wichita Heights (3:23.3).
"They showed what they could do at the Kansas Relays," Heffernan said of his 4x400 relay, which finished second at the Relays in April. "If they show up like they did at the Relays, they'll be tough to beat."
In the open 800, White should contend for a gold medal. His 1:57.8 regional time ranked third.
Heffernan hopes his girls 4x800 relay of Joyia Chadwick, Mallory Richardson, Sarah Underwood and Jackie Dubois challenge for a medal. The foursome won regional last week in 10:06.6.
Chadwick, third in the 800 last season as a junior, enters state with the third-best 800 time. She was a regional champion at 2:20.5.
Also, sophomore Jayme Lisher has come on in the javelin the past month. Her 116-6 toss at regional ranks third entering state and is two feet shy of the leader.
Heffernan said the Firebirds are poised for state.
"The attitude has been very good," Heffernan said. "The kids are focused on what they want to accomplish at state. They're not in awe of going to state."
Leading the Lawrence High entries is senior high jumper Emily Schwartz. She was state runner-up last year with a 5-2 jump. She won regional with a 5-4 mark, which could win 6A this weekend.
Schwartz, who missed a month a month of the season with a quad injury, was sidelined most of the past week with a rib injury.
"I wouldn't count her out," said LHS coach Jerry Skakal, who added that Schwartz was effective in practice on Wednesday. "She's been there before and has the capability to win."
LHS junior Hallie Fitzgerald enters javelin with the fifth-best regional throw in 6A (113-8).
The Lions qualified 23 for state 12 boys and 11 girls.
Sophomore Dylan McClain could score in the 1600 and 3200. Top-six placers receive points.
"There's not going to be a lot of scoring opportunities for us unless we measure up," Skakal said. "We're going to approach this same way as regional. We're going down there and have some fun. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. We did a good job at regional. We competed very well and had a great attitude."
Leavenworth and Manhattan are considered favorites for the girls state title. Garden City, Blue Valley Northwest, Leavenworth, Wichita Southeast, Maize and Shawnee Mission Northwest are among favorites for the tight boys team race.