Somewhere between a serious case of pre-event nerves and postperformance jitters, Roxanne Grizzle found the time to unleash the javelin toss of her lifetime.
The Tonganoxie High sophomore set a personal and school record with her third throw in the preliminaries, then anxiously watched her distance of 148-feet, 1-inch stand up through the finals to win one of the first gold medals awarded Friday at the Kansas Relays.
"I think it's pretty awesome," Grizzle said. "I expect a lot out of myself, but not as much as I brought."
Asked to describe her winning throw, Grizzle didn't latch onto the joy of the actual moment, but instead the uneasiness that preceded it.
"I had all these kinds of nerves going through me, and my neck - I was really tense," Grizzle said. "I just got up there and brought it."
After two relatively pedestrian throws to open her competition, Grizzle came up big on her final toss of the prelims, earning three more attempts as the top seed in the finals. While she didn't again come close to her high-water mark, neither could any of the remaining eight finalists.
Independence High's Amber Dunham was the only other competitor to top the 140-foot barrier, finishing with a toss of 143-4 on her last attempt in the finals - an almost five-foot shortcoming that finally put Grizzle's mind at ease.
"I was hoping. Me and my mom were really, really nervous in the finals," Grizzle said. "Everyone has three throws, so you don't know if someone's going to pass you."
The sophomore finished third at last year's Relays while competing for De Soto. However, sensing a need for better tutelage and in-house competition, Grizzle - who also plays high school softball in the spring - decided to transfer to Tonganoxie.
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The move paid off all the way around for the Chieftains. In addition to Grizzle's banner effort, junior Ali Pistora won bronze in Friday's event with a toss of 139-10.
"It's pretty awesome," said Grizzle about the 1-3 punch. "I'm glad that I'm finally with someone that I can compete against."
Garcia, Graf shine in 3,200: While she won't have a chance to defend her title in the 3,200 meters next spring, Free State High's Alysha Valencia may not have to look very far to find someone worthy of carrying the torch.
Baldwin sophomore Heather Garcia set a personal record with a time of 11 minutes, 3.70 seconds to lead the pack trying to chase down Valencia, and fellow area competitor Brittney Graff, a junior at Eudora, finished fourth in 11:10.76 - bettering her previous best by 20 seconds.
"We took off pretty fast. I tried to keep the pace up," said Garcia, who finished more than four seconds ahead of bronze medalist Stephanie King of Marmaton Valley. "I placed last year, so my goal was just to do better."
She accomplished that feat both on the leaderboard and on the clock.
"Oh yeah, it was a major PR (personal record)," Garcia said. "It felt good. I wanted to get into the 11s this year, so it was good to be this close to it."
Despite the lack of a rearview mirror, Valencia came away impressed with her neighbors.
"They're little schools, but they've got some good people," Valencia said. "I don't think people understand that. Their girls are tough."
Notes: Eudora's Emily Ballock, the defending Class 4A state champion in the 300 hurdles, finished third in that event in 46.23 seconds. She was the top Kansas finisher. : Mill Valley (23:07.56) and Baldwin (23:09.21) finished sixth and seventh in the 6,400-meter girls relay. : Ottawa's boys 4x100 team qualified for today's finals after winning its qualifying heat in 43.27. Ottawa (3:23.32) and Baldwin (3:26.43) advanced to today's boys 4x400 relay finals. : Mill Valley's Justin Woods will vie for the honor of the Relay's fastest high schooler when he competes in today's 100 finals. He qualified seventh in the eight-team field with a prelim time of 11.03. : Santa Fe Trail's Jodi Mundy secured the eighth and final spot in today's girls 400 finals with a qualifying time of 59.83.