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Archive for Friday, May 19, 2006

City track teams loaded

LHS, FSHS have high hopes for Olathe regional

May 19, 2006

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Asked to pick one area of optimism as his teams head into today's Class 6A regional meet in Olathe, Free State High track coach Steve Heffernan couldn't do it.

Not for the Firebirds, and not for their cross-town rivals.

Like a tasty Chinese buffet, there are just too many options from which to choose.

"These may be the most talented Lawrence kids, in general, really since Free State has been open," Heffernan said. "It's a special group coming out of both high schools right now."

What's left to see is how many of those athletes come out of Olathe with an invitation to next week's state meet in Wichita.

The top four finishers in each event at today's meet, scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. at the Olathe District Activities Center, will qualify for state. That's the one and only standard. Fast times don't matter. Long distances don't matter. It's all about head-to-head results - or feet-to-feet, as the case may be.

"You can PR (personal record) all you want : but you've still got to find a way to get into the top four," Lawrence High coach Scott Stidham said.

"That's what I love about it. There's no submitting times or anything. Show up (today) and get it done."

This season, both schools' ability to do that - and justify Heffernan's claim - has been evident.

In fact, another Heffernan belief, that the field assembled for last week's Sunflower League meet was actually stronger than the group that will compete today, should give LHS and Free State confidence now that their performers are competing for their postseason lives.

The schools' girls squads finished tied for second at league, while the Free State boys and LHS boys claimed second and third, respectively.

However, they reached those lofty heights in different fashions. For LHS, the mode of operation has been solid performers across the board, a trend Stidham hopes to see continue this afternoon.

"There aren't any events that we're going into saying, 'We don't have a chance to get any,'" Stidham said. "There are a lot of kids that have a real chance in a wide variety of events."

Conversely, Heffernan knows Free State's strengths are concentrated in certain areas, and the key is having those athletes take care of business and not lapse into any unhappy surprises in the one meet where they can't afford to have it happen.

"This year is interesting because we don't have any borderline cases," Heffernan said. "We either feel really good about it, or feel like we don't have a real good chance to go to state."

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