Archive for Thursday, May 25, 2006

LHS girls 4x400 relay eager for opportunity

May 25, 2006


As freshmen, Courtney Barber, Sue Schwartz, Jennifer Taylor and Kristina Taylor wasted little time earning the attention of Lawrence High track coach Scott Stidham.

One year later, they've demanded notice from the entire state.

Lumped into the same Class 6A regional Friday as defending state champ Leavenworth, that baby-faced quartet emerged with a batch of gold medals courtesy of their victory in the final event of the night - the 4x400-meter relay.

This weekend, they'll look to do it again, armed with the top seeding time at the Class 6A state meet in Wichita.

So much for the belief that time and experience are prerequisites for developing a killer instinct. When it comes to the LHS fearless foursome, the bigger the stakes, the fleeter the feet.

"The Kansas Relays is the first time they faced really good competition," Stidham said, pointing to the squad's third-place finish before a big crowd at Memorial Stadium last month. "Some people don't respond when you face good competition.

"The better people they race, that's when they seem to shine the most."

The Lawrence High girls 4x400-Meter Relay team - from front, Jennifer Taylor, Courtney Barber, Sue Schwartz and Kristina Taylor - are the top-seeded team in the event at state.

The Lawrence High girls 4x400-Meter Relay team - from front, Jennifer Taylor, Courtney Barber, Sue Schwartz and Kristina Taylor - are the top-seeded team in the event at state.

That bodes well for what lies ahead. In Wichita they'll not only see a Leavenworth quartet bent on revenge, but 14 additional teams focused on the bull's-eye the four of them now wear.

LHS is one of three teams that broke the four-minute barrier during regional competition, clocking 3 minutes, 56.3 seconds - one-tenth of a second better than Leavenworth. Next in the pecking order is Junction City at 3:59.4.

"They are the two teams that have beaten us this year. But we're also beaten them," Stidham said. "It will be a dogfight."

Fortunately for Stidham's squad, there will be an undercard. Only Barber - who competed in relay events at last year's state meet while running for Free State - has experienced the madness that is the Kansas state meet. So Friday's preliminaries might be the perfect environment for her three teammates to work out any jitters before bouncing back 24 hours later when the stakes are higher.

"I've been through a lot of big meets, but this is my first year at state. I'll definitely be nervous," said Jennifer Taylor, who typically runs the opening leg for the Lions.

She's not alone in admitting her pre-race fears.

"I'm still kind of nervous," Barber added. "I'm kind of nervous to see what Leavenworth has done (to its lineup)."

The good news for the LHS youngsters is they'll have plenty of company to boost their spirits at state. A second-place finish by the boys team and a third-place showing by the girls at the regional meet means a healthy contingent of Lions will vie for state medals.

Some to keep an eye on include Scott Penny, last year's state champ in the boys shot put and a favorite this year in the discus; Amy Magnuson, the defending girls 100 hurdles champ who also figures into the mix in the long jump and triple jump; Kevin Logan in the boys high jump; Brendan Halpin in the boys pole vault; Kelly Renfro in the girls 3,200; and Barber in the 300 hurdles.

"You can't predict the state track meet," Stidham said. "You can try. I've punched in numbers all week.

"I think it's a realistic goal for both our boys and our girls teams to finish in the top three and get a trophy."


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