Lions, Leavenworth clash in 4×400 finals

Baldwin's Garcia runs personal best in 3,200; Eudora's Ballock dominates low hurdles

? The Kansas State High School Activities Assn. doesn’t sanction the hammer throw as one of its events during the track and field season.

That didn’t stop Lawrence High from dropping a hammer anyway during the opening day of the Class 6A state meet.

The LHS girls 4×400-meter relay team of juniors Jennifer Taylor, Kaela Severa, Courtney Barber and Kristina Taylor blasted the school record during the first heat of Friday’s prelims, crossing the line in 3 minutes, 56.13 seconds – also the eighth-fastest time in state-meet history.

The Lions’ biggest rival not wearing green – perennial state power Leavenworth – got the message, exactly matching that time in the second heat to set up a must-see showdown in what will be today’s final girls track event.

“I kind of knew by the second (lap), the way she came around,” said Barber, referring to the circuit turned in by Severa. “It looked fast.

“It’s going to be a dogfight, as coach Hood would say.”

Sure enough, LHS boss Jack Hood was plenty amped for an event some 20 hours away before leaving Cessna Stadium on Friday night.

“I can’t wait. I’ve waited a year for that race,” Hood said. “I want to see those girls race against Leavenworth for something.”

A state title perhaps?

“If it comes down to that,” Hood said, “I’ll take our girls every time.”

¢ Garcia piling up golds: Baldwin junior Heather Garcia took her familiar place atop the medals stand Friday night following the Class 4A girls 3,200-meter run.

The defending champ in the event made her move against longtime rival Brittney Graff of Eudora midway through the eight-lap race and never looked back, running a personal-best 10 minutes, 49.40 seconds.

“This year, I really wanted to get under 11 (minutes). Why not here?” Garcia said.

It could be the start of a heavy medal haul. She also qualified sixth Friday in the 400 prelims – an event she didn’t run before this year – and is also slated to run in the 800 and 1,600 finals.

¢ Anything you can do … : Eudora junior Emily Ballock also has designs on several pieces of new hardware thanks to a strong showing in Friday’s prelims.

The hurdles ace clocked 43.46 in the 300 lows – nearly three full seconds ahead of the nearest qualifier and took third in the 100 version (15.42). She was just as good without obstacles in her way, finishing seventh in the 200 (26.66) and running legs on the Cardinals’ second-place 4×400 relay (4:04.43) and fourth-place 4×100 relay (50.31).

“I feel really good, especially my 100 hurdles,” Ballock said. “I haven’t run that the last couple of years because of the 4×800 (relay).

“And, of course, I’m most excited about my 300 hurdles. I’d like to keep going lower and PRing.”