WAMEGO The Chieftains haven't seen this much talent on the track or in the field at one time in more than a quarter-century.
When Tonganoxie High's girls and boys track teams both won Class 4A regional championships last Friday in Wamego, it was the first time THS had pulled off that feat since 1982.
On their way to establishing themselves as the best Tonganoxie track team in years, Chieftain athletes won eight individual regional championships as 10 girls and 12 boys qualified for the state meet, which starts this morning in Wichita.
Roxi Grizzle won two regional titles for the THS girls, which scored 130 team points, 73 ahead of second-place Piper. As expected, she won the girls javelin, just like she has at every meet this season. But unexpectedly, she also won the shot put, edging runner-up and younger sister Roni Grizzle by 1.25 inches. However, Roni still was able to bring home a regional title of her own when she won the girls discus.
Tracie Hileman won the fourth field event for Tonganoxie with a victory in the triple jump. The senior, who's the all-time points leader for the THS girls, also qualified for state in the high jump, long jump and 100-meter hurdles.
"I'm the most excited about winning first in the triple jump," said Hileman, who accounted for 32 points at the regional meet, better than eight girls teams. "I'm excited about all of them, but I'm most proud of getting first in the one event."
Christy Weller was the fifth champion for the girls. The senior won the 800-meter run, making her a three-time regional champion in that event. But she said that title won't mean much when she gets to Wichita.
"It's always good being a regional champion, because you're going into state knowing that you can at least beat three other people," she said with a laugh after edging three other state-qualifiers at the meet.
A trio of THS boys won regional individual championships as the Chieftains narrowly defeated Clay Center for a team title.
The first two came early in the afternoon in field events as Kendrick Whittington won the high jump inside the stadium and Gabe Belobrajdic won the javelin outside. The third didn't come until later in the evening when sophomore D.J. Lindsay won the 200-meter dash.
Lindsay also qualified for state in the 100-meter dash, the 4x100 relay and the 4x400 relay. He planned to train hard in the days leading up to Wichita.
"That's all I'm going to do at practice," he said, adding that he hopes for a better showing in the 4x400 relay at state after he, Austin Stone, Bret Koch and Jeremy Carlisle took third at the regional. "I'm not going to slack off at all this week because if I train hard and get that time down, we'll get (a win) in the 4x4."
Although Lindsay said he and his relay partners were disappointed to finish third, they actually helped the boys capture a team title with the performance in the meet's final event. Even though Clay Center finished ahead of them, taking second in the 4x400, the Chieftains did just well enough to edge the Tigers in the team standings, 73.5-72.
"It's a pretty big deal," Weller said of the team titles before briefly looking ahead to state. "I'm excited. It's going to be fun."
Added Lindsay: "We're taking so many people to state. That is awesome, 'cause even the girls, they're a young team, too. I think we've got a lot to look forward to in the future and at state."