Had the rules of a year ago stayed in place, jumper/hurdler Alexa Harmon-Thomas and middle-distance runners Stan Skwarlo and Bailey Sullivan would be competing for Southwest Junior High in a rescheduled meet at Topeka Seaman Middle School.
Now that freshmen are eligible at Lawrence’s two high schools, the talented trio of Free State track-and-field athletes will compete today in the Kansas Relays, weather permitting.
“When they go to the state meet down the road, they already will have experienced what it’s like to compete in a high-pressure, quality meet,” Firebirds coach Steve Heffernan said.
Harmon-Thomas has a chance to develop into Lawrence’s next great athlete. In her first high school meet, a triangular at Lawrence High on March 30, Harmon-Thomas set school records in the 100-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles and long jump. Five days later, she scored two goals in a victory for the Firebirds soccer team. Harmon-Thomas is scheduled to compete in both hurdles races, the long jump and the high jump.
Running in high-pressure meets is nothing new for Free State middle/long-distance runner Kain Anderson, a junior. If Anderson puts forth his best effort in a preliminary heat, he has a realistic shot of qualifying for the adidas Jim Ryun Dream Mile against a pair of runners with personal-bests faster than 4:15.
“Kain will be the last one in or first one out, so hopefully with a little luck he’ll make it to the (Saturday) final,” Heffernan said.
Lawrence High track coach Jack Hood expressed his eagerness to see how hard-working veteran competitors will fare in the meet. He cited girls Emily Davidson and Alexis Scheibler and boys Trent Edwards, Austin Flory, Chris Gaston and Nicholas Shump as athletes who “have worked their tails off for three or four years.”
Lions shot putter Blake Hocking, a threat to break Olympic gold-medalist Bill Nieder’s school record, is seeded first in the event, and Flory and Steven Hill are highly seeded in the triple jump.
Senior LHS sprinter/hurdler TaMiya Green qualified for four events. Hood said that it was during a 300-meter hurdles race when Green set her personal record by a half second and lost to Harmon-Thomas that he fully appreciated how special an athlete has joined the high school ranks in Lawrence.
“I was watching that thinking, ‘TaMiya’s running hard. What’s wrong?’ ’’ Hood said.
He looked at his stop watch and realized everything was right.