When Free State High’s girls track and field athletes make their way to their events at Cessna Stadium beginning this afternoon in Wichita, at the state track championships, many expect to contend for medals.
With so many Firebirds competing in 15 different events today and Saturday, coach Steve Heffernan knows in the back of their minds, they’ll be thinking about beating out Olathe East for the Class 6A team title.
It all starts with junior Alexa Harmon-Thomas, a state qualifier in the 100 and 300 hurdles, as well as the triple jump and high jump.
“She’s a kid who has been in enough big meets over the years where she knows how to handle herself,” Heffernan said.
But FSHS has many other girls primed to score points in an attempt to overthrow O-East, which has won or shared each of the past five state championships. Freshman Claire Sanner, sophomores Gabbi Dabney, Kiara Clark and Laura Kennard, junior Bailey Sullivan and senior Mika Crews also qualified in multiple events.
“We have so many veterans for this meet that it’s kind of a perfect situation,” Heffernan said.
And the coach expects three Firebirds to set the tone: junior Scout Wiebe, Sullivan and first-time state participant Kennard.
Sullivan (1600, 800) is making her third trip to state and expects to contend for at least one individual title.
“I think the last three weeks her confidence has really started to grow,” Heffernan shared, “and I really think she wants to do well in that venue in the worst way.”
Wiebe’s toughness will be counted on in a challenging javelin field, and Kennard, Heffernan said, could be a difference-maker in the 200 and 400, because she is “ultra-competitive.”
Expectations for the FSHS boys aren’t quite the same.
“I think the No. 1 goal for us,” Heffernan said, “is to see how many medals we can actually bring back. We’re not gonna score real high.”
The Firebirds might even be down an athlete, after senior high jumper Jackson Lockwood suffered a knee injury at practice and is doubtful for competition.
Junior Stan Skwarlo, though, has a chance to medal in a couple of deep events, the 800 and 1600.
“He’s ready to get out,” Heffernan said, “and run some fast times.”
Lawrence girls team should be competitive
Lawrence High track coach Jack Hood has seen plenty of impressive feats in his years of traveling to Wichita for the state track meet. But one thing consistently resonates.
“It’s amazing to watch athletes who have a chance to win a team title compete,” Hood said, noting the ability of some to cut huge chunks off their previous best times. “They ran that much harder. You want to put your kids in a position where they’re running for something — not just for themselves, but for the team.”
Wherever the LHS girls end up in the team standings, Hood trusts the Lions to show up to their particular event and give it their best shot. Sophomore twin sisters Rebecca and Matia Finley both placed in discus a year ago, and now they return seeded first and second, respectively, based on Rebecca’s throw of 135-3 and Matia’s 134-4 at last week’s regional. They’ll have at least two more challengers to deal with, each capable of throwing more than 130 — “It could be a fist fight,” Hood said of the Saturday afternoon event.
Lawrence also has a pair of senior veterans in Monica Howard (javelin and high jump) and Grace Morgan (1600 and 3200), whom Hood fully expects to find their way to the medal stand.
Then there’s the LHS 4x400 relay team of sophomores Leah Gabler, Jensen Edwards and Marissa Pope and freshman Kyleigh Severa, who sprinted to the best regional time (4:00.14) in 6A last week. Hood doesn’t think they will be intimidated: “They’re young, and they don’t know any better. They just know to run harder.”
If there is one Lion who could surprise at state, it might be sophomore pole vaulter Kennedy Dold. Hood called her recent run, which included a personal-best mark of 8-9 at regionals, amazing
“If she (sets a personal record), she’s in the hunt for a medal,” the coach said. “Two weeks ago, she wasn’t in the hunt to make opening height.”
Only two Lawrence boys made it to state. Hood hopes freshman sprinter JD Woods (100) can gain some experience and junior Erik Parrish can compete for a medal in the triple jump and possibly the long jump.
Class 6A State Track & Field Championships — City schedule
Today and Saturday, at Cessna Stadium, Wichita
Free State Girls
(Regional performance listed with each athlete)
2:10 p.m., 100 hurdles prelims — Alexa Harmon-Thomas (14.43), Gabbi Dabney (15.52), Kiara Clark (15.53)
2:55 p.m., 4x100 prelims — Gabbi Dabney, Kiara Clark, Mika Crews, Laura Kennard (50.91)
3:35 p.m., 400 prelims — Laura Kennard (59.71)
4:20 p.m., 300 hurdles prelims — Alexa Harmon-Thomas (44.02), Kiara Clark (47.19)
4:45 p.m., long jump — Alexa Harmon-Thomas (18-10.25), Gabbi Dabney (17-0)
4:45 p.m., shot put — Kailee Dudley (35-5)
5:15 p.m., 200 prelims — Laura Kennard (26.56)
5:55 p.m., 4x400 prelims — Bailey Sullivan, Mika Crews, Kiara Clark, Laura Kennard (4:06.07)
6:30 p.m., high jump — Alexa Harmon-Thomas (5-6), Gabbi Dabney (5-2)
7:40 p.m., 3200 — Claire Sanner (11:34.6)
9:45 a.m., javelin — Scout Wiebe (129-1)
10:30 a.m., 4x800 — Bailey Sullivan, Molly McCord, Claire Sanner, Christina Craig (9:53.43)
1:20 p.m., 1600 — Bailey Sullivan (5:28.1)
3 p.m., triple jump — Brianne Martin (33-11)
5:05 p.m., 800 — Bailey Sullivan (2:21.27)
2:55 p.m., 4x100 prelims — Alex Hilliard, Marissa Pope, Kyleigh Severa, Jensen Edwards (50.33)
3 p.m., pole vault — Kennedy Dold (8-9)
3:35 p.m., 400 prelims — Jensen Edwards (1:00.4)
4:45 p.m., shot put — Rebecca Finley (36-2), Matia Finley (35-2.5)
5:55 p.m., 4x400 prelims — Leah Gabler, Marissa Pope, Jensen Edwards, Kyleigh Severa (4:00.14)
6:30 p.m., high jump — Monica Howard (5-0)
7:40 p.m., 3200 — Grace Morgan (11:22.3)
9:45 a.m., javelin — Monica Howard (120-0)
1:15 p.m., discus — Rebecca Finley (135-3), Matia Finley (134-4)
1:20 p.m., 1600 — Grace Morgan (5:26.4)
Free State Boys
2:30 p.m., 110 hurdles prelims — TJ Cobbs (15.46)
3:15 p.m., 4x100 prelims — Isaac King, Tyler Odell, Ronald White, Seth Maples (43.95)
4:45 p.m., 300 hurdles prelims — TJ Cobbs (41.16)
4:45 p.m., javelin — Lucas Werner (158-1)
6:25 p.m., 4x400 prelims — Adam Wagner, Anthony Edwards, Stan Skwarlo, Seth Maples (3:28.8)
6:30 p.m., shot put —Austin Gray (47-7.5)
6:30 p.m., high jump — Jackson Lockwood (6-4)
11:30 a.m., pole vault — Dan Krieger (13-0)
1:15 p.m., long jump — Demarko Bobo (20-5)
2:40 p.m., 1600 — Stan Skwarlo (4:33.4)
3 p.m., discus — Nicholas Hocking (142-2)
5:45 p.m., 800 — Stan Skwarlo (1:58.3)
3 p.m., triple jump — Erik Parrish (44-11)
9 a.m., 100 prelims — JD Woods (11.23)
1:15 p.m., long jump — Erik Parrish (20-6.5)