Column: FSHS girls track young, loaded

Today represents the last chance to see the defending state champion Free State High girls track and field team compete without driving to Wichita for the state meet. Free State is the host school for the Class 6A regional, a meet moved three hours earlier to a noon starting time because of an ominous forecast.

The Firebirds, who broke Olathe East’s five-year hold on the 6A state title, have what it takes to repeat as champions, despite having a relatively young roster.

Big 12-bound, record-breaking seniors Alexa Harmon-Thomas (Texas) and Bailey Sullivan (TCU) lead the way but are far from the only runners on the team ranking among the state’s top athletes.

An injury has limited Harmon-Thomas’ activity this spring, keeping her from competing in the jumps. She has the fastest time in the 100 hurdles (14.95) and is expected to run the 300 hurdles today.

Sullivan, recently named the school’s girls scholar-athlete of the year, holds the school record in the 800 meters (2:15.58, fastest in 6A this year), per, and has the second-fastest 1,600-meter time (5:02.93).

Sullivan’s mile style calls to mind former Kansas great Jim Ryun in that she is long, lean and blessed with so much more speed than most distance runners that she can kick her way to victory from behind.

Classmate Scout Wiebe has the third-longest javelin throw (134-3) in Class 6A.

The junior class also is loaded with talent as well.

Laura Kennard doesn’t get out of the blocks as fast as some, but she closes like a locomotive. Kennard ranks eighth in the 100 (12.54), fifth in the 200 (26.10) and second in the 400 (58.95).

Gabbi Dabney has the second-best time in the 100 (15.14), the third-best high jump (5-2) and 11th-best 300 hurdles time (48.85).

Kiara Clark’s 46.16 is tops in the state in the 300, although Harmon-Thomas could top that today. Clark ranks fifth in the 100 hurdles (15.35).

Claire Sanner heads up the sophomore class and ranks third in the 3,200-meter run (11:11) and eighth in the 1,600 meters (5:18.83).

Freshman Emily Venters already is making a big splash and has the fastest 1,600-meter (5:01.42), second-fastest 3,200-meter (10:59.8) and seventh-fastest 800-meter time (2:21.8) in 6A. Fellow freshman Kiran Cordes has made a major breakthrough of late, knocking more than a half minute off of her personal-record, 3,200-meter time with an 11:37.08, ninth-best in the state.

With such strong, balanced classes, the Firebirds have a shot at competing for state track and field titles for years.