Firebirds take home 3 titles at state track meet; local teams earn several podium finishes

photo by: Shane Jackson

Free State junior Ben Shryock begins the 3,200-meter run during the state track meet on Thursday at Cessna Stadium at Wichita State University in Wichita on May 27, 2021.

Wichita — In his first race of the first state track meet since 2019, Free State junior Ben Shryock gave his fellow athletes a tough act to follow.

On Thursday at Wichita State University’s Cessna Stadium, Shryock executed his game plan to perfection and took first in the Class 6A boys 3,200-meter run. He turned on the jets during the final lap, winning his first career state title as an individual with a school-record time of 9:15.01.

“I don’t really think there is such a thing as a perfect race, but I think I executed the race I had today to a T,” Shryock said. “I can’t think of anything else that compares to this (race).”

“A lot of hard work, racing and training with my teammates (went into this),” Shryock added. “It really wouldn’t be possible without my teammates on varsity.”

Shryock’s individual crown was one of three state titles that Free State’s track and field team earned on Thursday. He was also the first leg on the winning 4×800-meter relay team along with seniors Brock Cordova and Ethan Sharp and junior Jack Keathley-Helms. FSHS sophomore Aubrey Duncan won the girls javelin competition with a school-record throw of 142-10. On top of that, Free State and Lawrence High sent several other athletes to the podium.

This year’s state meet lasted only one day — a stark contrast to the 2019 meet, which lasted three days for the first time in the meet’s history.

• • •

The start of Thursday’s meet was delayed four hours by weather, but once things finally got underway, it didn’t take long for Shryock to grab the Firebirds’ first gold medal of the day in the 3,200-meter run.

Based on regional times, Shryock entered the event as the fourth seed. Manhattan High senior Daniel Harkin, who defeated Shryock at the regional meet and won a state title in this event in 2019, was one of the three runners seeded ahead of him.

Entering the meet, “I thought anything was possible,” Shryock said. “I could finish first and win, but crazy things happen at state all the time and I possibly couldn’t even medal.”

photo by: Shane Jackson

Free State junior Ben Shryock runs the 3,200-meter run during the state track meet on Thursday at Cessna Stadium at Wichita State University in Wichita on May 27, 2021.

To ensure a high finish, Shryock planned to keep up with Harkin for as long as possible. And he did exactly that. Harkin, who is signed with Kansas Wesleyan for running and tennis and is also the reigning Gatorade Player of the Year in cross-country, set the pace for seven laps, but Shryock ran directly behind him every step of the way.

Just before the final lap, Shryock made his move and passed Harkin. He never let up after that, posting a split of 1:04.851 on his eighth lap. That was his fastest lap of the race; his times were between 1:08.80 and 1:12.98 across the first seven laps.

As Shryock crossed the finish line, he raised his arms in disbelief: He was a state champion.

“I still had not processed what I had just done,” Shryock said. “I’ve been racing Harkin from Manhattan all season and he’s gotten the best of me most races. The game plan today was just to stick on him and see what I had for the last lap.”

Harkin took seventh, finishing 12 seconds behind Shryock in the end. Shawnee Mission North’s Micah Blomker came in second place with a time of 9:16.22, and Shawnee Mission East’s Wyatt Haughton was third with a 9:22.40.

• • •

In the girls javelin contest, Duncan was just as pleased to climb to the top of the podium — especially considering this was her first season competing in high school track.

Duncan didn’t have the best showing at regionals because she was ill, and she entered the event at state seeded second behind Manhattan High senior Alyx Glessner. But Duncan won the title with ease, recording two throws that would both have been good enough to finish in first place.

photo by: Shane Jackson

Free State sophomore Aubrey Duncan launches a javelin during the state track meet on Thursday at Cessna Stadium at Wichita State University in Wichita on May 27, 2021.

Her first throw of 138-10 set the pace early on, and she fired the winning throw of 142-10 on her third attempt. Five of her six throws traveled 133 feet or further.

“It was awesome,” Duncan said. “Just had a goal of doing the best we can, just finishing well. With the COVID year and coming off not having a freshman year, it was just great.”

Shawnee Mission Northwest’s Shelby Sogaard came in second in the javelin with a throw of 135-04; Lawrence High senior Amaya Harris took third with a 133-01 — her third podium finish in that event in as many years.

• • •

Free State’s 4×800-meter relay team was just as dominant on its way to a state crown. The Firebirds held the lead for seven of the eight laps and posted a personal-best time of 7:54.11, which was about four seconds faster than runner-up Manhattan.

photo by: Shane Jackson

Free State senior Ethan Sharp takes off after receiving the baton from senior Brock Cordova in the 4×800-meter relay during the state track meet on Thursday at Cessna Stadium at Wichita State University in Wichita on May 27, 2021.

The Firebirds finished four seconds shy of setting the school record in the event, but their race will still go down as the second-fastest in program history. More importantly, it capped off an undefeated season by this relay squad, which took eighth in this event during the 2019 state track meet.

“We came a little short (of the school record),” Keathley-Helms said. “I’ll take a medal and a few pictures. Nobody is going to delete those pictures.”

Keathley-Helms served as the anchor of the relay team. He posted a time of 55.93 on his first lap and a 1:00.85 on his second, and he threw his hands behind him as he crossed the finish line and was greeted by his teammates.

Shryock started the relay off with a pair of laps in the 58-second range, but he was passed by an opponent before handing the baton to Cordova. Thanks to a 57-second lap, Cordova quickly reclaimed the lead. Sharp then created more breathing room and had a 58-second lap of his own.

“We knew that we didn’t need to do anything special today,” Shryock said. “We knew if we just took care of the little things, like we’ve done all season, we would be alright.”

The race was still a competitive one. Manhattan finished behind FSHS with a time of 7:58.75; Olathe Northwest took third with an 8:01.02.

“The other teams competed really well today,” Sharp said. “I don’t think any of us expected Manhattan to run there in 7:58, and Northwest ran like 8:01. They ran really well today.”

In a sport where so much of the focus is on individuals, the Firebirds showed their team spirit in this race.

“I think (the victory) means everything,” Sharp said. “We’ve been training really hard this season.”

• • •

Athletes from FSHS and Lawrence also found the podium in several other events.

photo by: Shane Jackson

Lawrence High senior Bella Kirkwood leaps for the sand in the long jump competition during the state track meet on Thursday at Cessna Stadium at Wichita State University in Wichita on May 27, 2021.

LHS senior Bella Kirkwood took second in girls long jump with a leap of 17-09.00 — the eighth time that she had placed at the state meet in her high school career. Junior Brenna Schwada placed fourth in the same event to join her teammate on the podium. And in girls high jump, Free State’s Reese Hulcher took seventh.

Thanks to a stellar closing effort on the home stretch, Keathley-Helms took third in the boys 800-meter run.

Each school also had a sixth-place finish in the 4×400-meter relay, the final race of the day. Lawrence’s Siana King, Gianna Cooper, Jaylie Hohman and Schwada took sixth in the girls race, and Free State’s Michael Romito, Keathley-Helms, Emmett Jones and Jackson Barnett did the same in the boys race.

Because of the weather delay, the boys triple jump competition was one of the final events. Two LHS athletes found the podium in that event: senior Ntense Obono (sixth) and junior Avion Nelson (eighth). Obono was especially impressive, leaping for 41-05.00 into the wind. He was seeded 13th entering the event but managed to make the most of his final action in an LHS uniform.

“I was just coming in for the fun of it,” Obono said. “I had nothing to lose, so I was just jumping.”

Manhattan won the team title in 6A boys, and Olathe North won the team title in 6A girls. Mill Valley took home the title in 5A boys, and St. Thomas Aquinas won it in 5A girls.

2021 state track and field meet

Thursday at Cessna Stadium (Class 5A and 6A)

6A girls team scores: 1. Olathe North 87.33; 2. Olathe West 73; 3. SM Northwest 56; 3. Gardner Edgerton 56; 5. SM East 46; 6. Blue Valley Northwest 31; 7. Wichita East 29; 8. Blue Valley West 27; 9. Manhattan 26; 10. Olathe NW 25; 11. Lawrence 22; 12. Washburn Rural 18.33; 13. SM South 17; 13. Olathe East 17; 13. Dodge City 17.

6A boys team scores: 1. Manhattan 66.5; 2. Blue Valley 54; 3. Gardner Edgerton 43; 4. Washburn Rural 40.5; 5. Olathe South 38.5; 6. Olathe North 37.5; 7. Blue Valley North 37; 8. Olathe NW 34; 9. Hutchinson 32; 10. Free State 31; 11. Wichita Heights 28; 12. SM East 26; 13. Blue Valley West 24; 14. Haysville-Campus 23; 15. Olathe West 20.

FSHS/LHS results in Class 6A events

Boys 100 prelims: 12. Jackson Barnett, FS, 11.41.

Boys 200 prelims: 10. Graham Hough, LHS, 23.08.

Girls 100 hurdles prelims: 14. Marrah Spriggs, FS, 17.69.

Boys 110 hurdles prelims: 11. Cole Wenger, FS, 16.35.

GIrls 300 hurdles: 13. Marrah Spriggs, FS, 51.04.

Boys 300 hurdles: 10. Cole Wenger, FS, 43.12.

Boys 800: 3. Jack Keathley-Helms, FS, 1:56.87.

Boys 1600: 7. Ben Shryock, FS, 4:26.22; 13. Brock Cordova, FS, 4:36.94.

Girls 1600: 14. Olivia Goeser, FS, 5:49.35.

Girls 3200: 9. Isabelle Pro, FS, 11:50.35; 15. Allison Babbit, FS, 12:17.94.

Boys 3200: 1. Ben Shryock, FS, 9:15.01; 12. Christopher Stone, FS, 10:03.70.

Girls high jump: 7. Reese Hulcher, FS, 5-02.00.

Girls javelin: 1. Aubrey Duncan, FS, 142-10; 3. Amaya Harris, LHS, 133-01.

Boys javelin: 11. Brian Lane, FS, 143-02.

Girls long jump: 2. Bella Kirkwood, LHS, 17-09.00; 4. Brenna Schwada, LHS, 17-06.50; 12. Reese Hulcher, FS, 15-09.00.

Girls pole vault: T-9. Makenzie Vaughn, FS, 9-00.00; 9. Ashley Mai, FS, 9-00.00; 9. Isabella Evans, FS, 9-00.00.

Girls triple jump: 10. Miri Pickman, LHS, 33-05.00.

Boys triple jump: 6. Ntense Obono, LHS, 41-05.00; 8. Avion Nelson, LHS, 41-03.25; 13. Jerred Willits, FS, 39-05.50.

Girls 4×100-meter relay: Lawrence (Siana King, Brenna Schwada, Amaya Harris, Bella Kirkwood), DQ.

Boys 4×100-meter relay: 9. Free State (Logan Schwab, Emmett Jones, Anthony Barberena, Jackson Barnett), 44.32.

Girls 4×400-meter relay: 6. Lawrence (Siana King, Gianna Cooper, Jaylie Hohman, Brenna Schwada), 4:11.96; 11. Free State (Miah Cheatham, Samantha Whittlesey, Reese Hulcher, Aubrey Duncan), 4:20.37.

Boys 4×400-meter relay: 6. Free State (Michael Romito, Jack Keathley-Helms, Emmett Jones, Jackson Barnett), 3:29.93.

Girls 4×800-meter relay: 11. Free State (Delaney Rockers, Samantha Whittlesey, Ella Marshall, Isabelle Pro), 10:19.60.

Boys 4×800-meter relay: 1. Free State (Ben Shryock, Jack Keathley-Helms, Ethan Sharp, Brock Cordova), 7:54.11.


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