When Ben Bolton lines up for a hurdle race, he’s usually the only one that looks like he could walk over the hurdles.
At 6-foot-6, Bolton still has to jump when moving at full speed, of course, but even he knows there is an advantage for him.
“You feel like you’re jumping because you are running at full speed, but I guess I don’t have to leave the ground very long,” he said.
Bolton is ranked second in Class 6A in the 110-meter hurdles at the state track meet in Wichita, opening on Friday at Cessna Stadium.
The MHS senior is ranked 14th out of 16 in the 300 hurdles, but even he admits it’s just not his best event.
“I’m a lot better at the 110 then I am at the 300,” Bolton said. “I barely qualified in the 300, I just don’t like it very much. I think I have a sort of an obvious advantage in the (110), so that’s what kind of works for me.”
Bolton said his experience in hurdles started in middle school when a coach tabbed him to run the event because of his height — then 6-foot tall he thinks — and he won.
The senior said when he lines up for the event now, it’s clear he is the tallest one. He said the average height of his competitors is probably around 6-foot.
“They comment on my height a lot, but typically taller people run it,” he said. “There will be playful comments after the race like ‘that’s not fair,’ or something, but it’s just playful.”
MHS coach Jesse Woodard said one of the biggest changes in Bolton over the past few years has been his attitude. As he has grown up, it’s just gotten better.
“You can see the maturity if you would have known him from freshman year to now,” he said. “He has just made leaps and bounds. He has made the commitment to be here every day and his work ethic this year has been phenomenal.”
Woodard said he thinks Bolton will have a chance to take the top medal in the 110 this weekend, having already outraced the guy ahead of him earlier this season.
And the MHS coach and senior will also have their eyes on hurdler Colt Skidmore, who is ranked seventh in the 300. Woodard said he hopes to see him on the medal stand as well.
“I was very happy for Colt to get in,” he said. “If he can get a season best at state then he has a great shot at the podium, and that would be good for him.”
Both the boys’ and girls’ teams will be somewhat dependent on performances from field and distance events this weekend.
On the boys’ side, Evan Williams is qualified 12th in the 800 run, while Chris Melgares is 13th in the 1,600 and 10th in the 3,200. The boys’ 4x800 relay is ranked ninth.
Woodard said he knows they can all move up this weekend, and the athletes are confident in that too.
“Right now we are ranked top 10, but I know we have been tapering so we should have a chance of getting top seven,” Williams said of the 4x800. “That’s a medal and that will help our team overall.”
When it comes down to it, Melgares said they are all looking to score as many points as possible.
“I think we’re all looking to score,” he said. “Our goal is to go as hard as we can so we can help the team, any points we score would just help to contribute.”
For the girls, Emilie Liebe and Alaina Schroeder will run in the 800 as the fifth and seventh seeds, while Schroeder will also run the 1,600 and 3,200. Megan Ochoa will run the 3,200 and the 4x800 is ranked sixth.
Liebe said she thinks they will all run as good as they have all season when they see the top competition.
“We haven’t really been pushed that much,” she said of the 4x800. “We have won by a pretty big margin, but with the Kansas City schools there and how fast they’re running, we should have an even better time.”
Other boys competing this weekend include Deante Burton in the 400, the 4x400 relay and Brandon Nowlin and Chros Boydston in the discus. Logan Mahan is ranked first in the long jump and seventh in the triple jump.
Terrale is sixth in the shot put, while Ben Stegeman enters as the 12 seed. Jacob Holloway will compete in the javelin and Kyle Parker will go in the pole vault.
Woodard said he thinks the boys can score some big points with a couple personal best performances.
“I was looking at some of the rankings and on the boys side we can score some points here and there with some PRs,” he said. “And I think we have a chance for some surprises.”
On the girls’ side, Sarah Tatarko will go in the high jump and Tarian Reeves and Tia Cooke will compete in the long jump. Cooke will come back for the triple jump and ReJoyce Bryant will run the 100 and 300 hurdles.
Mari Jo Massanet is ranked first in discus with Kylie James in the event as well, while she is ranked third in the shot put with Kaylee Kipp behind her.
Jessie Kujawa and Kassidy Scroggs will compete in the javelin and Taylor Smith will be in the pole vault.
Woodard said he thinks the girls have a chance to score some serious points.
“The girls’ side, I think we have a better chance to score more points,” he said. “If (Massanet) throws her best in the shot and the disc then there is no way she shouldn’t score points. Alaina will score a few and I hope Emilie Liebe and the 4x800 can score some points too.”
Woodard said anything can happen at the state track meet and he knows his team will compete hard.
“The kids go out and give it their all and whatever happens, but I think the kids we have on this team are winners and they don’t like to lose,” he said. “They will do what it takes to get on that award stand.”