In any sport, but especially track, competition in practice typically breeds elite results against other opponents.
The Manhattan High girls’ team is proof.
The Indians finished first, second and fourth in the 3,200, with Alaina Schroeder, Emily Van Natta and Megan Ochoa all qualifying for state.
Stephanie Shanower, Kylie James and Kaylee Kipp finished 1-2-3 in the discus at the Wichita Heights regional, while Kipp and Shanower finished first and third in the shot put, respectively.
Without strong competition from others, many of Manhattan’s top athletes still managed to advance to the final week of track. Manhattan coach Jesse Woodard said practice has been light as the group prepares for the most important meet of the season.
“We’ve been tapering off in practice, doing just enough to keep us loose and keep the conditioning we’re at,” he said. “We don’t gain a lot by practicing them hard this week.”
Heading into the state meet this weekend in Wichita, it’s Manhattan’s throwers with the highest seeds. Shanower is seeded fourth in the discus, while Kipp is third. Both have legit shots at bringing home a state title, if they throw their best.
“A lot of has to do with technique,” Shanower said. “Obviously, there’s power, but that’s been developed. We’ve been working on the little things to get better.”
Kipp said the group has practiced each day this week, while also focusing on wrapping up the academic year.
“It’s been finals week, so I’ve been working on that too,” Kipp said. “But we’ve been out here every day, and we’ll practice Friday before we throw on Saturday.”
Woodard said he thinks both have a chance to finish at the top.
“Kaylee Kipp is in the hunt,” Woodard said. “Stephanie Shanower, she’s beaten the two girls that are seeded in front of her earlier this year. So it’s about how they handle the pressure and how they perform.”
As a freshman, Shanower made it to state before missing out last year. The junior is expecting good competition this weekend.
“I’m expecting tough competition,” Shanower said. “There are a lot of girls right around where I am. There’s one girl who’s thrown two feet more than I have, so I’m really gunning for that.”
Her personal best this year is 135 feet. She threw 130 at regionals and hopes to improve this weekend.
“State goal, obviously, I’d like to hit 140 or something like that,” she said. “But anything 135 and above I would be happy with.”
For Kipp, finishing top three would be a solid finish.
“I’m only a sophomore, so I’ve got some time,” Kipp said. “It’s a good opportunity to be there. There’s a possibility to be in the top three, but if I get fourth or fifth or sixth, it happens. Mostly, I want to make sure I do well with the distance. I want to do my best.”
Shanower said competing in each other’s events helps both to improve in practice.
“We all try to critique each other’s throws, try to tell each other what we’re doing wrong,” she said. “I think that really benefits us as a team. It gives you some friendly competition, with a person you’re comfortable with and see everyday, but you still want to out-compete them.”
Among other state competitors this weekend, Schroeder is the top seed in the 1,600, and will also be a factor in the 3,200. Emilie Liebe won regionals relatively comfortably, but is seeded 13th. Her season best time of 2:19, however, would put her among the state’s best.
“Emilie Liebe, she’s got a good shot,” Woodard said. “Her seed time wasn’t that great, but she ran a 2:19 earlier this year and that would have put her as the first or second seed.”
Manhattan gets going with prelims and throwing events on Friday, before capping the season on Saturday.