With five consecutive league titles for the boys’ team, and three for the girls’ team coming into the Centennial League track and field meet, Manhattan High has had a target on its back for several years now.
It didn’t matter Friday in Emporia.
The Manhattan boys’ team squeaked out a 3.5 point victory over Seaman for its sixth straight league crown, while the girls ran away with the meet, finishing 43 points ahead of second-place Emporia to make it four straight titles.
“Anytime you can win league titles, it’s big,” Manhattan head coach Jesse Woodard said. “Fourth in a row for the girls, sixth in a row for the guys. That’s hard to do in any sport, let alone track and field. I’m very happy with everybody’s performances.”
While the girls cruised, the boys had to earn every last point to come away as champions on Friday.
Ultimately, the meet came down to the final race, the 4x400 relay. With Seaman seeded to win the event, Manhattan would need a fourth-place finish or better to hold its lead. Seaman ended up in second place, while Manhattan took third in the final race to give Manhattan the title. Woodard pointed to his team’s depth as the biggest factor.
“It was tough, Seaman was at full strength and obviously they have one of the best sprinters in the state, so he was racking up some points,” Woodard said. “But like I’ve said all year long, it’s our depth. We’re getting fourths, fifths, sixths and sevenths.”
Manhattan did manage to win six events on the boys’ side, some more surprising than others.
“Evan Williams has been consistent all year long, the same for Chris Melgares in the mile and two-mile,” Woodard said. “Those are points that we maybe take for granted, because we count on those and expect them every week.”
Melgares won the mile (4:30.10) and two-mile (9:50.60), while Williams won the 800 (2:00.36). The Manhattan 4x800 relay team won, while Jacob Holloway won the javelin (168-0) and Gabe Caldas won the shot put.
“Gabe’s been struggling a little bit, but he stepped up and threw 47-3 to win the shot,” Woodard said. “I think he went in seeded third or fourth, so they step up when they need to. They knew what was at stake. It’s a traveling trophy. I brought it on the bus yesterday, and told them this trophy better be coming back on the bus with us. We knew every point would matter, and they went out and fought and got the points they needed.”
In the throws, Manhattan got big points in the javelin, with Holloway leading the way but Ryan McHenry taking second (155-5) and Brady Kiracofe taking fifth (148-2). Colton Wagner took fourth in the shot put (45-10 1/2) to score points for the Indians as well.
“Colt Wagner, he moved up to varsity last week,” Woodard said. “He hit 45-10 and took fourth place in the shot. That’s huge for us.”
In the discus, Brandon Nowlin took fourth place (139-8).
In the jumps, Manhattan got points from Jacob Harden in the long jump (6th, 20-5 1/4) and the triple jump (7th, 40-10 1/2), with Sam Livsey placing in the long jump (8th, 19-7). In the pole vault, the Indians got points from Jacob Carlson (5th, 11-6) and Angel Foster (8th, 10-6).
In the relays, the 4x800 team of Williams, Alex Dzewaltowski, Josea Alvarado and Chris Martin took first in a time of 8:11.55. The 4x100 team of Henry Bieber, Tre Daniels, Patrick Guvele and Tanavious Richardson took fourth in 43.48. The 4x400 team of Richardson, Williams, Brandon Religa and Martin took third in 3:28.54.
In the 100-meter dash, Daniels took fourth in 11:15, while taking sixth in the 200 (23.15) to score points. Bieber took fourth in the 200 (22.74). Christian Mack, dealing with injuries, had a tough day.
“My top sprinter has been struggling a bit with injuries, but another guy stepped up, Tre Daniels, and got fourth in the 100 and took sixth in the 200,” Woodard said. “Henry Bieber has been running well and got fourth in the 200.”
In the 800, Williams won, but Religa was right there in fifth (2:04.36) while Dzewaltowski took eighth (2:05.88).
“Brandon Religa, he’s a freshman,” Woodard said. “He was one of the kids we moved up to varsity last week after some strong JV performances. I think he ran a 52-something split in the 4x400, and took fifth in the boys’ 800. Along with Alex Dzewaltowski, those were huge points we weren’t really counting on getting. Anytime you can get those surprise points and you win a meet by 3.5 points, you can see how it all adds up.”
In the mile, Manhattan’s depth added points, as James Leblow (4th, 4:32.17) and Isaiah Koppes (6th, 4:37.98) contributed, while in the two-mile, Michael Melgares finished in second right behind his brother (9:52.18) with Leblow taking seventh place (10:09.84) to add some points to the team score.
“All of our athletes know that track is an individual sport mainly, but they take great pride in being league champions,” Woodard said.
On the girls’ side, Manhattan was dominant from start to finish, never getting much of a challenge at the top of the team standings. The girls’ team won just four events, but used its depth to dominate the team score.
“Our girls kind of ran away with it, which was kind of a surprise to me,” Woodard said. “I thought maybe some other schools would be a little more competitive, but that just shows not only our dominance in some events, but our depth in those events.”
Stephanie Shanower (125-10) won the discus, with Kylie James (116-10) and Kaylee Kipp (104-4) right behind in third and fourth, respectively. Kipp took second in the shot put with a throw of 37-10 1/2, while Shanower (33-3 1/2) taking sixth.
“We had some great throws,” Woodard said. “Obvioulsy Stephanie Shanower gives consistent points for us in the discus, and Kaylee Kipp and Kylie James threw well to give us good points. Kaylee Kipp got second in the shot, but as a sophomore, that’s a great accomplishment.”
In the jumps, Lakesha Johnson took eighth in the long jump (15-3 1/2), while Matty Mahan took seventh in the high jump (4-8). In the pole vault, freshman Montana Kubista (8-6) took second, with Taylor Smith (8-6) in third and Alex Stenberg (7-6) in fourth.
The 4x800 relay team of Rachel Beach, Amanda Frakes, Jessica Smith and Emilie Liebe took first in a time of 10:13.47, while the 4x100 team of Hannah Miller, Bri Walker, ReJoyce Bryant and Nate Simington took third with a time of 51.66.
Walker took sixth in the 100-meter hurdles (17.19) and seventh in the 300-meter hurdles (51.31), while Bryant took second in the 100-meter hurdles (16.12) and eighth in the 300-meter hurdles (51.40). Bryant managed her second-place finish despite losing her shoe on the first hurdle.
“She clipped a hurdle and lost her shoe on the first one, so she ran basically 90 meters with one shoe and was catching up to the girl in front of her,” Woodard said. “That shows our determination right there.”
Simington took eighth in the 100-meter dash (13.20), with Taylor Efurd scoring points in the 400 (1:03.87) with a fifth-place finish. In the 800, Alaina Schroeder took second (2:23.21) while Liebe was right behind in third (2:27.77).
“Taylor Efurd stepped up and got a fifth in the girls’ 400, which is good,” Woodard said. “We ran Alaina Schroeder in three events. We tripled her up, because we didn’t know how the points would total out. She took second in the 800, which was a nice surprise. And Emily came in right behind her in third.”
Schroeder won the mile (5:13.68) and two-mile (11:56.06), with Emily Van Natta and Megan Ochoa running the same events. Van Natta took fourth in the mile (5:42.69) and fifth in the two-mile (12:18.19), while Ochoa took seventh in the mile (5:55.36) and sixth in the two-mile (12:28.64).
With two league titles in tow, Manhattan now sets its sights on regionals this Friday at Wichita Heights. Woodard is expecting good things.
“I’m very pleased,” he said. “I think we’re right where we want to be for next week and have everything figured out. I think we have a good chance to send a lot of kids to state.
“It’ll be a long week next week, with regionals at Wichita Heights. It’ll be fun, we’ll go to Wichita back-to-back weekends, but we’ve done it before and we’ve done well. We’ll do what we can do and see how it turns out.”