Indians sweep team titles at regional track

By Grant Guggisberg

Among the three biggest meets of the season, team standings mean the least at regionals.

That didn’t stop the Manhattan High track and field team from relishing team wins by both the boys’ and girls’ teams Friday at the Class 6A regional at Wichita Heights.

The boys’ team scored 123 team points to edge second-place Topeka High (115), while the girls’ scored 128 team points to beat Wichita East (104).

“We don’t really go in worrying quite as much about team scores at regionals,” Manhattan head coach Jesse Woodard said. “It’s nice to have regional titles, but we don’t worry as much about it at regionals. Our goal is to get as many people into state as possible, and if that happens, the team scores will take care of themselves. It’s not as big a deal as a league title and a state title, but it was nice to get the plaques and be announced first at the end.”

Manhattan qualified in 11 events on the boys’ side and 10 on the girls’.

The Indians were especially dominant in the two-mile, qualifying Alaina Schroeder (1st, 11:39.38), Emily Van Natta (2nd, 12:07.97) and Megan Ochoa (4th, 12:24.50) for the girls’ race at state and Chris Melgares (1st, 9:54.40), Michael Melgares (2nd, 10:00.61) and James Leblow (3rd, 10:10.46) for the boys’.

“To qualify three in the girls’ two-mile and also three in the boys’ two-mile is just awesome,” Woodard said. “Six of the eight in the two-mile coming from our regional are Manhattan kids, that’s a big deal.”

Other individual regional champions included Evan Williams (2:01.50) and Emily Liebe (2:27.55) in the 800, Stephanie Shanower (130-5) and Brandon Nowlin (150-3) in the discus, Schroeder in the 1,600 (1st, 5:14.80), Matty Mahan in the high jump (5-0) and Kaylee Kipp in the shot put (39-0).

“Brandon Nowlin in the discus has been tweaking some things and had the 150 throw and a couple more at 149, which positions him for a top four or five at state, potentially,” Woodard said.

Jacob Holloway had a PR in the javelin, taking second place behind Justus Moreland of Wichita Heights.

“I was very happy for Jacob Holloway,” Woodard said. “He’s been tweaking some things and finally broke 180 with a five-foot PR for him.”

ReJoyce Bryant returns to state this year, qualifying with second-place finishes in both the 100 hurdles (16:03) and the 300 hurdles (49.70).

Taylor Smith had a personal-best in the girls’ pole vault at nine feet, taking third to qualify for state.

In the girls’ discus, Shanower won, but Kylie James (117-3) and Kipp (113-6) were both right behind in second and third to send three to state in that event.

One of the few sprinters with success was Tre Daniels, who qualified in the 100 (3rd, 11.03).

“I’m very happy for Tre Daniels,” Woodard said. “His times have been getting better and better and he was third in the 100 to get to state. That was a nice surprise.”

Chris Melgares took second in the 1,600 (4:34.36) to qualify for state in both distance races.

Gabe Caldas qualified in the shot put with a throw of 45-10, good for third place.

In the jumps, Jacob Harden (2nd, 44-7 1/2) and Sam Livsey (3rd, 42-6) each qualified for state in the long jump, while Harden added the long jump (21-4) to his state schedule with a third-place finish.

“Jacob Harden and Sam Livsey have both been struggling the last couple weeks, but Jacob hit 44 7 1/2 on his triple jump, which was a PR for him to take second and was close to first,” Woodard said. “Sam got back up, not quite to where I think he can be, but did enough to qualify in the triple as well.”

In the relays, Manhattan qualified its girls’ 4x800 team (3rd, 10:22.86), while the boys’ team made it in the 4x400 (2nd, 3:27.81) and the 4x800 (1st, 8:13.61).

“I was a little disappointed, I thought we could get both our 4x100s in, and they both finished fifth,” Woodard said. “We’re missing our fastest girl and our fastest boy, which doesn’t help.”

Among the near misses on the girls’ side were Rachel Beach in the 400 (5th, 1:04.62), Jessica Smith in the 800 (5th, 2:30.69) and Brianna Walker in the 100 hurdles (6th, 17.25).

For the boys’, the Indians had two just miss in the 200, Daniels (5th, 22.80) and Henry Bieber (6th, 23.40), with two more falling just short in the 800 in Brandon Religa (5th, 2:02.26) and Alex Dzewaltowski (6th, 2:03.66).

“Brandon Religa in the 800, it was a photo finish for fourth and fifth for him in the 800, and the kid beat him by a few hundredths of a second,” Woodard said. “But he is on the 4x400 team that improved their time.”

Isaiah Koppes was close in the mile (6th, 4:43.84), along with Jacob Carlson in the pole vault (6th, 11-0), Colton Wagner in the shot put (6th, 44-6) and Ryan McHenry in the javelin (158-3).

“I feel good about where we’re at,” Woodard said. “We have a lot of young kids going to state, and a lot that were just out by a place. I haven’t sat down to look at the other regional results yet to see where we stack up points-wise.

“It always hurts not having many sprinters in there for the team totals. It’s been frustrating the last two years our girls have been so close to the podium.”

Woodard said while this team isn’t young across the board, it’s encouraging that so many of his state qualifiers in individual events are underclassmen.

The state track meet for all classes is scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Cessna Stadium in Wichita.

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