After back-to-back weeks winning a Centennial League title and a regional title, the Manhattan High boys’ track team opens this weekend’s all-class state track meet with hopes of a third title at Wichita’s Cessna Stadium.
If the meet goes as planned, the Indians expect to be in the hunt for a trophy by late Saturday night, likely facing off against Olathe East for the state’s top honor.
Manhattan will need strong contributions from each of the 12 events it qualified for, including a strong presence in the distance races, sprints and each of the three relays.
For senior Chris Melgares, who won a state title in cross country in the fall, the state meet presents a chance to sweep. Melgares will run the mile and two-mile.
“I want to get the next title after cross country, go for the sweep on the year,” he said. “Individually, I want to get as many points as I can for the team. That’s the plan.
“It’s going to take consistency across the board. Our sprinters have stepped up a lot this year, and they’ll be able to contribute quite a few points, too. We have to realize that every point counts. You never know where a seventh or eighth is going to make the difference.”
For Tre Daniels, who came on strong this spring and is qualified in the 100 and 200 individually, focusing on the small things is all he can do to prepare.
“I’ve been in the weight room, working on my form, working on all the little things,” Daniels said. “Plus, this late in the season, I’m not going to get any more endurance or stamina, so I’m working on the little things.”
Daniels said if Manhattan expects to win a title, it will come down to the sprints.
“As a team, overall, the sprinters are going to have to show up,” he said. “The distance team always holds it down, so the sprinters and jumpers are going to have to score. We have to do it as a complete team.”
Brandon Nowlin, who will compete in the discus, said the group needs to keep working until the final event ends late Saturday evening.
“It just takes that final mentality of getting the job done, going out and putting the work in,” he said. “You have to practice and make sure your form is right and your technique is right. You want to finish out the year strong.”
Nowlin said even though track is more of an individual sport, the team does a good job of supporting each other.
“It’s different in a sense, but we all support each other in all of our events,” he said. “All of us are down watching, whether it’s people jumping or throwing or running the 4x100. We stay together strong as a team.”
For the Manhattan girls, lack of depth will keep the Indians out of the team standings conversation, but the opportunity is still there to bring home some hardware individually.
Alaina Schroeder is seeded No. 1 in both the mile and two-mile, giving her two chances to claim that elusive individual state title.
“Regionals went really well,” she said. “I’m just going to go out there and try my best. I’m going for a state title. I’ve come close every year since I was a freshman, and I have a feeling this is my year, so we’ll see.”
Manhattan is also sending a variety of throwers, with Stephanie Shanower and Kylie James competing in both the shot put and discus, with Ja ‘Chel Wood also competing in the discus.
James said the group, which also includes some younger athletes at their first state meet, is looking to set season highs.
“I hope that we just come and try our hardest and do our best, and hopefully set some PRs,” she said. “Even if we don’t do our best as a whole team, we can celebrate those that do well.”
Roepke, Smith to lead Valley Heights
Last season, Valley Heights sent five athletes to state and finished top three in the team standings in both girls and boys behind the efforts of Brandi Roepke and Elijah Smith.
With both athletes back and seeded among the top Class 1A in multiple events, the chance for the Mustangs to finish near the top are once again there.
Roepke is seeded second in the 200 and the 400 and first in the 100 — all events she won state titles in last season — while adding a top seed in the long jump this year.
Smith had the top marks at regionals in the long jump and the triple jump as well as the 110-meter hurdles, with a No. 4 seed in the 200.
The Mustangs could get higher up the ladder this year with added depth, as they also qualified freshman Shelby Vermetten in the discus with a No. 1 seed, Sidney Blackburn (discus) a No. 3 seed and Derek Trimble in the pole vault and the triple jump.
— Rock Creek will send six athletes to Wichita to compete in nine events, with Ryan Schneider and Hayden Schlochtermier leading the way.
Schneider is seeded to make the finals in both the 110-meter and 300-meter hurdles, and also has a chance to move up into the finals of the 100, where he is seeded ninth.
Schlochtermier is set to compete in the 100-meter hurdles and the long jump.
Other athletes include Rachel Forrester and Jackson Meyer in the pole vault, Michael Zabel in the discus and Holly Forrester in the 100.
— Wamego has two athletes competing bright and early Friday morning, with Matthew Scherer and Ethan Artzer in the 3200, scheduled to begin at 7:57 a.m. The rest of the team competes Saturday, with Brooke Woodward in the javelin and Eli Miller in the discus, Maddie Vontz in the triple jump and Allison Seufert in the 800.
The Red Raiders also send both of their 4x800 teams.
— Riley County is sending three athletes to state, including Blake Dodson in the 3200, Madison Vargo in the long jump and Landin Griffith in the long jump.
— Blue Valley will compete in two events at state, with the boys’ 4x800 team of Marshall Carey, Kyle Clifton, Chase Carey and Zach Rootring finishing with the top regional time in Class 1A, while Rootring will run the open 800.
— Frankfort’s Adam Koch will compete in the 3200 and the 1600, while Lucas Adams qualified for the pole vault. The Wildcats also send their 4x400 and 4x800 relays.