The Manhattan High boys’ track team may struggle to finish high in the team standings at the Kansas state track meet this weekend in Wichita, but that won’t stop it from trying to bring home some individual championships.
Perhaps the Indians’ best chance comes from senior thrower Jake Holloway, who threw a personal best 181-8 to take second at the Wichita Heights regional last week. The two throws were the class of the state, earning Holloway the No. 2 seed among competitors this weekend.
“Jake, he hit 180 for the first time this year,” Indians’ coach Jesse Woodard said. “He changed his grip the week before regionals. He was consistently 10 feet better than he’s been throwing the last few weeks. It could be mental, it could be the grip helping him out, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he got close to 190, and that could win 6A javelin.”
Chris Melgares is another athlete that could make noise at state. The junior will compete in the mile and two-mile. While his seed times entering the state meet don’t favor him to win, Woodard expects him to run faster this weekend.
“Chris is capable of running a lot better,” Woodard said. “It’s hard to run a real fast race when you’re out there all by yourself. One of the kids seeded one or two, when Chris ran his best time, he was racing against that kid. We were at Seaman, so Chris will step up. He had a good race at KU and at Seaman. It’s about stepping up and competing.”
Woodard mentioned Jacob Harden, seeded fifth in the triple jump, and Brandon Nowlin, seeded eighth in the discus, as other breakout candidates.
“A surprise is Brandon Nowlin,” he said. “He could get on the podium, which would be good. Jacob Harden, if he jumped 45, he could get up there. A 44 should place him at state.”
While the seeds often indicate who has the best chance to win in any given event, Woodard said there are always surprises at the state meet. Other outlying factors also can chance the way the meet shakes out.
“There’s several different factors to consider,” he said. “Weather — are we going to get rained on? Is it going to be hot? There’s also longer waits between races. What will they do with their time? At regionals, you can go out to Garden City or Dodge and fight 30 mile-an-hour winds, or go to Kansas City and it could be raining. So it’ll be interesting to see how those seeds pan out.
“But most of them have been there before, and it’s just a fun time. The Kansas state track meet is one of the biggest state track meets in the country. We’re one of the few states that still do all the schools in the state. It’s a great site. You get the chance to perform among the best in the state, and you get to watch the best in the state.”
Woodard said his only expectation this weekend is for his athletes to give their best effort.
“That’s the goal is to have these kids perform the best they can, and if they do that, things will fall into place, whether we can get on the podium or not,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to them going out and having fun and doing the best they can.”
The state track meet gets going on Friday morning with a full slate of prelims, throwing events and several finals in races that don’t run prelims.