WICHITA — With no individual state champions and a pair of ninth-place finishes in the team standings at the Kansas state track meet at Cessna Stadium over the weekend, it would be easy to label the weekend a failure after sweeping as regional champs just one week ago.
Manhattan coach Jesse Woodard doesn’t see it that way.
While the group did struggle in events they’ve been strong in all year, there were enough positives, especially among underclassmen, to keep the coach happy.
“I’m very pleased,” Woodard said. “We had some bright spots, and we had some disappointments. We landed basically where I thought we would.”
Both teams finished in ninth place, with the boys’ team scoring 28 points and the girls’ scoring 25. Topeka High won the 6A boys’ title, behind strong efforts from its elite sprinters, while Lawrence Free State won the girls’ title.
Among the top individual performances in the throws were Jacob Holloway’s third in the javelin (181-6) and Kaylee Kipp’s third in the shot put (39-0 1/2).
“Jacob Holloway, I think he was disappointed but I was very pleased,” Woodard said. “He was off of first place by four feet. When you’re watching his throws, he’d get them up there and then the wind would bring them down. He’s just gotten better and better this season.”
Manhattan also medaled three in the girls’ discus, with Stephanie Shanower taking fifth (126-7), Kylie James in sixth (118-4) and Kipp in eighth (116-0). Gabe Caldas also scored points in the boys’ shot put (7th, 48-9).
In the distance races, Chris Melgares took fifth in the two-mile (9:41.51) and fifth in the mile (4:26.42), while Michael Melgares finished in eighth place (9:47.75) in the two-mile. Alaina Schroeder didn’t finish the two-mile because of a health concern, but rebounded nicely and took second in the mile (5:15.66) Saturday.
“There were some good things happening,” Woodard said. “Alaina coming back in the mile and getting second was big for her, confidence-wise. We had three girls place in the discus, and Kaylee Kipp was third in the shot. Overall, it was a very successful meet.”
In the jumps, Sam Livsey medaled in the triple jump with a 43-9 1/4 leap, good for seventh place, while Jacob Harden, who was seeded higher, didn’t place.
“Jacob Harden didn’t have his best day,” Woodard said. “He’s a junior though.”
The boys 4x800 relay (Chris Martin, Brandon Religa, Josue Alvarado and Evan Williams) took second place in a time of 8:01.05 to tie with Schroeder for the top finish of the weekend.
Williams ended up in ninth place in the 800 in 1:59.00 in what proved to be a tough race in 6A.
“Evan was a little disappointed,” Woodard said. “He didn’t have the race he wanted in the 800. He still ran a 1:58, but that was a very fast race.”
Emilie Liebe in the girls’ 800 also fell short of the medal stand after a solid year in the event. She finished 12th (2:31.28).
Manhattan’s 4x400 relay team (Tanaivas Richardson, Williams, Religa, Martin) qualified for Saturday’s finals, taking eighth (3:34.97) in what would be the final race of the day.
“I’m real pleased with that 4x400,” Woodard said. “To have two freshmen, a sophomore and a senior to make it to the finals, that’s good for those guys. They’re competitors.”
Woodard didn’t know exactly what went wrong for some of his top competitors who didn’t do as well as anticipated, but
“Sometimes when it’s not warm-ups and it’s the actual meet, they tense up a little bit,” he said. “It’s a big stage.”
Though the group has several seniors who won’t be returning, the group is also ripe with underclassmen Woodard can lean on next season.
“Even the ones that didn’t get a medal, they got to experience state and they’re competitive kids,” he said. “They’ll come back motivated for next year.”