Twelve hours after arriving in Wichita, Manhattan’s track teams left with the hardware they came for.
The Indians’ boys’ and girls’ track teams each took first at Friday’s regional meet at Wichita Northwest High School. Just six days before state, they looked ready to perform at their apex.
On the bus ride home, however, they looked ready for bed.
“We’re tired,” MHS head coach Kory Cool said. “We’ve got to get fresh and rested. Today was a long day.”
Friday also was a good day for the program, who won the boys’ meet by outscoring second-place Lawrence Free State by 66 points (163-97) and captured the girls’ meet by outscoring second-place Derby by 22 points (125-103).
Gili Johnson led the Manhattan girls with two wins, including a record-setting performance. Johnson jumped 37 feet, 9.75 inches to win the regional title in triple jump and break Amy Weir’s school record — set in 2003 — in the process.
She also won the 400-meter race in 59.46 seconds, and for good measure, she finished third in the long jump (16 feet, 5.5 inches). Cool said a quad injury kept Johnson, who also dances and plays club soccer, from competing in triple jump before Friday. Now that she’s healed, she’s reminding opponents who held the top triple jump distance in the country as a middle schooler.
“I’m glad she’s with us,” Cool said. “She puts in a lot of behind-the-scenes work that you don’t see. It’s tough to balance with the dual-sport athletes.”
Depending on Johnson’s events schedule, Cool might add her to the Indians’ 4x400 relay team, which finished second at regionals, next week. Kyra Arasmith, Jillian Harkin, Maxine Doering and Tamayla Washington finished about six seconds off first-place Washburn Rural on Friday. Hannah Loub, who finished sixth in the 400 with a time of 1:02 in her return from injury, also could join that relay.
Alyx Glessner and Kennedy Prestonback joined the regional champion ranks with wins in the javelin throw and 100-meter hurdles, respectively. Prestonback won the hurdles in 16.57 seconds. Glessner and Taylor Claussen, who finished two spots behind Glessner, have been aiming for a 1-2 finish at state since the preseason.
“I think they’ve got a chance,” Cool said. “But they’ve got to show up. They’ve got to finish.”
Amelia Knopp gave herself a chance at state by finishing second in the 1,600 (5:42). Cool said Knopp has shown promise all year in practice, and he was glad to see it translate at regionals.
Other individual state qualifiers included Bonnie Hegarty, Avery Larson, Kyra Arasmith, Teuila Ilalio and Abigail Gruber.
Hagerty finished third at high jump (4 feet, 10 inches); Larson finished second at triple jump (34 feet, 1.75 inches); and Arasmith finished third in the 100 hurdles (17.02 seconds).
Ilalio threw 38 feet, 3.5 inches in the shot put, which placed her second. Gruber finished third in discus after throwing 108 feet, 10 inches
Two other Manhattan relay teams qualified for state, too. Doering, Larson, Emma Griffee and Erika Boyer finished fourth in the 4x100 relay (51.76 setons) and Harkin, Halle Gaul, Haley Henningson and Josie Koppes finished fourth in the 4x800 (10:42).
Manhattan’s boys claimed six wins at regionals, led by Charles Jones, who took first in the triple jump (45 feet, 0.5 inches) and the high jump (6 feet, 6 inches) Friday. He also jumped 22 feet, 2.25 inches in the long jump, which put him just three inches behind first-place Julius Bolden of Wichita Northwest.
“Phenomenal,” Cool said of Jones’ performance. “He’s obviously put in a lot of work. You don’t just accidentally jump, 6 (feet) 6 (inches) and jump 45 (feet) 10 minutes later.”
Ben Mosier won the 800 in 1:58.85, which was just .08 seconds faster than teammate Julian Avila-Vargas in second.
Dan Harkin came from behind to win the 3,200 just six days after winning a state tennis title. Harkin started about “20 to 30” meters behind Lawrence Free State’s Benjamin Shryock early before taking a 15-to-20-meter lead of his own. Shryock closed the gap late, but Harkin held onto first by .73 seconds (9:40.03 compared to 9:40.76).
Cool said Harkin had “very tired” legs at Friday’s meet because he trained extra hard between last week’s state tennis tournament and the track and field regional. Harkin proved as much by finishing fourth in the 800 (2:01) and 1,600 meters (4:39) (though he qualified for state in both).
“If he can find the confidence to rest a little bit,” Cool said, “next week’s gonna be a good one.”
Cool has similar expectations for Jaden Magana, Darius O’Connell and Jason Moran, all of whom took first in their respective throwing events on Friday. Moran threw 169 feet, four inches to win the javelin throw. O’Connell threw 57 feet, 9 inches to win shot put, and Magana threw 170 feet, 9 inches to win discus.
After dominating their competition all season, Cool offered few adjustments for his throwers. “Stay confident,” was his only advice.
He meant it earnestly, though. After winning their longest meet of the season, Manhattan will travel to Cessna Stadium in Wichita on Thursday for state meet. The Indians’ success will depend just as much on their mental preparedness as it will on their physical readiness.
“We’ve got to try and get them amped up again,” Cool said. “The mental fight is harder than the physical aspect of it. It’s an emotional day, a long day.
“We’ve got to get our legs back under us this weekend, because next week, it’s sort of a similar situation: We’re going to be there for a lot longer (than usual).”
Other individual state qualifiers included Aaron Newcomer, Dominic Palmieri, Damian Ilalio, Daniel Tamura, Charles Morgan, Tanner Dowling-Burnett-Burnett and Ben Mosier.
Newcomer finished fourth at high jump (6 feet); Palmieri finished third at pole vault (11 feet); and Ilalio finished fourth in the discus throw (128 feet, 5 inches). Tamura added another thrower to the Indians’ state roster by finishing fourth in the javelin throw (149 feet, 7 inches).
Three of the Manhattan boys’ relay teams qualified for state at regionals. Dowling-Burnett, Joe Hall, Israel Newby and Brayden Shoemaker finished third in the 4x100 relay (43.62 seconds); Dowling-Burnett, Avila-Vargas, Mosier and Zachary Hirschey finished second in the 4x400 relay (3:28); and Avila-Vargas, Mosier, Ethan Bryant and Baptiste Lacroix finished second at the 4x800 relay (8:22).