Kory Cool knew exactly what his Manhattan High track and field team was getting into when it traveled to Lawrence for the Class 6A regionals Friday.
The competition would be fierce, even more so than last year. Times that medaled at state last year might not qualify this year. In his own words, it would “tough.”
So the fact that the MHS boys tied for first and the girls took third left Cool satisfied.
“Very, very competitive region,” Cool said. “Good even spread in events (making it to state). Lot of young guys. Can’t say enough good things about them.”
The boys side will send 15 to the Class 6A state meet at Cessna Stadium in Wichita, including five individual events and one relay.
Those qualifying were Sam Hankins (javelin), Darius O’Connell (shot put), James Higgs (shot put, discus), Chandler Marks (high jump), Kalen Rauch (long jump), Luke Wichmann and Julian Avila (4x800, 4x400), Ben Mosier (4x800), Declan Weixelman (4x800, 800-meter run), Damien Illalio (discus), Dan Harkin (1,600-meter run, 3,200-meter run), Tysen Plummer (pole vault), Emmanuel Effiong (300 hurdles), Aaron Hoff and Wyatt Henton (4x400).
The girls will send eight to state, including 10 individual events and two relays.
Those qualifying: Clara Mayfield (800-meter run, 1,600-meter run, 3,200-meter run), Ella Rosenkrantz (4x800, 3,200-meter run), Emily Keeley (4x800, 1,600-meter run), Taylor Claussen and Alyx Glessner (javelin), Bonnie Hegarty (high jump), Sophia White (4x800) and Hannah Loub (4x800).
In fact, Claussen and Glessner set personal records in the javelin, recording marks of 130-00 and 125-10, respectively. Claussen took second, while Glessner placed fourth.
“Very, very exciting,” Cool said. “Seeing them excited is what makes me happier than anything. When they can find something that they want to excel at and work towards and then execute, that’s awesome.”
Kool said he was equally impressed with Mosier and Henton, two freshmen who helped their team qualify for the 4x800 and 4x400 races. Same with freshman Max Boyer, who placed 15th in the 3,200-meter run, and sophomore Sean Anderson, who took 11th in the same race.
Boyer and Anderson, though, didn’t qualify for state. Even Keeley, who qualified in two events, missed on qualifying in the 800-meter run, and senior Madeline Purdom didn’t qualify at all.
That’s the level of competition Cool came in expecting, knowing how tight things would be. Still, it didn’t make it any easier on those who won’t travel to Wichita next week.
“That’s motivation for the offseason,” Cool said. “That should drive their training over the next 10 months. You want to do everything you can to avoid that position. When you’re in that position (next time), come out on the other side.
“That’s why I’m satisfied with Emily Keeley. She ran 2:20 (in the 800). That was a lifetime record for her. She had never run faster — but she got fifth. It’s so easy to walk off the track with your head down, but I tell the kids any time they run a personal best, or do something that they’ve done better at any other point in their lives, no matter the result, you have to be happy. You have to be satisfied with that. You can’t be disappointed because you got fifth, because now you’re worrying about other people. You can’t control what the other four girls do.”
For the Indians moving on, opportunity awaits. Hankins, a junior, has a chance to secure his third straight 6A state title in the javelin throw. Keeley and Mayfield can leave MHS as two of the best distance runners in program history. Harkin can follow up his third-place finish at last week’s 6A state tennis meet with a state title on the track.
The 6A track and field meet is set for Friday and Saturday in Wichita.
“Empty the tank. Empty the tank,” Cool said. “This is what we’ve been training for. We’ve got six days to go. I can remember counting down when the days were in the triple digits, and it’s here now, so there’s no saving up for the next event, saving up for the next week. There’s no more, ‘I’m going to try this, I’m going to try that.’ We know exactly what we’re trying to do.
“When we get on the line at state, no matter what else we have going on that weekend, empty the tank.”