For the first time in seven years, both Centennial League track & field trophies belong to Manhattan.
The Indians’ boys’ and girls’ teams both won their league titles Thursday at Washburn Rural High School. The Indians haven’t held both titles since 2014.
“It’s nice to have them both together again,” MHS head coach Kory Cool said. “We’ve kind of traded back and forth the last few years. I think the kids who showed up did very, very well.”
Manhattan’s girls’ placed first with 185 points despite missing Hannah Loub, Jenna Keeley and Julie Johnson.
Avery Larson led the way with two wins out of her four events. Larson jumped 16 feet, 10 inches to win the long jump and 34 feet, 7 inches to win the triple jump. She also anchored the Indians’ 4x100 relay team (Emma Griffee, Erika Boyer, Maxine Doering) that finished second and went on to place third in the 100-meter race.
“They’ve got to want it,” Cool said. “It was nice hearing that (Avery) woke up excited this morning, ready to go and maybe couldn’t sleep last night. I love hearing that kind of stuff.”
Cool also loved seeing Alyx Glessner throw 128 feet, 2 inches to win the javelin throw. Teammates Taylor Claussen (118 feet, 11 inches) and Jaden Weixelman (111 feet, 1 inch) finished second and third, respectively, to sweep the event for the Indians.
Manhattan’s lone race win came in the 4x800 relay, where Halle Gaul, Jillian Harkin, Haley Henningson and Josie Koppes took first in 10:25. Cool, who has been toggling names through the 800-meter relay team all season, said he still hasn’t settled on a final combination because of injuries.
Loub and Keeley are questionable for next week’s regional meet. Johnson is out for the season.
“Kind of depends on who’s healthy next week and what their other events look like depth wise,” Cool said. “If we’re able to get through and comfortably qualify while resting some legs, that would be ideal. But you just never know. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Manhattan’s boys’ scored 197 points while regaining the Centennial League title after finishing second in controversial fashion two seasons ago.
Per usual, the Indians controlled the scoreboard in the throwing events. Jason Moran (162 feet) and Daniel Tamura (143 feet, 10 inches) finished first and second in the javelin throw; Jaden Magana won the discus by throwing 169 feet, 4 inches; and Darius O’Connell won the shot put title by throwing 60 feet, 4.5 inches, more than 10 feet clear of second-place Zach Sulzen-Watson from Washburn Rural.
“He’s automatic,” Cool said of O’Connell. He shows up, and doesn’t overthink things. He’s got a pretty good system working for himself, so (I tell him) just keep doing what you’re doing.”
On the track, Dan Harkin won the 1,600-meter race before splitting for Prairie Village, where he will compete in the state tennis tournament Friday and Saturday. If Harkin wins the state singles title, he’ll have won an individual state title in three different sports (track and field, cross country).
He prepared for Thursday’s league meet by playing three hours of tennis.
“I think he’s in the discussion for potentially the one of the greatest dual athletes to come through the school,” Cool said. “I see what that kid does behind the scenes, and I’ve never seen anything like it. He’s working his tail off.”
Before Harkin hit the road, he saw teammates Julian Avila-Vargas and Ben Mosier finish first and second in the 800 meters. Avila-Vargas won in 2:04 and Mosier finished one second behind.
Tanner Dowling-Burnett won the 400-meter race in 51.38 seconds, just .32 faster than Junction City’s Marcello Bussey (51.70).
Cool said Dowling-Burnett, a sophomore, is still “just learning” the event and that “it’s only going to get better for him.”
Dowling-Burnett proved Cool’s point in the 4x400 meters. Dowling-Burnett lifted the Indians from second place to first during the final 150 meters of his leg. He, along with Avila-Vargas, Mosier and Zach Herschey, won the event in 3:28.
Avila-Vargas earned his third win alongside Ethan Bryant, on the 4x800 relay team. The Indians won the race in 8:23, and Avila-Vargas, who Cool said was “itching” for more events during the regular season, has proven he belongs.
The Indians must finish top four at next week’s regional meet at Wichita Northwest High School to prove they belong at state.