Dan Harkin, Manhattan High Invite 2019

Manhattan High sophomore Daniel Harkin runs in the boys 1,600-meter run at the 2019 Manhattan Invite. Harkin will defend his state title at 3200 meters on Thursday.

Thursday’s forecast for the Class 6A state track and field meet calls for rain, which could turn a long day into an even longer one. Manhattan head coach Kory Cool has seen races delayed as runners take the track, so when the Indians get off the bus, he’ll instruct them to monitor the radar, communicate with their coach and “be ready for anything.”

“It’s going to be wet for everybody — it’s not just going to be wet for us,” Cool said. “It’s going to be a level playing field, it’s going to be fair. If you’re the best, go prove it.”

Senior Dan Harkin was the best at 3,200 meters in 2019, when he won the state title in the event. Cool expects Harkin to feel pressure from Shawnee Mission North’s Micah Blomker and Lawrence Free State’s Ben Shyrock on Thursday. Shyrock finished .73 seconds behind Harkin at regionals and Blomker finished four seconds behind Harkin at the Seaman relays, when Harkins set a school record in the event.

Harkin also will race in the 800- and 1,600-meter events, and, as Cool said, “Any race that he’s in, I think you have to say he has a chance to win it.”

The boys' team will be vying for a team title in Wichita. Cool said the boys have been talking about it since March 1, and he thinks they have a chance.

Besides Harkin and shot put superstar Darius O’Connell, Jaden Magana (discus), Jason Moran (javelin throw), Charles Jones, Ben Mosier (800 meters) and Julian Avila-Vargas (400 meters) could contend for gold Thursday. The Indians scored in 11 events in 2018, the last year they won a state title.

Cool believes this group could repeat that performance.

Manhattan’s girls’ team is hoping to finish top 10 for just the second time in the last five years. To do so, the girls will need to score in several events.

The Indians hope Gili Johnson provides the same jolt she produced at regionals. Johnson won the 400-meter race and set a school record in the triple jump last week. Now Cool thinks she can help on the Indians' 4x100 and 4x400 relays team.

“To finally add Johnson, potentially, to some sprints — that’s awesome,” Cool said. “We’ve been pretty event heavy in the distance events, and we need to be a very well-rounded team.”

Cool also is counting on Alyx Glessner and Taylor Claussen to continue their steady performances in the javelin throw. Glessner and Claussen finished first and third, respectively, at regionals, and he believes they can produce similar results Thursday.

Other point-scoring hopefuls for MHS include Amelia Knopp in the 1,600 meters, Teuila Ilalio in shot put, Avery Larson in triple and Bonnie Hegarty at high jump.

Hegarty, Claussen and Glessner have the most state experience of Cool’s girls’ group, and he hopes that will come in handy Thursday.

“For new athletes to go there and experience that for the first time, it can be kind of nerve racking for them,” Cool said. “But to have Bonnie and those experienced people who have been there before kind of help calm them and chill their nerves a little bit helps take the weight off.

“It’s not all deer in the headlights, just some.”