WICHITA — After looking up to her older brothers and other Wabaunsee track athletes, freshman distance runner Payton Wurtz got her own opportunity to compete at the state track meet last weekend, and she excelled, becoming the first athlete in school history to medal in all four events on the big stage.
“I am really grateful that God has given me the opportunity to run here as a freshman,” Wurtz said. “And to represent him, my school and my team as well. I am glad I have competition like Chesney (Peterson) out there to push me. I am really proud of myself today.”
Wurtz finished in second place in her first three events and then finished in fourth place in her final event. She was unable to catch junior Chesney Peterson of Stanton County in her first three races, which she knew was going to be a tall task after having competed against Peterson in cross country.
Wurtz said she tried to keep pace with Peterson in the 3,200-meter race, her first event she ran Friday, but she said that did not work out well for her.
Wurtz finished in second in the 3,200 with a time of 11:58.07 on Friday.
Wurtz finished second in 1,600 with a time of 5:19.24. Peterson finished first with a time of 4:54.00.
Payton finished in second place in girls’ 400-meter dash with a time of 1:01.15, just behind Peterson in first.
Wurtz finished in fourth place in girls’ 800 with a time of 2:28.67. Wurtz said another runner accidentally kicked her during first lap of the race, which caused her to hyper-extend her leg. She said, that almost made her fall to the ground.
She got herself back together and finished her second lap more quickly than the first. Wurtz said that if not for the incident, she would have finished in third place or better.
Heading into the state tournament Wurtz said she was hoping she would do well, but she could not say she was expecting to do as well as she did.
Going from 2A high school track meets to a frenzied scene like state track, where both sides of Cessna Stadium’s grandstands were more than half full was a big change of scenery for Wurtz. It was a lifechanging experience for her, she said.
“When I walked out onto the field (the first time on Friday) it felt like I was on the Olympics,” Wurtz said. “It was really good. It was an awesome experience. I am really glad I got to compete (both days).
“I definitely got nervous — especially because of where we’re at and being 2A, we don’t have the biggest crowds at our track meets. This was really cool to see how many people were here. It inspired me to do well and try to make my teammates and my family proud.”
The experience became even more real for Wurtz as she received her first medal of the event.
“Honestly, I was just really excited because my older brothers did track in high school, and I remember coming here as a fourth grader, thinking ‘Wow, I can’t wait to be like those girls. And win medals and be up there competing with everyone,’” Wurtz said. “So, it was a very surreal and happy moment for me. I really feel like I got to do my family proud standing up there.”
With the help of her coaches, Wurtz was able to accomplish that.
“She’s extremely coachable,” Wabaunsee head coach Roger Alderman said. “Whatever we ask her to do, she does. She puts on the full effort in every workout we got. She always does it with a good attitude. The whole staff enjoys working with her. We enjoy everything she brings to our squad. We knew she was going to be good, but probably did not know she was going to be this good this quick. She very well may be the best one I ever coach.”
Wurtz said her teammates have a massive impact on her, which allowed her to achieve what she did this season. And having her cousin on the team helped her.
As Wurtz finished the 800, she walked off the track and out of disappointment of her fourth-place finish, exhaustion and the pain from nearly falling, she knelt down and put her head to the ground.
But her fellow Charger teammates, who combined to give Wabaunsee their first top-three state finish, were there to pick her back up and comfort her.
“There is not a single teammate that has not been supportive and been with me every step of the way of this journey,” Wurtz said. “Especially my cousin (Wabaunee star senior) Lauren Schutter. She has helped me to understand and to help deal with some of the stuff: Like getting talked to a lot and staying humble. She has been a really big part of this journey for sure. It is awesome.”
After this school record-setting performance, Wurtz hopes to build on herself and she hopes she can achieve a few championships in her next three years.
“There is more coming for sure,” Wurtz said “I don’t know when that is, but I hope that I can build on this and really do well. I want to do as well as I can, but then go further. I always want to go the next step improving myself. There is always more to get and more to do.”