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Track preview 2013 ... HHS' Sharp with chance to leave mark

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

For the past decade, Hays High School has dominated the throwing scene at the Class 5A state track and field championships.

The Indians have won 10 individual titles in the shot put or discus since 2003, so half of the 5A discus and throwing titles have been won by Hays High.

Hays High's throwers have won four discus titles and three shot puts in the past four years -- something only two other schools have accomplished (Fredonia from 1967-1970 and Beloit from 1995-1998) -- and with senior Cade Sharp, the defending champion in both events, back, Hays High has a shot at doing something no school has ever done: five straight discus titles and four straight shot put titles.

Sharp said he doesn't mind the added pressure.

"That's a top goal of mine to win both this year and put Hays High in history," Sharp said.

It will be a challenge, though.

This season, a number of 5A throwers have recorded state championship caliber throws.

Sharp's regional mark of 56 feet, 4.25 inches in the shot put makes him the 5A leader, but in the discus, Maize South senior Austin McCormick has thrown 168-4 and Newton junior Cody Martens has posted a 167-0, according to Kansas track and field historian Carol Swenson. Sharp's season best in the discus sits at 161-4, and he took second behind Martens at the regional.

"I'm not much of a mental case," Sharp said. "If I hit my PR at state and (Martens) happens to hit better than my PR, there's not much I can do about that. All I can do is perform my best and hope I get the discus championship."

Sharp has had to deal with adversity this season as well. He hasn't lifted much since football season after separating his left shoulder working out.

He mostly has focused on his technique since he has had to avoid most of the major lifts, such as bench and hang cleans.

"I've been doing what I can do to make up for it, but my sophomore year, I was a lot stronger than I am this year," Sharp said.

So with stiff competition and in a weakened state, Sharp might have the cards stacked against him, but that doesn't mean it's not possible.

In fact, Sharp said he's up for the challenge.

"I like the big pressure, the high-risk kind of thing," he said. "The bigger the atmosphere, I perform a lot better in those situations. It's exciting for me to get this opportunity to see if I can get it."

Even if he doesn't take first in both events, Sharp is a two-time shot put champion and one-time discus champion, and Hays High already has made history.

It's one of five schools to win four straight titles in the discus and one of 15 schools to win three consecutive shot put titles. This state meet will just give Hays High a chance to stand alone in the history books.

Hays High head coach Ryan Cornelsen, who has been at the helm of the program for three consecutive boys' team titles, wasn't even around for when the streak started in 2009.

He credits the coaches for Hays High's success in throws. Kirk Maska coaches the discus, while Mitch Harris coaches the shot put. Both coaches work with the throwers during the summer and winter.

"They are both very knowledgeable in their event, and they are good teachers," Cornelsen said. "They can get their kids to learn what they are trying to teach. You put all that together with some kids with some desire to be good and a little athletic ability, you have a chance to have some good throwers."

Tyler Rathke started the streak in 2009 with a discus title. Then the next season, Rathke won the discus and shot put in 2010, and then Zack Gaughan earned gold in the discus and Sharp took first the shot put in 2011. And last season, Sharp won both.

Maska, whose son Brady won back-to-back discus titles in 2003 and 2004 and set the 5A state meet record his senior year at 191-6, said he's been fortunate.

"I've been spoiled," Maska said. "I've had really talented kids, and I've had really hard-working kids. We are just excited, and we are going to give it our best shot to do it one more time."

Maska said his throwers don't get too caught up thinking about their success, but he hopes their opponents do.

"When we go to track meets, other schools might think, 'Well, Hays is here, so we are going to fight for second or third or maybe fourth or whatever,' " Maska said. "It's good to have the confidence coming in and maybe a little doubt from your opponents."