Good day for Rush County at 1A regional
By CONOR NICHOLL
Otis-Bison freshman Taylor Regan opened Friday's Class 1A regional track and field meet in the triple jump at Fort Hays State University. Regan won the Central Prairie League meet last week with a leap of 33 feet, 5 inches but missed Victoria's competition two weeks ago because of a bothersome heel injury.
The pain forces her to wear pads in her spikes and tie her shoes tightly, but it still hurts, especially after impact. She also has torn tendons in her wrist from basketball.
However, Regan took an early lead in a strong field with a first jump of 34-6.75 inches. On the second attempt, Regan lept 35-10.5, a new school record. She received two high-fives from coach Travis Starr, pumped her fists and said "Yes!"
"I didn't really think about the pain, especially after I hit that mark," Regan said. "I was just really pumped. I felt it - as soon as I hit that, and then got in the air, I knew that it was going to be a good one."
Regan remained in first until Winona-Triplains junior Shayna Rogge broke the Vikings school record on her last attempt with a 36-2 mark. Regan's big jump opened a strong day for Rush County's Otis-Bison and La Crosse -- and her two good friends, Cougar senior sprinters Annie Kraisinger and Jordan Hoffman.
"During volleyball season, we just became really close and that led to basketball and track," Regan said. "She is definitely like one of my best friends -- and Hoffman, too, we have gotten really close."
The Leopard boys, two-time defending state champions, won the regional crown with 85 points, 23 more than Wallace County. This week, Regan and Hoffman stand strong chances to capture the first track golds in coach Travis Starr's nine years at Wichita State University's Cessna Stadium.
Kraisinger, a state medalist as a freshman and sophomore, didn't reach state in any event last year because of a tendon issues in her knee that caused swelling and kept her from running for several weeks. Hoffman won the 100, 200 and 400 at the 2013 regional, but then only competed in the 100 at state because of a groin injury.
This time, Kraisinger qualified with a runner-up finish in the 100 (13.46) and third place showing in the 200 (27.98).
"It's just a great feeling qualifying this year and making a comeback," Kraisinger said.
Hoffman, who has also dealt with injuries throughout the school year, repeated as champion in all three events. He captured the 100 in 11.55, the 200 in 22.94 and the 400 at 51.38. Regan also finished fourth in the long jump (season-best 15-10.5).
Last year, Hoffman and La Crosse senior Levi Morss were supposed to match up in the sprints at state. Now, Morss has graduated, and Hoffman isn't feeling pressure this spring.
"I am not feeling as good as I did last year, but I am feeling pretty confident going into state," Hoffman said.
In the 100, Hoffman has traditionally not started quickly, but finishes strong. The same thing occurred Friday. Hoffman didn't have a clear lead until the second half of the race, but ended up winning by .32 seconds, nearly as big as the .43 second gap between second and sixth.
"Sophomore year is when I started to pick it up a little bit," Hoffman said. "Like in the 4, I would take off right out of the gate. I would be leading until the last 100, and then I would lose. Trying to change that up a little bit, use some of my speed to win."
Some girls steadily get slower as their careers progress, but Kraisinger called herself "more fit" than previous years, which helped her bounce back from the struggles. At state powerlifting last year, Kraisinger took third in the 132-pound division, including a squat of 200 pounds and a clean of 125 pounds. Kraisinger took second in the same weight class several weeks ago at state and can now squat 210 and clean 145. Having Regan for the last nine months has helped, too.
"We have gotten really close since volleyball," Kraisinger said. "It's just nice to have a friend there that likes to work as hard as you do. It's really nice to have someone like that by your side."
Last week, Starr debated on having Regan jump at league. But Regan really wanted to compete to make sure she was OK for regionals.
"It wasn't getting any better just resting it, so just wanted to go for it," Regan said of the heel.
Hoxie junior Carly Heim, the defending state champion, Rogge and Regan all ranked in the top-4 in Class 1A in the triple jump. Heim finished third in 35-3.75. Rogge jumped 10 inches better than her season best; Regan 14.5. No other Class 1A jumper has cleared 35 feet this spring.
"I knew by looking at the rankings over the season that they were going to be the toughest ones, so I just really wanted to get those marks there and just try to get better than they did," Regan said.
In the long jump, Regan and several top jumpers had trouble with scratching. Heim, the defending state champion, scratched on all three attempts.
"I wasn't expecting that at all," Regan said. "I figured that she would go number one."
Regan never hit the board, but still managed to collect the final qualifying position, another bright spot for the Cougar trio.
"I was really happy with the way things went today," she said.
Relays, throws pace Leopards
La Crosse has rolled to regional crowns and set the 1A boys state points record in each of the last two seasons behind great depth and star athletes, especially Morss and Kip Keeley. This year's team is different with less depth and nearly all the points coming in the throws and relays.
"We didn't have as many opportunities on the track to score points," coach Jon Webster said. "The last couple of years, we came into regionals and we had two, if not three guys in almost every event, and this year, we just don't have that depth."
Webster has looked at results and seedings and knew Wallace County and Hoxie would push the Leopards. But La Crosse never sees the schools from the far west and northwest, so Webster was uncertain how the Leopards would match up.
La Crosse won with 85 points, while Wallace County took second with 62, St. Francis third at 50, Hoxie fourth at 49 and Stockton fifth at 47.
"We knew it was going to be challenging, and we had to be ready to play," Webster said.
Junior Sheldon Schmidt set a season-best when he won the shot put at 50-6.
"Sheldon stepped up, and his goal has been to hit 50 foot this year, and he has been real close a couple of times," Webster said.
Junior Cole Kershner took second at 47-11.25 with a big final throw.
Senior Lucas Moeder, the defending state javelin champion, won the javelin (178-6) and finished second in the discus (148-8). Schmidt was fourth in the discus (145-6). Moeder has consistently been in the 177 to 183 range, shorter than his career best of 194-8 that won state.
"He has been pretty steady," Webster said. "I don't think he is where he thought he would be at at this point in the year, but it's a work in progress, and the one thing with the javelin is Luke learned last year at state, it takes one day and everything will click, and it will go a long ways."
Senior Marshall Jay finished fourth in the 110-meter hurdles (17.24) and third in the 300 hurdles (43.23). Junior Andrew Jay collected his first state qualification in an individual event when he took fourth by 1.25 inches in the long jump at 19-11.75.
Marshall Jay and Moeder ran on both the 400 and 1,600 relays that qualified first (44.25) and third (3:33.61).
"A real nice team effort, and guys just picking each other up where they had to," Webster said.