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Colby's McKee tops strong 400 field in WaKeeney





WaKEENEY -- Colby sophomore Brielle McKee finished eighth in the 400-meter dash and anchored the Eagles' fifth-place showing in the 1,600-meter relay at the Class 4A state meet last season. McKee ran 1 minute, 0.8 seconds in the open 400 and 1:02.40 in her relay split.

This year, she ranked among the top 400 runners in her classification entering Friday's Goldsmith Relays at WaKeeney-Trego Community High School. But McKee, who has run the 400 since sixth grade, doesn't like her main event.

"I don't enjoy it, but it's just something that I have always done, so I just kind of tell myself, 'You have to do this,' " McKee said. "It's always about beating my time and just trying to get better and better. I think it's really common in track. I don't think there are very many people who say, 'Let's go out and run.' It's more, 'We have to go run.' "

McKee bested a strong 400 field with a season-best mark of 1:01.30, one of many season and career bests in the 12-team competition.

The scoreboard read 59.9 when McKee crossed the finish line, which would have been the first time she broke 60 seconds, but the official time was a bit slower. WaKeeney senior Payton Nowlin delivered a personal best in the event for the second straight week in 1:03.41 to take second.

"It was good," McKee said. "I was just happy that I was just able to stay loose and finish hard. I was trying to get sub-60s."

Last week, McKee ran two meets at Scott City on Tuesday and Holcomb on Friday. Because of the strenuous schedule, she tightened up and finished in 1:02 at Scott City and 1:01.50 at Holcomb.

"Today, I was more relaxed, and I heard my coach over there saying, 'Just stay loose,' and I just tried to wiggle it out," McKee said.

McKee also took sixth in the 100 (13.67), third in the 400 relay (53.63) and second in the 1,600 relay (4:16.90). Before Friday, just six 4A girls had broken 1:01.50, according to Kansas historian Carol Swenson's statewide honor roll. For the last month of the season, McKee wants to consistently be in the 50s and place higher at state.

"You just have to say that you are going to run the race, not be nervous for it," McKee said.

Griffith in 300s

Norton junior Sierra Griffith, an all-state cross country runner, had run distance events in track season after she participated in the 300-meter hurdles in junior high and set records. But Bluejay coach Jason Jones always told Griffith the 300s were "not her race." This season, Griffith gave Jones a decision.

"I am doing them, or I am not doing track," Griffith said.

Jones relented, and let Griffith try the event. Griffith has posted a solid spring after she missed last year because of a stress fracture. She finished second in the 300s at 50.11 seconds, just off her personal best of 50 seconds.

Goodland senior Taryn Bedore won the event in 49.82 seconds and TMP senior Mikeala Flax took third at 50.26 seconds.

(Jones said) "I think we waited until just the right time," Griffith said with a smile. "...What my coach says is, 'You've got to be a woman to be able to run that race.' It's pretty tough."

Griffith set her personal best at the season-opening Norton Invitational on April 11. She ran a 55.10 at the Redmen Relays on April 15, but delivered a 51.3 at Phillipsburg last week.

"It kind of motivated me, I am not going to lie," Griffith said. "To push myself a little bit more than the other ones, because I was more excited."

Jones said Griffith likely needs to run around 48 seconds to reach state. Jones said he has thought about pulling Griffith from the hurdles and putting her in the open 400 or open 800.

"I told him that if I make it to state this year or get close, then I am doing them next year," Griffith said. "He is like, 'We will think about it.'"

Griffith still does four events with each one about 15 minutes apart: the 3,200 relay, 1,600 run, hurdles and 1,600 relay. Griffith, known for drinking plenty of Dr. Pepper, still has the habit.

She brings two Dr. Peppers to each track meet and drinks them throughout the day. Griffith took fourth in the 1,600 (6:01.50), third in the 1,600 relay (4:17.02) and third in the 3,200 relay (10:32.15). Norton set season bests in the 1,600 relay by more than 10 seconds and by more than five seconds in the 3,200 relay.

Newbold back to form

Victoria sophomore Jayden Newbold qualified in the Class 1A long jump last spring, but has had a full schedule of various events this year. She missed the season-opening Alex Francis Classic because of regional choir.

She jumped 14 feet, 11.75 inches at the La Crosse meet on April 4 and then missed the Ellis meet April 8 because of FCCLA. Plus, she had some other conflicts, including vacation.

This past week, Newbold had her schedule finally cleared and jumped 15-6, easily her season best, to take second in the long jump. Plainville sophomore Shania Werner jumped 16-5.5 to win the event. Newbold also pole vaulted 7-6, a mark that is sometimes good enough to reach state in Class 1A.

"It's finally good to be back on track again," Newbold said. "I haven't been able to totally focus on track as much as I did last year. ... I feel like that is some of the reason why things are going so slow this year, but now I can finally focus on track."

Other top performances

Oberlin junior Demi Murray won the javelin (128-4), a mark that improved on her previous season best of 123-1. Murray currently ranks second in Class 2A. She also won the discus in 106-4. ... Plainville junior Mallory McQueen set a season-best in the triple jump (34-2) to win the event. TMP senior Sam Younie set a new career mark and took second (34-1.75). ... Ness City senior Dray Carson ran the second-fastest 2A time in the 1,600 (4.31.4). ... The girls' 800 had a premier field with the top-six runners under 2:38 and the top four under 2:32. Ness City senior Emily Hahn pulled away from teammate Jessie Rubottom to win 2:23.6 to 2:27.9.