Phillipsburg boys edge TMP at MCL -- Norton girls win
By CONOR NICHOLL
PHILLIPSBURG -- The Phillipsburg High School golf team played its Mid-Continent League tournament Thursday afternoon in Smith Center and came to the MCL track meet held in Phillipsburg after they returned home.
During a pause, the Panthers' public address announcer congratulated Phillipsburg for winning its 10th straight MCL golf title as the team watched the meet from the infield.
At that point, the Panther boys' track and field team held the lead for the team championship. Thomas More Prep-Marian closed the margin at the end, but Phillipsburg won its third boys' MCL title in the last four years.
"It's important to get both in one day," Panther junior sprinter Stuart Lennemann said. "It's good to hear that every sport is doing well."
Phillipsburg, led by a big day from Lennemann and in the sprints, finished with 123 points. TMP, in its first season competing at MCL track, collected 101 points.
Norton won the girls' crown with 113 points, 13 more than Smith Center. Norton senior Bailey Ambrosier broke the league record with a mark of 10 feet, 1 inch in the pole vault.
Ellis, which finished fifth with 61 points, was supposed to factor into the race, but held out freshman standout Ashley Mattheyer because of leg issues.
"Our golfers are good friends with all of these track guys," Phillipsburg coach J.B. Covington said. "There is a closeness to this bunch of kids. With the success of the golf, obviously one of our goals was to win the MCL."
Phillipsburg senior Grant Wickham, ranked second in Kansas for all classes in the triple jump and second in Class 3A for the long jump, missed part of the meet with a quad injury. He still won the triple jump (45 feet, 3.75 inches) and long jump (20-3), but didn't compete in the 100-meter dash and 400-meter relay.
"We will take it easy with Grant," Covington said.
Senior Eric Townsdin, a big surprise this spring, stepped in for Wickham in the sprinting events. Lennemann won the 100 in 10.88, while Townsdin took second in 11.19. They finished 1-2 in the 200 in 22.41 and 23.34, respectively. Senior Seth Boswell also won the shot put (45-4).
"I enjoy the 1 more," Lennemann said. "It's so fast. You don't really get tired afterwards, but the 200 is kind of growing on me, getting better times this year, it's always fun to run them both."
Townsdin opened his career running middle distance, but the coaches saw his speed.
After a strong offseason, Townsdin ran well in the sprints early in the year, but then tore his hamstring second meet of the year and didn't return until last Friday. Townsdin has benefited from Phillipsburg's new rehab pool; Covington expected Wickham and other Panthers to use the facility after Thursday. This is the second year Phillipsburg has used the pool that's part of the hospital's wellness program.
"It's paid off for us big time," Covington said. "We have had a lot of athletes come back from injuries a lot faster than what they normally would."
Senior Trey Ellis, whom Covington called a "pleasant surprise," collected the 400 crown in 51.08 seconds. Last year, Ellis posted 54.07 seconds at the MCL meet, but has constantly run between 51.1 and 50.3 this year.
"He has worked hard, and you can see his running mechanics have improved and stamina," Covington said. "He has gotten bigger and stronger."
Last year, Phillipsburg set a MCL record with 43.05 seconds in the 400-meter relay and then broke the Class 3A state mark two weeks later. This spring, the Panthers graduated Sean Newlan and Seth Derr off the relay and Wickham, normally the second leg, didn't run because of the injury.
But the Panthers, led by a huge first leg from Lennemann, posted a 43.21. Lennemann exploded out of the blocks and had made up the curve when he passed the baton to Townsdin.
"I have been training a bunch and working on my block starts, and that really helps the 4x1 when you get a good start," Lennemann said. "It just comes sort of naturally."
In football, Lennemann is not one of Phillipsburg's fastest athletes in the 40-yard dash, but he is the best track sprinter.
Covington, in his 11th year with the Panthers, said Lennemann has been the best starter he has ever seen - even as a freshman.
"A lot of people will say he is not running fast, but he is way out ahead of people," Covington said. "That's just good running mechanics that he is using - and effortless. That's the best way that I can describe it. He is fast without putting a lot of effort into it."
Senior Hunter Kohler ran the third leg and Ellis anchored the relay. In the 1,600 relay, Kohler, sophomore Nate Prewitt, Lennemann and Ellis posted a 3:32.22, a season-best by more than four seconds and more than six seconds ahead of the MCL time in 2013.
"He has been really good on that backstretch," Lennemann said of Ellis. "No one ever catches him, so we get the lead, and he keeps it."
With the improvements and a healthy Wickham, Phillipsburg, the two-time defending Class 3A runner-up to Sacred Heart, could bring home some more hardware in two weeks.
"Our team is kind of shorter on people, but we will still be trying to shoot in the top threes or so at state," Lennemann said.
Norton takes girls title over Smith Center
Senior Bailey Ambrosier, the two-time defending Class 3A pole vaulting champion, takes the same tactic as many Bluejays, including coach Jason Jones. Unlike some teams and top athletes, Ambrosier doesn't check out leaderboards. She doesn't pay attention to her rankings.
Instead, the entire focus is on that meet and week.
"I haven't even looked this year," she said. "I am just trying to take it meet by meet and just try to get to state next week, and then just do my best from there. Week by week."
Thursday brought two challenges for Ambrosier: break the MCL pole vaulting record and help her team win a team championship. Norton won the crown after took second, four points short of Phillipsburg, last year.
"Our entire program is based on getting better," Jones said. "We just work everyday to get every athlete competing better - improving their marks in every event. We like to base things a lot on personal records and as long as we are getting better, than that's what we want. I try to look at the whole season, and build a progression and then peak at the postseason - league and regionals and state."
Ambrosier won four gold medals and part of a big day from the Bluejays' close-knit group of seniors. Ambrosier and sophomore Kenzie Esslinger went 1-2 for the second straight year in the pole vault.
Ambrosier won the 400 (1:03.57) and ran on the 1,600 and 3,200 relays that finished in 4:19.73 and 10:48.43, respectively.
Senior Katelyn Engelbert collected the 800 title (2:32.63), junior Sierra Griffith and senior Darcy Bainter went 2-3 in the 1,600, and Bainter finished second in the 3,200 (season-best 12:50.61).
Norton trailed Smith Center 96-93 entering the last two events: the 3,200 and 1,600-meter relay, but the Bluejays went 2-5 in the 3,200 and then won the relay to secure the crown.
"Really excited to win today," Ambrosier said. "We are really good friends and encourage each other with what we are doing."
Ambrosier holds the school mark at 10-9, currently tied for fourth in Kansas and first in 3A. Earlier this season at Phillipsburg, Ambrosier went 9-6 and also went 9-6 at Russell last week when she finished second to Esslinger, who vaulted a career-best 10 feet. This time, Ambrosier cleared 10-1 on her first attempt to set the league meet mark.
"Felt good to get it today," she said.