McQueen solid for Plainville
By CONOR NICHOLL
Plainville High School junior Mallory McQueen has endured knee problems virtually her entire high school career. Last year, the knee issue helped keep McQueen from qualifying for the Class 2A state track meet in the triple jump. After some time, doctors determined McQueen's right meniscus is injured, but they don't know the severity. Plus, McQueen has patellar tendonitis, which adds to the pain.
"I might have a possible meniscus tear," she said. "They don't know if it's bruised, and I don't know if I am going to go get it checked out until after track. It's manageable right now. It bothers me, but I can deal with it."
McQueen does just light conditioning at practice, such as stair work, one-legged ropes or short sprints. Even with the knee, McQueen uncorked a school record jump of 34 feet, 2 inches at the Goldsmith Relays at WaKeeney-Trego Community two weeks ago. She broke the mark set by Brenna Mick in 2008.
McQueen has won several meets, including Ellis, WaKeeney and Victoria last Thursday and is the triple jump favorite entering today's Mid-Continent League meet at Phillipsburg.
In addition, senior Hadley Gillum set the school mark in the discus with a 175-foot throw at the Plainville meet earlier this fall, breaking the mark of 169-3 set by Jameson Klein in 2012.
"It was a really good throw, but it was a right-handers wind that day," coach Norma Finnesy said. "He has stayed consistent."
The host Panthers are the heavy boy favorites, while Ellis, with standouts Alexcia Deutscher and Ashley Mattheyer, Smith Center and Norton are the top girls teams. Start time is 3 p.m.
"It's difficult," McQueen said. "I am always worried that I am going to go to a meet, and then my mark is going to be off, because I haven't been running through it all, so it's stressful. It's more mental than anything. If I think I am going to be off, then I am going to be off, but if I am confident in it, then I am normally there."
McQueen and sophomore jumper/sprinter Shania Werner, also good friends, anchor the Cardinal girls in volleyball, basketball and track. Werner is a returning state qualifier in the 200-meter dash, and leaped a season-best 16-5.5 to win at Goldsmith. McQueen has never competed at state.
With senior Sami Reif, a state medalist in the high jump, sidelined most of the spring with a hip flexor, Werner and McQueen have emerged as the Cardinals' top two tracksters.
"She is like my little young one," McQueen said. "I love Shania. I push myself, so then I can push her."
Werner's older brother, Dalton, finished second, first and first in the long jump the last three years at state, and helped the Cardinals take third, first and first as a team, the best three showings in boys' track annals. The Werners have long jumped since AAU track in the younger ranks.
Their mom, Cappy, went to Palco and was a jumper, while their dad, Ron, attended Plainville. For years, Cappy and Ron are mainstays around the jumping pits at meets, usually setting up chairs next to the boards. Cappy normally tracks everyone's marks on a piece of paper.
"They work with us a lot in sports," Werner said.
Shania is pushed by her brother's success. A year out of high school, Dalton still helps out his sister, usually on weekends.
"Just because my brother has done it, and I kind of want to be like him and go as far as him," Werner said of jumping.
Werner wants to reach state again in the 200 and long jump. Werner has run 27.52 in the 200. In most years, her top marks in both events are generally good enough to win a league crown and qualify for state - but she will face stiff tests at MCL and then at the Smith Center regional.
Werner will compete against Ellis' Deutscher and Mattheyer in both meets and Atwood's Rohey Singhateh and Brookville/Ell-Saline's Emma Drees at regionals.
All four jumpers have cleared 17-1 this season and ran faster than Werner in the 200; top four in each event reach state. Plus, Atwood's Lexy Leitner and Ellinwood's Sophie Hayes are faster than Werner in the 200.
"I've coached a long time, and things happen at regionals," Finnesy, in her 26th year with the Cardinals, said. "Nerves, people move people around to try to qualify other people, so the only thing you can do the day of regional is take care of yourself and let everybody else take care of themselves and see what happens, but our regional is really, really loaded this year."
Despite little practice time, McQueen has benefited from coach Joe Simon's powerlifting program that is annually one of Kansas' best. This year, Plainville won the boys crown and finished fourth in the girls. In the 132-pound class, McQueen finished third in the squat (220 pounds), second in the clean (145 pounds) and sixth for all classes in the clean for lifting 119 percent of weight relative to weight class. She has improved by 30 pounds in the clean since last year. McQueen didn't do powerlifting as a freshman and just lifted during school, but started it as a sophomore.
"It really made a difference on how I looked at lifting, because I realized what I could do in it, so it got me excited for this year, and I am really excited for next year, too," she said. "Simon has really helped me with weights, and I really believe that weights help everybody. It doesn't matter what you do. If you are in the weight room, then you are going to excel as long as you are working hard."
McQueen's big jump at WaKeeney put her strongly in the mix for the MCL title and state qualification. She hadn't been over 33 feet this year, but steadily improved at WaKeeney, pits Plainville has historically performed very well at. She had broken the school record in her series before setting it again on her fourth and final jump.
"Last one, I really didn't think it was going to be that far," she said. "I got out of the pit. I was almost disappointed in myself, because I thought it was less than what it was, and then I turned around, and I saw the 34, and then I got really excited. I was pretty much just looking for the school record and hopefully get me to state."