Golden day for Ruder
By KLINT SPILLER
WICHITA -- Jackie Stiles, Trisa Nickoley, Heather Ruder. Welcome to an all-time elite class, Miss Ruder.
The Thomas More Prep-Marian senior survived an elite field in the 1,600-meter and 800-meter run Saturday to win her fourth state title in both events -- something only Stiles and Nickoley have done in girls' track and field in Kansas.
Stiles is the all-time winningest female athlete, earning 14 individual golds from 1994 to 1997 while at Claflin, and Nickoley, of Shawnee Heights, won 12 individual golds from 2001 to 2004.
"She's among the elite," TMP coach Matt Dumler said. "There's three of them. She joined a new class today."
Ruder finished her career with 11 gold (four in the 800, four in the 1,600, two in the 3,200 and one in the 3,200 relay) and five silver medals (two in the 400, two in the 3,200 and one in the 3,200 relay) at the state meet. She's just the 12th girl to win double-digit individual gold medals in Kansas history.
It's a prestigious resume, and she ended her career with one of her best state meets, producing her second fastest time at state in the 1,600 (5:16.94), her third best time in the 800 (2:21.94), her best time in the 3,200 (11:29.46) and the relay's best time (9:51.90).
The last two were each school records.
"I don't know if she could ask for anything else," Dumler said.
After taking second Friday, Ruder battled back from behind in all of her races Saturday at Cessna Stadium in WIchita, relying on her kick to save her.
"I was so happy here this weekend, because I was struggling with (my kick) throughout the year," Ruder said.
As a team, the girls finished fourth with 38 points, while the boys scored 34 to take eighth.
Ruder said she never looked into how rare it was to win four titles in both events.
"I've never really looked at records (trying not) to psyche myself out," Ruder said. "I didn't even know that until now, but that's awesome. I'm happy with everything."
Dumler said it couldn't happen to a more humble girl, citing her actions immediately following the 3,200 relay's title run as evidence.
"Instead of being out there cooling down or getting stuff for herself, she's actually handing her teammates water," Dumler said. "That's the way Heather is, and that's the way she's conducted herself her whole career."
Ruder battled from behind against Hiawatha sophomore Jordan Puvogel in the 1,600. Puvogel, the reigning 3A cross country champion and 3,200 champion from Friday, led for much of the race, but Ruder overtook her in the final lap and won by 0.47 seconds.
In the 800, Nemaha Valley senior Ashley Rottinghaus took off at a lightning-fast pace, running the first quarter in 67.4 seconds, but once again, Ruder's kick carried her through to the title.
"I started getting nervous, because that was a really fast first lap, so I just tried to keep in contact with her and hopefully I'd be able to out kick her," Ruder said.
Ruder got some help from her teammates in the 3,200 relay, though.
Junior Kayla Walker and freshman Melissa Pfeifer ran the first two legs, but after two, TMP was in the middle of the pack while Haven and Sabetha were in a distant first and second.
Then senior Allison Pfeifer got the baton. She ran a 2:28 third leg and pushed herself into second place and within 25 meters of the leader.
"I told her before the race I'm going to give you 25 meters to work with, at least, and I had that within my goal to get within 25 meters of the first-place runner," Allison Pfeifer said.
Ruder did the rest, running a 2:17 final leg and outsprinting Haven's anchor, senior Hailey Davis, to the finish.
After taking second the year before, Pfeifer said it felt good to be called state champions.
"It means a lot to us, because we've all worked hard," she said. "We've pushed each other in practice. To finally get that No. 1 spot feels really good."
Deus wins gold
After never defeating Salina-Sacred Heart's Drew Diederich in his two-year career at TMP, Deus finally managed to overtake Diederich on Saturday.
Deus won the 200-meter dash in 22.88 seconds -- 0.02 seconds faster than Diederich.
"(Diederich) is a great competitor," Deus said. "He's not a sore loser or anything. It felt great (to win). He congratulated me and everything."
It was his sixth state medal in his two years at TMP, but his first gold medal.
Deus had a spectacular state meet, taking second in the 100 in 10.86 seconds -- 0.12 seconds behind Diederich. He also helped the 400-meter relay, composed of sophomore Nick Schmidt, sophomore Cameron Fouts, senior Carlos Duenes and Deus, finish second in 44.05 seconds, and he was a member of the 1,600-meter relay, which finished fourth in 3:30.85. The 1,600 relay was composed of Duenes, freshman Tim Flax, Schmidt and Deus.
Despite running prelims and finals for four races, Deus managed to pass Marion's and Sacred Heart's anchor legs and crank out a 52.95-second split.
After the race, he had to lean on Fouts in order to get back to the center of the field to receive his medal.
"It was super hard," Deus said about the 1,600 relay. "Out of this whole meet, it was probably the hardest thing."