The Kansas state track and field meet is, in itself, a fashion show.
Cowboy hats, pink athletic socks and striped sweatbands fill the stands at Wichita State University’s Cessna Stadium.
Teams from across Kansas nap and stretch under their own canopies or makeshift tents, which line the stands and surrounding fields like a miniature carnival.
But what really set teams apart are their T-shirts. Not just at the state meet, but also at any high school track meet, it isn’t uncommon to see squads of sprinters and discus throwers wearing matching team T-shirts, most with running-related slogans and designs.
“It makes us feel more like a team,” said Pratt High School junior Carly Ried. “If we’re all wearing different shirts, we don’t look as good.”
No two of the warm-up T-shirts are exactly alike.
There are the motivational shirts, complete with Bible verses and slogans, such as: “It’s not the hours you put in; it’s what you put in the hours.”
There are the declaratory shirts, which inform that the runner has, indeed, qualified for state.
And then there are the silly shirts, such as Osage City High School and its slogan, “Why are all these people following me?”
It’s not just the track athletes who wear the shirts.
Tim Savage, cross-country coach at Wellsville High School, was sporting his team’s lime-green shirt that reads: “Date a runner … all other athletes are players.”
“One of my seniors came up with that one,” Savage said. “I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on it.”
He said usually the team’s seniors design new T-shirts every year, complete with the cleverness of high school seniors, he said.
“There were a few others that were not fit to put on a shirt, let’s just say,” Savage said. “I usually just leave it to them.”
Some T-shirts are printed specifically for the state meet.
Larned High School’s bright orange shirts have a simple message across the front: “Female Dominance.” Nine girls from the school qualified for state while no boys did, thus prompting the shirts, also sported by the team’s two male coaches.
“We’re the only two guys here who have to wear it, which makes it even better,” Larned assistant coach Dave Gladow said, accompanied by his posse of runners. “You’ve got to show up wearing the same shirts. It’s a team.”
It’s a similar story for Pratt High, which had 13 girls qualify. No boys from Pratt are at the state meet. The lime-green shirts simply say across the back, “It’s a girl thing.”
Pratt junior Nichole Moreland said the team’s male coaches were not as brave as the Larned coaches.
“None of our male coaches are wearing these because of what they say on the back,” Moreland said. “But as long as it’s a Pratt shirt, it’s fine.”
She said that although it’s not mandatory for runners to wear matching T-shirts, the school prints them every time the team goes to state.
“We like them,” Moreland said. “But there are so many lime-green shirts here, it’s hard to tell who’s who.”