It snowed in late December. Track and field season felt a long way off. Wichita State senior decathlete Austin Bahner grabbed a shovel and cleared a running lane around the track at Cessna Stadium.
“We had one of our toughest workouts of the break and I went to the track thinking it would be OK, cleared and everything,” he said. “I took a long-jump shovel and pushed all the snow off.”
That’s not a scene WSU coaches expected earlier in Bahner’s career. His success over the past year helped increase his devotion to eating right, sleeping and workouts.
“I never would have been that committed three years ago,” he said. “I’ve worked really hard to get where I am and I realize my potential and I’m trying to keep going.”
Bahner, from Heights, begins the track season as one of the nation’s top multi-event athletes. He finished 14th in the heptathlon at the NCAA indoor championships and 10th in the decathlon in the NCAA outdoor meet last year. Last summer, he finished seventh in the USA Championships and seventh in the Thorpe Cup dual against Germany in California. He set a WSU record with 7,847 points in the decathlon and is aiming for the elite 8,000-point barrier.
“When you taste that kind of success … that certainly serves as a terrific motivator,” WSU coach Steve Rainbolt said. “It’s evident that he loves track. He’s always been somewhat of a track rat. Now he’s demonstrating a more significant work ethic, with regard to things like making sure he’s not going to miss a training session and making sure he’s really taking care of his body.”
Bahner took a month off late in the summer and spent eight weeks doing pool workouts and light training to protect his troublesome shins. When he resumed training, his weak events got stronger in practices. His time in the 60-meter hurdles is up to 8.52 seconds, a personal-best. He is consistently vaulting 15 feet, 6 inches. His throw in the shot put is moving forward.
Bahner’s plant and takeoff is improving significantly for the pole vault, allowing his athletic ability (he is a 25-foot long jumper) to take over.
“There is significant correlation between long jump success and pole vault success, if you can learn to execute the plant,” Rainbolt said. “Then, the whole thing just kind of happens. He runs down there like a terrific pole vaulter and then he doesn’t execute the plant correctly. His plant is improving and the plant is where it’s at.”
Getting stops — Dallas Episcopal boys basketball coach Corey Henderson considers himself a defensive coach. He is pleased that his son is getting better in that area, while still scoring and running the offense.
WSU signee Corey Henderson Jr. averages around 14 points, eight assists and six rebounds for Dallas Episcopal, 11-5 entering Saturday’s game. His dad highlights his improvements on defense.
“When you have that mindset of really digging in and committing to the team, that's what we're about,” Corey Henderson said. “He's really picked up his defense and being more physical and more aggressive.”
Henderson, a 6-foot-3 senior, is the team’s main ballhandler and is growing more confident driving to the basket and scoring in traffic.
“He's really unselfish,” Corey Henderson said. “He will pass up a shot at times to create a better shot for his teammates. That's something that is easier to said than done.”
Henderson said he and his son intend to come to WSU’s game against Missouri State on March 1 at Koch Arena.
• Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy forward Rashard Kelly scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds, according to Eric Bossi of Rivals.com, in the Under Armour Showcase in Charlotte, N.C. earlier this month.
“Kelly's game is all about aggression and athleticism,” Bossi wrote. “He is tough to stop on the low block, has a great motor and even on days where it didn't seem that he played that effectively, he is productive.”
Kelly (6-7) also signed with WSU in November.
Winter baseball gets — Nebraskan Alex Bohm joined the recent group of baseball commitments from the class of 2015.
Bohm (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) plays third and first base for Omaha’s Roncalli Catholic High. He earned honorable mention All-Nebraska Class B as a sophomore. He visited WSU on Jan. 8 and committed soon after.
“They’ve got top-notch facilities and the coaches are great,” Bohm said. “I wanted to go where the coaches were going to treat you the right way; they're not there just to play older guys and not play the best players.”
WSU also recently received non-binding oral commitments from Maize pitcher Connor Lungwitz and Olathe South catcher Noah Croft.