Between throws during the Class 6A discus competition Friday morning at the Kansas track and field championships, Southeast senior Jeff Conner was relaxed enough to casually walk over to his dad and chat. The main topic as they stood on the small hill behind the discus ring was sleep.
Yes, during the finals of the 6A discus, Conner was talking about sleeping after it was over.
Those brief conversations served to keep Conner's head clear and get him thinking of anything but the competition he was in. For his dad, also named Jeff, it was a chance to keep each other calm.
Conner wasn't nervous, though. He was fighting excitement because his first throw, 168 feet, 5 inches, held up as the winning one.
"I didn't even give it my all on that one," he said. "It's the way it works. You just have to be relaxed and get that good stretch. It's the way it happens."
Conner, who plans to attend Wichita State to throw discus and shot put, had prepared himself well for the state meet. That was his emphasis for the past year after he came in with the second seed in 2009 and then finished fifth, throwing 152-10.
"I had a good regional last year and then I came here and I didn't throw as well as I wanted to," he said. "I wanted to make sure it didn't happen again."
Conner, who often helps his younger teammates with technique, saw his time running out to leave as a champ. He failed to place in 2008, his first trip to state.
"He took it hard, like anyone would," his dad said. "He used that goal to get him over the top this year."
During the summer, Conner increased his weightlifting to improve his base weight. During the school year, he worked on improving his speed and agility. He also bought a discus and threw off his family's backyard deck.
"I knew what I was doing before obviously didn't get me there, so I had to do something to work toward it," Conner said.
With greater strength, quickness and agility, Conner's production improved. After he finished the wrestling season, he dropped some weight and became even more agile in the ring.
"The biggest difference was he worked hard during the summer and during the year," Lamb said."... And when we started doing drills, he kept getting better and better."
Conner's top throw this season was 174-11, fourth best in the state.
Maybe even more important than the physical improvements was Conner's increased confidence.
"If I wouldn't have done all that, I wouldn't have had such confidence during the season," he said.
In the first moments after the announcer proclaimed Conner the 6A champion, Conner was overwhelmed.
A half-hour later after he walked off the awards stand, he was content.
"Now it's just nice to know that it's all said and done — I'm a champ," Conner said. "I got what I wanted. But there's still tomorrow. There's still the shot put. If I get that, I couldn't ask for anything more."