Colton Mays crossed the finish line of the Class 4A 400 meters Saturday and looked at Cessna Stadium’s videoboard.
His time of 49.28, was one-hundreth of a second better than Baxter Springs’ Kacey Elias.
Mays, a Rose Hill senior, was a state champion.
“I felt like maybe I leaned right before him,” Mays said. “But it’s not about the lean, it’s about the chest and shoulders. I went all the way through the line. I wasn’t for sure I’d get it.
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“Honestly, I wish I could say I beat him by more, but that’s what it comes down to at the end. You have to man up and do what you need to do to win.”
Mays, who has signed with Wichita State, had prepared himself for the race with the understanding that he’d be in Lane 3 and he’d have to chase down Elias.
“That didn’t happen,” Mays said. “I was in Lane 5. It caught me by surprise. I was a jackrabbit and I knew he was behind me.”
Elias crept closer in the last 200 meters, but Mays was ready.
“I started to kick,” he said. “It was the strongest kick I’ve ever had mentally or physically. I knew I had to go and my body held through.”
Having to exert himself so much at the end of the race was a new experience.
“He really battled late in that race to win it, but he was in a situation where he hadn’t been pushed that hard this year,” Rose Hill coach Greg Slade said. “It was nice to see when it was time, that he could finish.”
Mays also finished second in the 200, and was part of the 3200 relay that finished second, and the fourth-place 400 relay.
Mays started in track as a high jumper, qualifying for state his freshman and sophomore seasons. But he noticed his body was changing, so he switched to the 400 in the summer of 2011.
“As I got older, I started to realize I was getting a lot stronger, but not for jumping,” Mays said. “It wasn’t upward muscle, it was power through and fatigue muscle. So the summer after my sophomore year, I started going into the 400, and I’ve been doing it since then.”
Mays admired sprinters such as Trinity Academy’s Morgan Burns, Valley Center’s Joe Fisher and Garden Plain’s Kurt Pauly. They weren’t cocky and they were talented.
He aspired to be like them.
Mays thought he had could do something special in the 400 in 2012, but he said he got caught up in his own ego.
“I got kind of cocky last year,” he said. “Rankings have never been anything to me, nothing. You have to go out and run your race. My friend last year said, ‘You’re ranked No. 3 in 4A.’ He kept saying it. It got in my head. I didn’t mean it to.”
Mays finished fifth in 4A. He was irked with himself, annoyed that he had allowed himself to get caught up in what he was, on paper.
He shunned such thinking this season, refusing to listen to anyone telling him how good he is. Has told those who pointed out his times or his wins to quit talking about it to him.
“He’s worked hard in practice,” Slade said. “We have a group of runners … who push each other all the time in practice. They pushed Colton pretty hard, and that allowed him to get better.”
Mays came into Saturday’s race ready. He had run indoor track and had an increased commitment to lifting weights.
“He’s really developed into a great track athlete,” Slade said.