When it became apparent that Karlie Wood would be transferring to Independent to join her brother for her sophomore year, track and field coach Eric Swenson paid close attention to her at the state meet.
He filmed all of her races and watched as Wood collected a medal in the 300-meter hurdles in the Class 5A race for Andover Central.
After the transfer was complete, Swenson and Wood have worked closely to fine-tune her technique in the hurdle races. The first thing that Swenson challenged her on was her aggression when attacking the hurdles.
“I wanted her to attack a lot more and get up to a higher speed earlier in the race,” Swenson said. “She was too worried about her steps and just getting over the hurdle. She’s still learning to run a little bit differently then the way she learned.”
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The new mentality has already paid dividends, as Wood has lowered her 300 hurdles time to 47.33 seconds, the second-best time in Class 3A this season.
Swenson has been impressed not just by her times, but by Wood’s work ethic.
“She’s just one of those kids that coaches love to work with every day,” Swenson said. “She’s one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached. She has a shin problem right now, but you wouldn’t know it. I have to ask her constantly how she feels. She’s very dedicated to whatever she’s doing.”
Independent will compete next at the East Relays on Monday.
Quality over quantity – If the Cheney girls are to win their first state title since repeating as champions in the 1990 season, it won’t because they will be sending double-digit participants to the state meet.
The Cardinals are title contenders because the trio of Taylor Needham, Carlea Holt, and Allie Twietmeyer are capable of scoring points at the meet in seven individual events, not to mention when they come together to form one of Class 3A’s top 400 relay teams.
“Our hope is that the bigger the meet, the more points from our top girls will hold up,” Cheney coach Rich Simmons said.
Needham could score in as many seven events, but will likely whittle her races down to the 400 (1:00.42), 300 hurdles (46.23), the 400 relay, and then either the 100, 200, 100 hurdles, or the 1600 relay.
Holt is just as versatile, capable of scoring in the 100 hurdles and then heading over the javelin, where she is the favorite for the 3A title with her mark of 144 feet, 4 inches – second-best in the state. Twietmeyer isn’t far behind her in the javelin, and can score in the long jump and discus as well.
Cheney, which hosts its own meet Friday, also has Sydney Peitz (pole vault), Gabby Lavington (throws), and Miranda Ortiz (hurdles) who could potentially score at the state meet.
“It’s a fun challenge figuring out how best to use all of them to position our team to score as many points as possible,” Simmons said.
A tradition to uphold – Carroll has a chance to accomplish a special feat with its boys distance runners at the state meet. Carroll has won the last three Class 5A titles in the 1600 and the 3200, and have done so with two different runners – David Thor in 2011 and 2012, Gage Garcia in 2013.
The Eagles should have an opportunity to make that four years in a row with three runners, as senior Nick Martin (4:28.50 in the 1600) and sophomore Paul Becker (4:29.79 in the 1600, 9:36.33 in the 3200) currently own the No. 1 times in Class 5A this season in those races.
Coach Cory Swords thinks there is motivation there for his current runners, knowing what the ones that came before them were able to accomplish.
“It’s one thing for a kid across town or across the state to win,” Swords said. “But when that kid is walking through your halls and doing the same workouts as you, then I think that might provide that extra push. They believe that it is possible for them to do it, too.”
Martin and Becker will join a select few from Carroll to compete in the Topeka Seaman Relays on Friday, while the other half of the team will be at the Hutchinson Invitational.