On her final throw of the 5A shot put, Newton’s Payton Roberts-Parker fouled her attempt and began to break down emotionally in the throwing ring.
Some went to comfort her, assuming the sophomore was upset with herself. But these tears were out of shear happiness.
“So many emotions went into that,” Roberts-Parker said. “I was crying because I won. I knew I won. It was a feeling I couldn’t even explain to you. It was insane. Just crazy.”
It was clear Roberts-Parker was the class of the field, as she could have chosen any of her four valid throws to win the state title. Her best, coming on her final throw of the preliminary round, was 44 feet, 1/2 inch and was nearly six feet better than second place.
While it didn’t approach her season-best throw of 46-4, which remains the best throw in Kansas this season, Roberts-Parker was satisfied.
“It wasn’t a PR, but I’m still very happy because I thought I did really well for the state meet,” she said.
Newton qualified seven throwers to the state meet and extended its state medal streak to 13 years on Friday. Roberts-Parker is the eighth throwing champion at Newton since 2002.
After seeing four inches and then three inches separate her from a state championship in the 6A javelin, Maize junior Keiryn Swenson showed her determination of refusing to take second place again.
East’s Andrea Navarro set the standard with her first throw, at 145-8, then Swenson answered back with a throw of 148-4 in the preliminaries. Neither was able to better that mark in the finals, securing Swenson’s first state victory.
“It was really nice to not be standing on that second-place step on the podium this year,” Swenson said. “It was a huge relief. I was so happy I almost started crying. I finally got that first place.”
Navarro can make a case for being the state’s second-best javelin thrower, owning a season-best throw of 148-1. After graduating from East earlier this month, Navarro is eager to return to Cessna Stadium.
“I’m signed to Wichita State and I’m really excited to join the team,” Navarro said. “I’m ready for my next best throw.”
Run again to get in
The nerves had already taken over the body of Omawumi Omare, a junior from Blue Valley North, before her 6A qualifying race in the 400. The situation did not improve when the starter’s gun went off and her right block slid backward, causing Omare to fall at the outset of the race.
The slip at the beginning kept Omare, who was seeded second in her heat, from qualifying for the finals. After the race finished, BV North coaches protested and were granted a re-run after the conclusion of the boys’ 1600 relays, about three hours after the first race.
Omare would get another shot at qualifying and the current eighth seed, Olathe North’s Emily Hines, had the option of running head to head against her, or put her up her original time of 59.83. Hines chose the latter.
“My nerves were through the roof and my thighs were shot,” Omare said. “I was so nervous.”
With the track to herself, Omare captivated the crowd’s attention. She said it was that adrenaline rush, racing down the backstretch with the entire West seating at Cessna Stadium bringing her home with a standing ovation, that allowed her to run a season-best time of 59.07 to qualify for Saturday’s final.
“I knew it was a race against the clock and not against competitors,” Omare said. “But yeah, that was a really cool moment. I don’t think a lot of people can say they did that. I’m glad I got to do it again.”
After her triple jump competition left her with a dissatisfying fourth-place finish, Southeast’s Breanna Eckels wanted a chance to redeem herself.
She found just that 30 minutes later in long jump, where she set a personal-best mark of 19-1, and won the 6A state championship with the best jump in Kansas this season. Five of Eckels’ six jumps would have won the title.
Eckels was the defending champion in the triple jump and finished second in long jump last season.
“It was a pretty rough triple jump, so coming into the long jump I knew I couldn’t do the same,” Eckels said. “For a sophomore to have two state titles under your belt, that’s a pretty good feeling. And I feel like I can even go further.”
So did winning the long jump help ease the pain of her triple jump performance?
“Yes, it did,” Eckels said grinning. “Most definitely.”
Entering Friday’s competition, there were four long jumpers in 4A who had surpassed 17 feet. Coffeyville’s Andre’a Newton had a season-best of 18-3, one of the state’s best marks.
So McPherson sophomore Amy Suenram entered hoping just to finish on the podium. She was confident that her last jump of the prelims, a mark of 16-6, would secure her place. She never thought it would win.
“It was so nerve-racking watching everyone else jump,” Suenram said. “I was looking at the marks and pacing back and forth. I kept thinking that someone would jump more than me.”
But after all of the contenders had three jumps each in the finals, no one could surpass Suenram, making her a surprise winner with a modest jump.
“I never in a million years would have thought I would be first in 4A,” Suenram said. “I didn’t even think I was going to make it to state this year. So this is just so crazy and amazing.”
A new approach
Since switching from a spinning method to a gliding one in the shot put, Halstead’s Jena Black has taken off in the event. Her junior season culminated with a state title performance, winning the 3A title with a season-best throw of 42-4 1/2.
The mark is almost five feet better than her previous best from last season, when she failed to qualify for state in the event.
“I switched back to a glide and it’s just a lot less to think about for me,” Black said. “It’s easier and I’ve done a lot better. On that (winning) throw, I didn’t even feel it come out of my hand. It felt good, definitely.”
First one down
Collegiate freshman Jewell Bolden entered high school with lofty expectations. She considers track her first love and has been a standout performer on the summer and winter circuits for several years now.
Bolden collected her first state title on Friday, winning the 3A long jump with what she considered a marginal jump of 17-5 3/4. It was seven inches better than second place.
“I wish I would have jumped a little bit further, but I’m still glad that I won, especially as a freshman,” Bolden said. “I expect to do it again for the next three years.”
Bolden also gave herself a chance for a title in two other events, qualifying for the finals in the 100 hurdles, running a prelim-best 15.38, and the 200.
After becoming a surprise winner in the 3A discus last season, Garden Plain’s Noelle Dooley entered the meet in an eerily similar position.
Once again, Dooley performed her best at the state meet and threw a season-best of 127-7 to defend her state championship, beating teammate Emily Puetz by seven feet.
“Last year I was a head case,” Dooley said. “This year I can kind of see how honored I am to win this and just how big this is. I feel satisfied and accomplished.”
West Elk junior Sarah Hines doesn’t practice the triple jump very much, as she considers herself a hurdler at heart. But after a teammate showed her the steps one day in practice, Hines has taken off.
On Friday, Hines won the state championship, taking home the 2A state title in the triple jump with a mark of 35-4 1/4.
“I don’t think a lot of people expected this from me,” Hines said. “It’s a really great feeling. I’m really excited.”
Hines also qualified for the 2A finals in the 100 hurdles and will run in the 100 prelims Saturday morning.
Worth the wait
Marion’s Alicia Maloney has been a standout pole vaulter her entire career, but a state title had eluded her for the first three years. She was happy to qualify as a freshmen, then came agonizingly close the last two years in taking third in Class 3A.
Finally, Maloney had a breakthrough vault, clearing 10-6 to tie her personal-best mark, and won the 3A championship.
“I’ve basically worked the last four years to be on top of that podium,” Maloney said. “And now that it’s happened, it’s just an incredible sense of accomplishment.”
But Maloney was quick to dole out the credit.
“I have to give a lot of credit to my coach, he pushed me when I needed it,” she said. “He was the one that tweaked the things I needed to work on and he was the one who picked the workouts. He’s been working for this, too, and we finally got it.”