Winning a state championship will put a runner on the map in Kansas, but winning a race at the Kansas Relays will put you on the map nationally.
Winfield’s Riley Osen has two state championships to his name, but he’s receiving more attention than ever after winning the 3200-meter race at the KU Relays last Friday in a career-best time of 9 minutes, 13.43 seconds.
“He’s kind of moved himself into a new category as far as distance runners go,” Winfield distance coach Torey Keller said. “He’s definitely put himself on the map for colleges going into his senior year.”
Osen, a junior, won the Class 4A cross country championship last fall and set the state record while winning the 3200 title last spring. He has won a host of races over the last three seasons, but none bigger to him than the one at KU.
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“Because of the time, honestly, I think it’s probably a little bit more special than winning state,” Osen said. “Last year I won at state track and set the record, which was awesome, but I ran a 9:13 at KU and won the race and in the fashion that I did, I’ve never won like that before.”
Keller said at the midway point in the race, when Osen clocked in with a 4:37 split, he knew something special was on the way.
“That was the strongest and most in control I’ve seen Riley in a race in his career,” Keller said. “I knew it was only a matter of time before it would happen, but I was guessing he would be right under 9:20. Instead, he was closer to 9:10 and I guess that’s what surprised me.”
For seven straight laps, Osen stayed on the shoulder of Festus (Mo.) runner Tyler Gilliam, waiting for the right moment to take over. With 120 meters left, Osen pinpointed that exact moment.
That’s when Osen turned to his kick, which propelled him past Gilliam and sent him sprinting across the finish line in first with a margin of a little over a second over Gilliam.
Osen’s recruiting has been kick-started by the victory, as he said he has already received several e-mails from newly-interested collegiate coaches. Coaches are not allowed to speak with Osen until July.
“I would say that’s probably the best race I’ve ever ran,” Osen said. “There was one lap where we had a 72-second split and the rest were right at 70 or below. Other than that, it was just about perfect.”
Doll jumps long — Flinthills junior Lauren Doll has always considered herself a sprinter.
That is until Doll darted down the long jump runway at the Oxford Invitational on Apr. 2 and leaped 17 feet, 4 1/4 inches before landing. The mark remains the best long jump posted so far this season in Class 1A, and fifth-best in the state of Kansas.
It was a breakthrough mark for Doll, who qualified for state in the event as a freshman but did not qualify last season.
“My coach and my dad have always told me to try to go up,” Doll said. “I’ve always had the speed for it, but I’ve never had the height. Once I got the height part down, my jumps have kind of came together. I feel like I’ve figured out how long jump really works.”
Doll is a 6-time state qualifier — five coming in the sprints — but has not qualified for the finals in her 100, 200, or 400 races the last two seasons. Her lone medal was eighth place in the long jump as a freshman.
She believes that will change this season, as she feels as if she is running stronger. Tuesday, she ran a season-best time in the 100 in Burlington at 12.83 seconds and will run the 200 and 100 hurdles for the first time Friday in Fredonia.
“I’ve only run the 100 hurdles once and that was last summer, but I ran a 17.42,” Doll said. “I’m thinking with a little bit of training and practice, I might be able to run a little bit better and have a shot (at the state meet) in that too.”
Regardless of what happens, Doll has etched her name in the Flinthills record books with her career-best long jump. She also placed third in the elite division at the Pre-State Challenge in the event with a mark of 16-11.
“I don’t see it as I’m No. 1 in 1A, I see it as I’m No. 5 overall,” Doll said. “If I get an inch further, then I could be No. 4. And an inch more after that would keep me going higher. So I want to keep pushing myself to be even better.”
Cuskelly jumps high — At a practice last season, just for fun, the El Dorado high jumpers pushed the bar up to 6-8. It looked ridiculous, Landon Cuskelly thought, an improbable height to be cleared by only the freak athletes.
But a full offseason in the weight room and improving his footwork has turned Cuskelly into one of those athletes chasing down the 6-8 mark.
“Now I look at it and I think that’s a lot more doable,” Cuskelly said. “That’s what I want.”
Cuskelly established himself as one of the top jumpers in Class 4A at his first meet, clearing 6-6 in Mulvane on Mar. 31. He has since jumped 6-6 1/2, which was an El Dorado program record and the fifth-highest mark posted this season in Kansas.
The senior will jump at the Abilene Invitational, where Andale’s Lane Macari, a 6-8 jumper, will also be in attendance.