Southeast’s Christal Mosley and Hutchinson’s Yazmine Wright was such an intriguing rivalry not only because they were the two fastest 400-meter runners this season, but because they both ran the race in such different ways.
It made for an epic conclusion to the rivalry on Saturday at the Kansas track and field championships, as a photo finish was required to determined who finished first between Mosley and Wright in the Class 6A race.
The photo revealed Mosley’s torso just ahead in a time of 55.50, one-hundredth of a second faster than Wright’s 55.51.
“It was such an exciting finish,” said Wright, who won the race last year. “I had no idea who it was at the finish line, but I did feel like I leaned a little before she did. I knew it could have gone either way.”
“I honestly had no idea,” Mosley admitted. “I was scared out of my mind.”
As she is known to do, Mosley dominated the opening 200 meters to build a sizable lead on Wright. But the Hutchinson senior prefers to take the opening half of her race slow and then unleash herself around the curve.
Sure enough, Wright tore around the curve and caught Mosley with 100 meters to go. It was a dead sprint to the finish line with Wright surging ahead in the final 10 meters, only for Mosley’s long and lanky frame to lunge forward at the last moment for the winning lean.
After injuries had plagued her career, Mosley won her first state championship.
“This is honestly the best feeling I’ve had in a really long time,” Mosley said. “I’ve worked so hard for this for the last three years and I didn’t succeed at all for two of those years, but now I have this moment and I have my time and I’m so happy right now.”
Wright felt like she executed her game plan to perfection, as she finished with the Hutchinson program record.
“I felt like I made my move at the right time,” Wright said. “I hit the time I wanted and broke the school record, so I feel like I’m pretty happy with the way it ended.”
Mosley would go on to win herself a double, winning the 6A title in the 200.
“I really do think all of that hard work and pain and comeback was worth it,” Mosley said. “I’m so grateful for this moment right now. I’m still healthy and standing and I did it front of my parents. It makes me so happy because I know they’re proud of me.”
Johnson wins one more 400 – When Maize South moved down to 4A for this season, Kassidy Johnson was thrown for a loop. She hadn’t raced against most of the competition after completing a sweep of the 400, 800, and 1600 titles in 5A last season.
On Saturday, Johnson pulled out last gold-medal performance to win her third 400 title of her career. Johnson won the 4A title in 58.15 to top a field that included two-time defending champion Sidney Howland of El Dorado.
“This one was pretty special because I didn’t really know what I was going to be going up against,” Johnson said. “I really wanted to win, so when there was 100 meters left I knew I had to give it all I had and leave it out on the track because this is my last 400 in high school.”
Johnson tried beat nine-time state champion Cailie Logue of Girard in the 800 and the two had the top duel in the state, but Johnson came up short in a time of 2:13.39 to Logue’s 2:12.27. They were the two fastest times of the day.
But Johnson did add another gold on Maize South’s 3200 relay team, along with Katie Wagner, Samantha Bally, and Sierra Mortensen. The Mavericks won in 9:43.09, an improvement over the last two years finish in 5A.
“It felt really good because we’ve been working toward this all season,” Mortensen said. “We got a lot of confidence when we won the race at KU and I think it’s just kind of carried over. We are all such close friends on and off the track, so it feels amazing to be able to win this together.”
Smarsh fulfills dream, Andale wins team title – Andale junior Abby Smarsh has been waiting for state meet like Saturday for a long time.
She had worked for so long to enjoy the moment that finally came after she won the 4A title in the 300 hurdles.
“I’ve never felt like this before,” Smarsh said. “It’s what I’ve been working for since I was 8 years old. It’s what I’ve always dreamed about. I can’t even explain it right now.”
Smarsh had been the 4A leader in the event for the last month of the season and she didn’t allow a challenger to emerge on Saturday. Smarsh won in a time of 45.25, nearly a full second ahead of the field.
“I just ran it as hard as I could,” Smarsh said. “I put all of my guts into that race and I was pretty happy with the results.”
Smarsh was the only title winner, as Andale won the 4A team title over Maize South. The Indians held the advantage with their field events, as Jacy Anderson (discus) and Julie Archer (javelin) finished second, Jaden Eck (pole vault) and Katy Commons (javelin) were third, and Jewel Eck (pole vault) took fourth.
While Andale’s boys team had won the last three boys titles, the girls program hadn’t won a title since 1995.
“The throwers have been working hard for us all year and they’ve been huge,” Andale coach Greg Smarsh said. “We made it a little closer than I thought, but we got the job done and those girls were a big part of that for us.”
Newton sprinters lead to title – Newton’s sprinters are the most dominant group in the state, which they proved again by helping lead the Railers to another team title in 5A.
Kalli Anderson won the 100 in 12.09, Savannah Simmons won the 200 in 24.82, and the 400 relay of Anderson, Taylor Antonowich, Jen Andres, and Simmons won the 5A title in 47.25. It would have been the fastest time in meet history, but the Railers ran 46.86 in Friday’s preliminaries for that record.
Maggie Remsberg added a second-place performance in the 100 hurdles, while Simmons (100) and Antonowich (400) took third in their respective events to score more points for Newton.
Finally gold for Heidel – After finishing second at the state meet for the third time in the last two years on Friday, Belle Plaine senior Jessica Heidel began to wonder if a state championship would ever become a reality.
“I was always so close to winning, it was definitely irritating,” Heidel said. “I mean I get along with all of the girls, so I didn’t mind losing to them. But I kept thinking, ‘Couldn’t I have jumped just two more inches?’ ”
Heidel’s mind was finally stopped wondering on Saturday morning when her mark of 17-6 1/2 in the long jump was good enough to win the 3A title.
Finally, Heidel had her moment on top of the podium.
“I really didn’t want to get second again, so this is like complete happiness right now,” Heidel said. “It feels a lot different than getting second. It might not seem like it would be that big of a difference, but it really is.”
Heidel later would add two more second-place finishes to finish with five in her career, taking second in the 100 in 12.43 and second in the 200 in 25.61.
Barret wins 4A triple jump – By the time the 4A triple jump competition was over, Jefferson West’s Mariah Murdie and McPherson’s Elle Barret had traded the lead a total of eight times.
Every time Barret would claim the lead, Murdie came back to one-up her. Barret was worried the back-and-forth was too much to overcome when Murdie landed a mark of 37-7 1/2 on her final jump – just past Barret’s personal best in her career.
With the state title decided on her final jump, Barret delivered a personal-best mark of 37-9 1/2 to win a second straight 4A title in the triple jump.
“I was kind of freaking out there because I knew I was going to have to PR again,” Barret said. “I was like shaking and my adrenaline was pumping and I was super scared, but I just put it in God’s hands. Everything happens for a reason.”
Ortiz fights off fatigue to win 300 hurdles – Coming around the curve in her 300 hurdles race, Cheney senior Miranda Ortiz was exhausted. She felt like she was spent, but surprised herself by finding a new level to win the 3A title in 45.47.
“I was dying,” Ortiz admitted. “But I knew I needed to keep going and dig down deep and finish the race like I know I should.”
After finishing fourth in the same race last season, Ortiz was ecstatic about how she and teammate Layne Needham (46.31) were able to finish first and second.
“I wasn’t about to let someone pass us,” Ortiz said. “I just went out with everything I had. It’s pretty cool now. I’ve never been a state champion before, so it’s pretty exciting.”
Sedgwick’s Ware completes comeback with double – Sedgwick’s Shae Ware remembers watching last year’s state track meet from the stands at Cessna Stadium, unable to compete due to leg injuries.
“I’ve looked up to so many people before me and watched them run and it’s made me want to come back even more,” Ware said.
Ware got her chance and capitalized, winning the 100 title in 3A in 12.37 and the 200 title in 2A in 25.34. She edged Belle Plaine’s Jessica Heidel in both of the races at the finish line.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Ware said of having the lead late in the race. “I just kept thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh.’ It was honestly such a heart race. It was so exciting.”
Latimer adds last title – Valley Center senior Taylor Latimer added one last title to her resume, winning the 5A shot put championship with a personal best of 44-9 1/2. It was Latimer’s second title of the weekend and third of her career.
“It’s kind of crazy to think that I’m done now,” Latimer said. “I was gunning for the shot put because I knew this was the year to get it. I didn’t get all three, but I won two and PR’ed, so I can’t be mad.”
Latimer is excited about her collegiate future at Kansas State.
“I can’t wait for the competition there,” Latimer said. “I’m ready to go there and work and be pushed and be good and try to be the best there like I was in high school.”
Ibarra picks up more gold – After standing on the podium following another 1A 100 title, Central Christian senior Raelee Ibarra could tell the difference between this year’s championship and last year’s.
“Hearing, ‘Two-time champion,’ now that’s just cool,” Ibarra said. “It was an even better feeling.”
No one came close to challenging Ibarra in the 100, as the senior took control of the race halfway through and accelerated to the finish in 12.37.
Ibarra would win three titles by the end of the day, as she would claim the 1A 200 title in 25.72 and anchor Central Christian’s 400 relay team for a come-from-behind victory in 51.64.
“I just feel blessed with the gift that God has given me,” Ibarra said. “I just glad I’m able to use it for His glory.”
Biel captures first gold on track – It’s been a memorable senior season for Hutch Trinity’s Celia Biel.
After winning the 3A cross country championship in the fall, Biel added a gold on the track in the spring by winning the 3A 1600 in 5:20.30. It was the fourth year at the state meet for the race, as Biel had finished fourth, 10th, and third before winning this season.
Kingman’s 3200 relay wins – Kingman knew it had a fast 3200 relay last season when it ran 10:09.99 at the state meet, but because it was in a loaded 4A division the Eagles finished sixth last season.
Josie Albin, Bailey Bangert, and Olivia Neises all returned from that same relay and the group added Makayla Oeding. They actually ran a slower time Saturday, finishing the 3200 race in 10:15.68, but it was good enough to win the 3A title this season.
Albin had the fastest split on the relay, completing the first leg in 2:30.21.
Pratt’s 400 relay wins – Pratt’s 400 relay of Nicole Reichenberger, Stephanie Reichenberger, Brooklynn Bourgeois, and Halle Helfrich won the 4A title in 49.58. It was the same team that placed seventh in 4A last season.