Varsity Kansas

Southeast thrower thrives on technique

Back then, the words of the lean and diminutive Jeff Conner didn't hold much weight around the Southeast track and field program.

No one would give much credence to the 15-year-old predicting he would conquer the school record board in the throws.

"It was something that I joked about as a freshman," Conner said. "It's something we would always joke about with the seniors back then. Now it's starting to come to life."

While he's still small, Conner, a senior, carries a large presence — and also those coveted school records in the shot put and discus.

His record-breaking throws of 56 feet, 4 inches in the shot put and 174-11 in the discus also are tops in Class 6A.

"It really came as a surprise," Conner said. "I wasn't going into meets thinking about breaking the record. It just happened with both of them. The shot put really, really surprised me. Something just clicked."

According to his coach, Mark Lamb, it was his technique that clicked. Without the ideal tall frame, Conner has to rely more on his form.

"He's done a lot in the weight room," Lamb said. "He's gotten a lot stronger and quicker than last year. Now he's starting to get the right position up against the ring. It's really kind of like a golf swing, any little thing can throw stuff off."

Conner points out that he and the 5A leader in the shot put, Newton's Tyler Rambo (57-3 1/2), have an average frame.

"It just proves that form is probably the most important part in the throws, especially in the shot put," said Conner, who will compete today in the Hutchinson Invitational. "Just the smallest thing in your throw can ruin your attempt."

Almost there — There's a little less depth in the throws on the girls side, but upcoming prospects such as East junior Haleigh Lewis are present.

Lewis' season-best throw in the javelin (117-0 1/2) ranks fifth in Class 6A and tops in the City League.

"We think she's capable of being in the top two (at City League)," East coach Michael Draut said. "She's going to have to learn to get a little more memory focused in competitions to be able to challenge and win, but she's got a lot of natural ability."

We're still here — Elite javelin throwers are still present in the area, even after the graduation of East's Matt Byers.

While throws over 200 feet that Byers provided are likely gone, Circle's Alex Gardinier (Class 4A) and Independent's Dexter Friend (Class 3A) both have the top marks in their classes with throws of 188-6 and 185-1.

Campus' Garrett Cantrell and Northwest's Kyle Mellard have both cleared the 177-foot barrier. A trio of throwers at Goddard will also contend for a state berth in Tyler Hilton, Dylan Spies and Trey Sapp.