It’s scary to think that Bishop Carroll senior Katherine Dillard didn’t have a feel for her distance races before this season.
She claims that only now is she starting to find her groove.
Dillard certainly made it look easy on Saturday, winning three state championships with a superior kick to finish her career with six titles on the track.
“People always think that I plan a comeback at the end,” Dillard said. “I don’t actually plan that. But I am getting a better feel for my races. I know when I’m going to hurt. I know when it’s going to test me. I know when to go now.”
Dillard started the day by completing a comeback to help the Carroll 3200-meter relay team three-peat in the event, besting St. Thomas Aquinas by seven seconds with a season-best time of 9 minutes, 40.13 seconds.
Next was her most difficult challenge — the 1600.
“That was the race I actually doubted the most,” Dillard said. “That race was loaded. State champions all over the place. Times under 5:10, no big deal. That one meant a lot.”
Dillard let Valley Center’s Morgan Wedekind pass her around the 100-meter mark, but then surged ahead and won the race in 5:05.86.
The trifecta was complete when Dillard defended her title from last season in the 800, as she easily pulled away from the pack to win by four seconds in a time of 2:14.33.
But Dillard said winning a title with Kaelyn Balch, Amanda Goebel and Sarah Bulloch was her favorite.
“I was really happy with our 4-by-8 team,” Dillard said. “We’ve won it three times now, but this year I don’t think anyone expected us to. Yes, there was a lot of good people here. But we have to feed off those people, not be intimidated. I thought we did that.”
When Emily Rowland tore her anterior cruciate ligament during basketball in her junior season, she had a decision to make.
Rowland decided she wanted to go as hard as possible in her rehabilitation process in pursuit of a state championship in the pole vault that had eluded her for three years.
Saturday, all of the hard work culminated for Rowland, as she cleared 11 feet in the pole vault to win the Class 4A championship.
“That’s the only reason why I rehabbed as hard as I did,” Rowland said. “It was to win state. So it was definitely a rush to finally see all of my hard work pay off.”
Rowland helped Andale repeat its title in the event after Grace Shiach won last season.
The tradition should continue as freshman Kelsey Smarsh set a personal-best vault of 10-6 to take second.
“If there’s not an Andale vaulter in the competition or on the stand, something’s wrong,” Rowland said with a laugh.
Wait until next year, dad
Andover sophomore Jaylyn Agnew has an ongoing challenge with her father, Jay, to see who will finish with more state championships.
After Saturday, the count is tied at two.
“And I told him to just wait until next year,” Agnew said, beaming.
Agnew has cause for the faith after dominating the 5A high jump for the second straight season, collecting the state title with a jump of 5-8 that wasn’t even her season best.
“I wish I would have got 5-10 again, but this still feels good,” Agnew said. “It’s definitely a confidence-builder because now I know I can do it twice, so I might as well do it two more times.”
Right on time
At the start of her senior season, Brooke Regier wasn’t even the best thrower on Newton’s team. That title would have gone to freshman Payton Roberts.
But Regier, a six-time state qualifier, didn’t take offense. She embraced the situation, using the friendly head-to-head competition as something that would help her at the end of the season.
When it mattered the most, Regier produced her best with a toss of 136-3 in the discus to win the Class 5A championship with a personal-best mark at the state meet. Regier had finished runner-up in the event the last two seasons.
“I think everybody needs a push and that’s how I looked at it,” Regier said. “You don’t want to throw all of your good stuff in the beginning of the season, so I kind of saved all of my good throws for the end.”
Regier, who will throw for Fort Hays State next season, finished her career by qualifying for state in the shot put and discus all four years. Regier was sixth in the shot put on Saturday.
“It feels amazing to finally win a title,” Regier said. “I can finally take a piece of hardware with me to college.”
No turning back
It was strange when Tori Spann took the final handoff for the East 400 relay team and sprinted past the leader, Topeka, with such ease. Spann knew she was fast, but not that fast.
As Spann triumphantly raised her arms while crossing the finish line in first, she turned around and noticed Topeka’s Raianna Maples crumpled on the ground.
“I felt kind of bad,” Spann said. “I didn’t really see what happened, I just saw her on the ground.”
East won the 6A championship with a season-best time of 48.67, winning by nearly a full second after Maples pulled up lame with 70 meters to go with a lead on Spann at the time.
“When I took the handoff, I knew I had to put my heart into it,” Spann said. “I had to get that win for my team.”
East had a good start from Iman Anderson, then kept pace with Topeka on the second leg by Sparkle Burgess and when Baaijah Loggins handed off to Spann, the gap was about five meters.
After Maples went down, Spann had no competition for the state title.
“Since it is my senior year and this is my first championship I’ve ever had, it feels so amazing to be able to share it with my team,” said Spann, who also finished second in the 100.
Back to back for Williams
High-pressure situations have never affected Valley Center’s Meagan Williams much.
So when she was in second place going into her final attempt in the shot put, the event she won a 5A title in last season, Williams wasn’t nervous. She was focused.
Williams came through with a toss of 42 feet, 6 1/4 inches to pass Newton’s Payton Roberts by a full foot. Her previous best was 40-7 1/4.
“I just told myself this is what it all comes down to,” Williams said. “I just cleared my head and went back to focusing on the little things. I finally put everything together the way I needed to and that’s what was different from my other throws.”
Williams, who is headed to the University of New Orleans to throw, also finished second in the javelin on Friday and third in the discus on Saturday.
“I don’t really know what I feel yet,” Williams said. “I don’t think anything has really set in. I’m very excited for what I did, though. I never expected to finish third in the discus and I’m still proud of my second in the javelin. This just shows me what I need to do to get better.”
First time winner
A race with two state champions would seem to be pretty daunting for a freshman like Kingman’s Claire Theis, running in her state meet.
But Theis didn’t know any better when she stepped to the line of the 400 finals in Class 3A against Cheney’s Taylor Needham and Scott City’s Kelly Wycoff, until after she beat them both in a season-best time of 57.77.
“I didn’t really know,” Theis said. “It was so exciting to win. It was such a rush of adrenaline. It feels awesome.”
• Garden Plain won the Class 3A title with 41 1/2 points, barely holding on to edge Cheney by a half-point and Scott City by 2 1/2. One of the biggest coups for the Owls came in the discus, where Noelle Dooley and Natalie Dooley combined for 16 points. Cadence Bourne and Bethany Renyer also combined for 14 points in the triple jump.
• Norwich’s Kenzie Klaver defended both of her titles in the 1A hurdles, as she won the 100 hurdles in a time of 15.34 and the 300 hurdles in 45.21. Klaver also placed second in the 200 and third in the 100 with her 34 points playing a key role in Norwich winning the 1A team title with 53 points.
• Consistency brought Sedgwick senior Jamie Lovett her second straight Class 3A championship in the long jump. All four of her legal jumps would have been good for victory, the best being 17-11 1/4.
• Santana Reeves’ career at South Barber is off to a winning start. After winning the 3200 on Friday, Reeves added a second 1A title to her collection on Saturday with 5:24.75 in the 1600.
• Madison junior Cassidy Barnard picked up her second championship of the weekend, going 128-6 on her final attempt in the javelin to win the 1A title. Barnard won the discus and finished second in the shot put.
— Taylor Eldridge