The fastest or strongest athletes don't always come form the largest schools. That's one of the most intriguing things about the state high school track meet.
The sheer magnitude of the event can be daunting for some of the competitors. About 3,600 athletes take the stage at one time or another during the two-day event and the atmosphere, which usually includes a crowd of about 20,000, has been known to inspire or break athletes.
Southeast track coach Mark Lamb competed in the state meet as a shot putter in 1972 for North and has coached numerous athletes at Cessna Stadium over the years. He's seen what the pressure to perform can do.
"Kids react differently. I've seen kids that have really excelled at it the first time there," Lamb said. "And I've seen kids that have really tightened up because they didn't expect it to be that big. You don't know how kids are going to react to it."
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The state track meet has been an event that held in Wichita for almost 40 consecutive years.
KSHSAA assistant executive director Rick Bowden doesn't see the meet being held anywhere else in the near future.
"While there are potentially some other sites around the state that have the track and field facilities, there's really been no push by any of those committees to say, 'We'd like to have the chance to hold the state track meet,' " Bowden said. "It seems like geographically Wichita is just a good location. Most schools can get there within a two- to three-hour drive. If were to go to schools in the extreme southwest Kansas or northeast Kansas, that would make it problematic."
There are few other factors. It has been a fixture in the meet for so long, that a sense of tradition has been associated between it, the meet and Wichita State University. Cessna Stadium is the place where the 200-plus volunteers that help run the event expect to be every year.
Many of the volunteers have been involved in the state meet for multiple years. A majority hails from the Wichita area, but there are others that make plans to visit every year so that student athletes can get the opportunity to experience one of the largest, most coordinated high school events in the nation.
"I think one real plus is the staff that they've had at Wichita State and the group of volunteers that they've developed over the years that are basically located in the central Kansas area," public-address announcer Carol Swenson said. "Some volunteers that have been there from anywhere from five to 45 years, it's really hard to beat people like that that are committed to an event. They come in and do a good job. They know what's expected of them. They are there for the kids' benefits, but they are still going to officiate a good, solid meet."
On the best years, the meet is run efficiently and without a hitch. On its worst years, there still hasn't been too much to complain about. There's no need to fix what's not broken, according to City League athletic director Faflick.
"If you move the meet around, there's a new learning curve for every time you do it," Faflick said. "And having been at one site for 40 years, most of the kinks have been worked out."