The Newton girls track and field program has become a speed factory over the last decade with five different sprinters placing in the top-five at state a total of 21 times in the 100-meter and 200-meter dash.
But there is one speedster that has ascended above the rest and Newton senior Kalli Anderson showed why with a three-gold performance at Cessna Stadium on Saturday at the Kansas high school state track and field meet.
Anderson picked up her first individual sweep of her career, winning the Class 5A titles in the 100 (11.81 seconds, a meet-record time) and the 200 (24.86), then anchored the winning 400 relay team to complete her career with four straight state titles in the event.
“I’ve had some great sprinters, but Kalli is the fastest girl I’ve ever coached,” Newton coach Tad Remsberg said. “There’s just no doubt about it.”
When Anderson was an eighth-grader in Newton, Remsberg planted the seed in her mind that she could become a state champion someday. Back then, as a skinny middle-schooler, Anderson laughed off the thought.
“I was like, ‘Me? I’m way too skinny, there’s no way,’” Anderson said. “But it meant the world to me knowing that he believed in me. He’s developed me into the athlete that I am today and here I am. I believe him now.”
Anderson has been so fast for so long that her incredible feats seem normal to her teammates. Anderson’s personal-best time 11.58 in the 100 is the second-fastest time in Kansas history, while her PR in the 200 (24.46) is the 12th-fastest time in Kansas history.
“Growing up with her, you almost take it for granted,” Newton senior Maggie Remsberg said. “Everybody else is like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ but I get to see that every single day in practice. I mean, this girl is out there beating guys all the time.”
Perhaps Anderson’s most impressive feat, however, came last week at the regional-qualifying meet in the 400 relay. That’s when Newton’s third leg, Natalia Varpness, fractured her hip along the curve and had to limp the final 20 meters to complete the final hand-off to Anderson, who had to take the baton from a complete stop with four anchors already sprinting away from her.
In an incredible comeback, Anderson, who will run next year at Barton Community College, made up the sizable gap down the final straightaway just to snag the fourth and final qualifying spot to Saturday’s state meet.
“Anybody who has a question about how fast she really is just needs to watch that video,” Tad Remsberg said. “One week later and I’m still speechless.”
Because bad weather canceled Friday’s preliminaries, the race switched to all-finals with heats sorted by regional times. That meant Newton had to run in the slower heat. It didn’t matter, as Anderson ripped off another blazing split to finish off a time of 49.04. The fastest time from the second heat was 49.36, meaning the Newton relay had won essentially running by themselves.
“We told Kalli that no one was going to be there, so just go,” Maggie Remsberg said. “After we finished, it was so nerve-wracking waiting on those times. I’m so happy that we were able to get that fourth in a row for her.”
After the race, the relay members mentioned that the gold medal would not have been possible without the effort by Varness, who discovered after the race that she had broken her hip. She was unable to make the trip to Wichita to watch the race, but she was there in thought with her teammates.
“If it wasn’t for the courage of Natalia to continue running, then that gold medal is out the window,” Tad Remsberg said. “Even though she wasn’t with us today, she was a huge part in this win. I wish we had another gold medal for her.”
Saturday also featured another high for Maggie Remsberg, who won her second individual title of her career by running a career-best time of 43.36 to win the 300 hurdles title with the No. 7-fastest time in Kansas history and the fastest time in Kansas this season. She was pushed by Bishop Carroll’s Kindel Nordhus, who finished second in 43.55.
“Once you accept it’s not as much physical as it is mental in that race, then it’s just about digging down deep and getting through it,” Maggie Remsberg said. “Once I figured that out and realized this is my last 300-hurdles race in my life, so I just had to go as hard as I could. I just had to find that extra gear and it feels really good knowing that I found it on the right day at the right time.”
It was a personal redemption of sorts for Remsberg, who was the defending champion in the 100 hurdles but failed to qualify after falling during her qualifying race last week at regionals.
Instead of allowing that disappointment to overcome her, Remsberg channeled that energy into a career-best run and another state title to wrap up a stellar career that saw her finish with 15 top-five state medals, including seven runner-up finishes. She is signed to be a multi-event athlete for Colorado Springs next year.
“I don’t know if there’s any way to make up for that disappointment, but it definitely softens the blow,” Tad Remsberg said. “She came in with the right mindset. She figured it out down that last home stretch where it really, really hurts and she went to where she’s never went before.”