Varsity Track and Field

Girls state track and field notes: Read about all of the Wichita-area state champions

Towards-Circle’s Kimalee Cook, left, wins the 4A 100 meter dash with a time of 12.25 at the Track and Field State Championships at Cessna Stadium Saturday. (May 25, 2019)
Towards-Circle’s Kimalee Cook, left, wins the 4A 100 meter dash with a time of 12.25 at the Track and Field State Championships at Cessna Stadium Saturday. (May 25, 2019) The Wichita Eagle

After qualifying for the state meet but not making finals in the shot put, Sedgwick’s Grace Thompson had grown tired of the lack of success.

“I wasn’t good at it and I just got tired of not being good at it,” Thompson said.

So Thompson spent the past year studying video of collegiate throwers and essentially teaching herself a better technique in the event.

All of that hard work culminated on Saturday at the Kansas state track and field meet at Cessna Stadium, where Thompson won the Class 2A championship in shot put with a throw of 39 feet, 2 inches.

“She has a tremendous drive,” said her coach and father, Jonathan. “She watched a lot of video and paid attention to the little details. I’m extremely proud of her and she works hard, so it’s always good to see a kid, especially when it’s your own, work hard and accomplish those things.”

But Thompson’s improvement in the shot put wasn’t her only achievement this weekend. With a throw of 124-10, Thompson was in second place in the discus entering her fourth and final throw, then unleashed a mark of 131-4 to win the 2A title.

It was the first two state titles of Thompson’s career, as she also added a runner-up finish in the 100-meter dash (12.59) and a sixth-place finish in the 200 (26.64). The 31 points she scored were the most by any athlete in the 2A girls and the fourth-most of any girl in the entire state.

Thompson said it was a rewarding experience to see her off-season work translate to her best state meet performance.

“I’d do it all again and I’m going to this summer,” Grace Thompson said. “I’m just blessed with some good genes and I have a lot of great coaches who work with me.”

Circle’s McGinnis proves height is not a requirement for a state champion: Standing at 5 feet, 3 inches, Circle senior Tori McGinnis is used to being told that she is too short to be a state champion hurdler.

That’s why Saturday’s win meant even more to McGinnis after she won the 4A state title in the 100 hurdles in 15.05 seconds, a complete four-tenths of a second faster than the field.

“I’ve worked for this for so long, and people have always told me that I”m too short and I couldn’t do it,” McGinnis said. “To be here and to make it happen, it feels amazing to prove them wrong.”

McGinnis was a four-time state qualifier, but had never finished better than sixth. She said that something wrong happened at the state meet the past three years — a car crash two days before state one year, falling over a hurdle at state in another.

In her senior year, with one chance left, McGinnis found her perfect race.

“I’m thankful my last chance I was finally able to make it happen,” McGinnis said. “Right before the start of the race I told myself, ‘God is with me, God is with me, God is with me’ and then everything kind of blanked out. I don’t really remember much of it. I’m just thankful he got me through it and helped me finish the race.”

After running her freshman season at Class 3A Remington and finishing sixth in the 100, Kimalee Cook transferred to Class 4A Circle and wound up the state champion in two events.

Cook won the 4A title with a personal-best and school-record time of 12.25 in the 100 to beat the field by nearly two-tenths of a second. She also won the 200 title in 26.28.

“I didn’t want to have too high of expectations this year, so to win it all as a sophomore is pretty cool,” Cook said. “I just focused on me and on my race and I honestly didn’t think I won until I looked up and saw my time. I have to give a lot of credit to my coaches for helping me not to be so tense and helping me relax.”

McPherson’s Ruddle goes back to back in 100 hurdles: After running her personal-best time of 14.15 seconds in the 100 hurdles, which ranks No. 11 in Kansas history, McPherson junior Emma Ruddle knew that would be tough to improve at the state meet.

She didn’t run a PR, but Ruddle won her second straight 100 hurdles state championship, this time winning the 5A title in 14.45 in what was the fastest time run at the state meet on Saturday.

“It did feel a little different last year,” Ruddle said. “I think it’s because I hadn’t won yet. It’s always good winning, but it wasn’t as shocking as winning your first one. The first one is always the sweetest, in my opinion.”

Ruddle also finished runner-up in the 100 with a time of 12.29.

Carroll’s Nordhus picks up the 400, wins a state title: It wasn’t until her senior year that Bishop Carroll’s Kindel Nordhus added the 400 to her repertoire. But it didn’t take long for Nordhus to excel, as she capped off her season with the 5A title with a season-best time of 57.49 that stood as a top-five time in Kansas this season.

Although she did not win the title in the 300 hurdles, Nordhus’ personal-best time of 43.55 was good for. runner-up and the second-fastest time in Kansas this season on top of being the No. 9-fastest time in Kanas history.

Nordhus added another runner-up performance in the 100 hurdles with a time of 14.82, then scored a third-place finish in the 200 with a time of 25.77. The 32 points Nordhus scored individually were the most of any athlete in the 5A meet and second-most of any female athlete in the state meet.

Smoky Valley’s Peters breaks pole vault record: Already with the fifth-best pole vault in Kansas history, Smoky Valley sophomore Belle Peters had already established herself as one of the best pole-vaulters to come through Kansas.

She etched her name in the history books on Saturday, winning her first state title and breaking the 3A meet record with a winning vault of 12 feet, 8 inches. That broke an 18-year-old state record held by Hesston’s Christi Lehman by 1 inch.

“I’ve been working really hard in the weight room and pole vault gym this offseason,” Peters said. “I put in a lot of work, so to get the record and the state title is really awesome. This was definitely a little more nerve-wracking and exciting.”

Augusta duo takes home state titles: For her senior year, Augusta’s Abbee Rhodes held herself to the highest standard she ever had.

She worked out harder than she ever had. She cut out junk food from her diet. She worked on her technique more.

It culminated with her second straight state title in the shot put, as Rhodes won the 4A title with a throw of 41 feet, 3 3/4 inches. Her personal-best mark of 45-2 stands as the best throw in Kansas this season. Rhodes is signed to throw at Texas Tech.

“I had a little bit of chip on my shoulder all season,” Rhodes said. “I put really high expectations on myself, probably higher than I should, and it stressed me out a little bit. But to come out here and still win it, it’s just the icing on the cake.”

Her teammate, senior Nataleigh Cantu, experienced that title success for the first time in the high jump. As a three-time state qualifier and two-time medalist, Cantu had been close before.

On Saturday, Cantu finally broke through and cleared 6 feet, 4 inches to win the 4A title. She is signed with Army to jump in college.

“It was so much motivation because I always knew I could be way higher on the podium than I was,” said Cantu, who had finishes of fifth and seventh at past state meets. “That made me work a lot harder and push me because I always knew I could do this. To finally do it, it feels amazing.”

Other state champions:

  • Moundridge senior Jamya O’Quinn ended her career with a second straight double championship weekend. She won the 1A title with a time of 12.40 seconds, then pulled off the sweep later in the 200 with a personal-best time of 25.72.
  • The Andover Central 1600 relay team of Peyton Vincze, Kinsley Ochsner, Brittany Harshaw and Hannah Wiebe ran a season-best time of 4:02.27 to win the 5A title. Wiebe closed the race with a 59-second split to win for the Jaguars.
  • The Hesston 1600 relay team of Marisa Vogt, Emily Koehn, Caryn Yoder and Elise Kaiser won the 3A championship with a season-best time of 4:04.68. Yoder and Kaiser helped complete a comeback for the Swathers, as each ran a 59-second split to close the race.
  • Haven junior Faith Paramore captured her first state title, winning the 3A 800 race in a season-best time of 2:22.99
  • Hutchinson Central Christian junior Krysten Barlett won the 1A shot put title with a throw of 38-1 3/4.
  • Pratt sophomore Sian Helfrich won the 4A title in the 300 hurdles with a season-best time of 45.90.
  • Chaparral freshman Mattelyn Swartz won the 3A high jump with a mark of 5-4.
  • Bluestem junior Destiny Masters won the 2A long jump with a mark of 17-1.
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