Gardner-Edgerton had to wait a little longer than St. James Academy for a state high school track title, but both went through emotional hurdles before overcoming them in 2019.
Only two Kansas City area teams won Kansas high school state track and field team titles in Wichita on Sunday, but both had outstanding stories
‘A sleeping giant’
The last time a boys state track and field title returned to Gardner, Kansas, it was 1955, and the classifications were A, B and AA.
Gardner-Edgerton won the 2019 Kansas high school Class 6A boys team title in Wichita on Sunday, and the Trailblazers had to sit through the longest state track meet in state history to claim it.
After three lightning delays on three straight days, the meet was finished on a Sunday for the first time. Gardner-Edgerton pulled out the team victory 64-61 over Blue Valley West.
The Blazers had one individual state champion.
In the boys pole vault, senior Colton Goodman cleared 14 feet on his second attempt to outlast Blue Valley’s Dylan Arnold. Outside of that title, the Blazers were left to accrue points through their depth.
“It seemed like every time I’d look up, Blue Valley West was scoring points, and we did not take them lightly,” coach Brian McGee said. “They had a tremendous state meet, but it was definitely a ‘hold on’ type of thing. But if you win by one, you win.”
Gardner-Edgerton had 15 top 10 finishes, including all three relays and four top-three placements.
Senior Trenton Cochran scored the most points for the Blazers. With third-place finishes in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters, he added 12 points to the cause. McGee said he was key.
“Our team T-shirt this year was, ‘Know your role, stay in your role, star in your role,’ “ he said. “They had to not be anything bigger than themselves and trust in their teammates.”
Gardner-Edgerton has had a promising athletic school year. The football team went from zero wins to an undefeated regular season, and the school made more history Sunday.
McGee said it’s a good time to be a Blazer.
“It’s been a sleeping giant,” he said. “This particular season wasn’t a big surprise, and I don’t say that with any arrogance. These kids were special when we saw them as freshman. We targeted 2019, and they put the work in. They trusted the process.”
St. James girls go the distance to capture third title in seven years
St. James runners appeared eight times in the top three among the four middle- to long-distance runs.
juniors Hannah Robinson, Katie Moore and Sarah Murrow combined for three state championships and 66 team points as the Thunder won its third Class 5A girls track and field title since 2013. St. James beat Bishop Carroll 87-68.
“What’s more special about that group is the people that they are,” Greg Bomhoff said.
Bomhoff said Moore was one of the most inspirational figures for the Thunder. Entering the 2019 season, Moore and Bomhoff met and agreed that the well-rounded star would add or drop any event if it meant helping the Thunder toward a team title.
Bomhoff struggled to hold back tears when he brought it up.
Moore added the 1,600 meters to her schedule, and Saturday, she earned a runner-up finish and eight team points, finishing at 5:19.14.
“It was an extremely difficult weekend for her, but one that I think bears stating,” Bomhoff said.
Along with the distance runners, sophomore sprinter Lindsay Russell added fifth- and seventh-place finishes in the 200 and 100, respectively.
Last year, St. James was runner-up to Newton by 11 points. The year before, the Thunder was runner-up to Newton by 14 points. Bomhoff said to break through the runner-up barrier and watch his girls become champions was an unforgettable experience.
“The culture that these ladies have built for themselves is so special,” he said. “Their best quality is that they actively look to improve every day. As long as we have that and the girls truly believe that, there isn’t anything we can’t do.”