County rivalry between El Dorado and Circle take center stage at 4A state meet

Lionel Tipton
El Dorado's Tylen Ashihi (second from left) and Circle (third from left) race in the boys' 4A 200-meter dash in Friday's Class 4A state track and field meet at Cessna Stadium in Wichita, Kansas

WICHITA – Invariably, it was bound to happen.

Sure enough, there was an El Dorado-Circle matchup Saturday during the boys 200-meter competition at the Class 4A state track meet.

Wildcats junior Tylan Ashihi faced off with Circle sophomore Ty Smith. No state title hung in the balance, but as always is the case in this longtime rivalry, bragging rights were at stake.

It’s uncertain how many times the two have raced against each other. Ashihi said he was 3-0 after getting the better of Smith, but Smith was certain he had won one out of four races.

And, actually, he had edged Ashihi in the preliminaries Saturday, finishing second in 22.87 seconds. Ashihi qualified in fourth place in 22.90.

In the final, however, Ashihi prevailed, snagging second by .08 of a second in 22.66. Smith was third in 22.74. Chanute sophomore Rawley Chard won the race in 22.51 after qualifying first in an astounding 22.24. 

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Ashihi ended up with three medals on the day. He captured the 400, was second in the 200 and ran the anchor leg for El Dorado’s eighth-place 4x400 relay team.

In the 400 relay, Rose Hill’s team had led for much of the race, but Ashihi put on a late burst of speed to edge past the Rockets’ Luke McLaughlin and win the heat.

“I was up there and I was picking them off, so I just figured ‘This is fine, I guess; it’s been a tough season.’ And I decided, ‘Whatever.’ My pride kicked in, and I just decided to take (the heat).”

He said it was surprising to be going up against Smith at the state meet.

“Honestly, before this meet, neither of us thought we were going to make the final,” he said. “But when we found out, we were really excited. I never thought I’d race him at state.

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“He’s a good 100 (meters) guy, really good.

“He’s a guy where I can relieve some tension. I can talk to him as I run the line. It really helps having someone like that.”

Smith said he feels the same way.

“It’s fun running against him,” Smith said. “He’s a ‘dog.’

“He got me here at state. I mean, he works hard. I’ll see him at BG Stadium on the weekends, too. I don’t put that extra work in, so that’s probably why he’s got the edge on me.

“Like I said, he’s a ‘dog.’ He works so hard.”

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With both runners being underclassmen, the rivalry is almost certain to add another chapter next year.

“I’m excited,” Ashihi said. “Our competition is only going to get better. It’s going to better both of us along the way.”

Smith agreed.

 “I’m excited for him,” he said. “We’ll see what I can do. This is my first year (of competing in track), my rookie year. I’m new to a lot of this. I think the coaches kind of threw me in, thinking ‘He’s good at track; he’ll know what to do.’ But my first meet, I had no idea how anything went. 

“Now, I’ve got it more under control and I know what to expect, and next year I think I can come home with more medals like these.”

Smith hinted he might want to tackle the 400 with Ashihi next year as well.

“One of the things I actually told my dad before was in the 200, I still have a little bit of energy left. I told my dad, ‘Maybe next time I should just try to run with Tylan instead of just thinking so much.’ I think that helps me a lot.”