Modified KSHSAA track and field state format doesn't phase participants

Lionel Tipton
Washburn Rural's Zsmar Sipple wins at the long jump competition at Thursday's Class 6A track and field state championship at Cessna Stadium at Wichita State Unviersity.

WICHITA, Kansas — One thing can be said about the altered schedule for state track this year: All athletes – from milers to shot-putters – suddenly turned into sprinters to get from event to event.

Frequently, a competitor would finish the event, but there were such short turnaround times that often he or she would have to move quickly.

And – in the case of Bluestem junior Eyan Knipp – a medal ceremony had to be skipped to compete in another event.

Still, all three days went fairly smoothly and were completed quickly. Only the inclement weather Thursday prolonged the Class 6A-5A section longer than the past two days.

Mark Lentz, KSHSAA administrator for the event, said he was pleased with how each day was conducted.

“All in all, I think it went really well,” Lentz said. “I think everybody was pretty receptive to the fact that it was two classes each day. The fans have obviously come out and given support. I think people want to be outside. I think they want to be a part of something, and now they have gotten to be a part of it. It was a very successful opportunity for these kids.”

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He said the large amount of shuffling from event to event is pretty much normal for a one-day meet.

“When you have a one-day meet with multiple events, they could be happening at the same time,” Lentz said. “That’s probably the most difficult part of a one-day meet versus a two-day, but I think everybody’s welcomed it. They’ve obviously done a great job with it.”

Knipp’s situation was a harmless one, Lentz said.

“I think he would be fine just running, too,” he said. “He’s happy. That just shows the resilience of these kids and how hard they’ve worked.”

After COVID wiped out last year’s state meet, this meet has been a valuable showcase for competitors, Lentz said.

“They’re just happy to compete,” he said. “No track last year in 2020, but this year they’re making up for it.”

Berean Academy head coach Lewis Wiebe has seen his share of state track meets over the years – this is his 28th after the 2020 meet was canceled.

He gives this year’s meet high marks.

“I kind of liked it, because it put everything in one day,” he said. “We’ve all our kids competing on the same day – field events, running events. 

This format might have been a one-shot deal, Wiebe said.

“I think they’re going back to (all six classes) next year,” he said.

Wiebe said the format was similar to most meets.

“It went a little fast, but we do that in regular-season,” he said. “They’re pretty accustomed to that.”

After battling rain and wind in the Class 6A-5A meet Thursday, the three-day event wound up with a sunny and mild Saturday that produced a good turnout in the stands.

“A beautiful day to run,” Wiebe said. “A beautiful day to compete.”

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And they were treated to quite a show, including an electrifying day from Stanton County sophomore Chesney Peterson, who had fans roaring as she attempted to break five minutes in the 1,600, still finishing with a record time of 5:00.72. The cheering for Peterson might have been the loudest of the three days. She also captured the 800 and 3,200 as well as running the anchor leg on the Trojans’ victorious 4x400 relay team.

“We get amazed every year how records are there to be broken,” Lentz said. “These kids are always stepping up and doing it. The 7-2 high jumper and the javelin thrower; all these runners, they’ve done a tremendous job in competing, and they’re stepping it up and always getting better every single year.”

In addition to athletes and their coaches, recruiters are also affected by the one-day scheduling.

Julio Martinez is in his second year as cross country and distance coach at Bethany College in Lindsborg. He also has been to state track previously when he coached at Bethel College in North Newton.

“I think there’s things preventing people from being their usual selves,” he said. “I’m actually glad to be out here (Saturday) in person, because my recruiting in the past year has been nothing but social media – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. 

“It’s actually nice to be out here, getting that one-on-one, organic feel for recruiting these individuals.”