Leopards bring home good news in La Crosse
Published on -5/29/2012, 10:16 AM
By CONOR NICHOLL
The La Crosse High School boys' track and field team scored 16 points Friday at the Class 1A state track and field meet and tied with Hope for the Day 1 lead. That night, the Leopards heard about a tornado that touched down in La Crosse.
They watched the news and friends and family called the squad at the hotel. Some damage occurred, but around 11:30 p.m., the team learned that no injuries were sustained.
"Everybody is just really happy that no one got hurt," coach Jon Webster said.
On Saturday, the Leopards brought more happiness to the town when they rolled to the state championship with arguably the greatest boys' track team 1A has ever seen.
La Crosse tallied 84 points, well ahead of runner-ups Centralia and Macksville, which tied at 38.
"We were just happy to do our part to send some good news back to La Crosse," Webster said.
La Crosse set the record for the most points scored by a 1A boys' team in state history, according to Kansas track historian Carol Swenson and Kansas State High School Activities Association records.
The previous mark was 76 points by Almena-Northern Valley in 1986. In the past, La Crosse has had some strong track teams, but injuries or poor performance hurt the team at state. This time, La Crosse stayed healthy and balanced star power with plenty of depth.
The Leopards also won the first regional title in school history and earned a trophy at the state track meet for the second time in school annals, the first came in 1991, according to Webster.
"We got 14 events to score in and we scored in 13 of them, so we really had an opportunity to score a lot of points," Webster said. "But the whole time going through Friday and Saturday, I was waiting for that shoe to fall where a kid gets hurt or we mess up in one event like we had historically done. Our kids did a great job of staying mentally focused throughout the whole day."
Junior Levi Morss was the team's high scorer with 36 points.
He won the long jump and finished second to Moscow senior Osvaldo Granillo in the 100-,200- and 400-meter dashes. His long jump title and junior Kip Keeley's third place showing in the triple jump Friday helped a strong start.
"When Kip and Levi did well on Friday, that kind of propelled well into Saturday and everybody wanted to raise the bar and do the best that they could for the team," Webster said.
While many strong 1A teams have one or two standouts -- such as Moscow's Granillo and Centralia's Lukas Koch -- La Crosse separated itself with its stable of athletes, including seniors Austin Webs and Tayler Stull, Keeley and junior William Storie. Keeley won the javelin Saturday morning, while Stull placed in the high jump and 400.
Webs and Storie went 3-4 in the 300 hurdles, and the 400, 1,600 and 3,200 relays finished fifth, second and second, respectively. Storie ran all three relays, while Stull, Webs and sophomore Marshall Jay competed on two.
"It was a true team effort," Webster said.
Webs and Stull are part of Webster's first senior class since he returned to his alma mater four years ago.
They helped La Crosse continue to grow into a powerhouse in football and track, culminating in a 12-1 record and Class 2-1A state runner-up finish last fall and the track crown this spring. Webs and Stull were part of several track school records, including the 300 hurdles and high jump.
"The senior class, they are great athletes, but they are better people," Webster said.
"They are hard workers more so than their athleticism. Just watching them come full circle from being small freshmen, undersized with a lot of potential and then everyday in the weight room, they showed up."
"I bet those kids maybe missed five days in the weight room in the summertime amongst all of them," he added. "It was great to see those kids get rewarded when we talk about, you work your butts off, you do the right things and it's going to pay off."
Today, the La Crosse boy athletes were expected to help city workers in the cleanup process throughout the town with collecting tree limbs and debris. Rick Weigel, a longtime supporter for Leopard athletics, had some damage to his store and Webster said the car wash in town "was the only thing that got hit real hard."
Weigel is expected to reopen Wednesday.
"Most of the homes are OK," Webster said. "A few homes had like a garage door or a tree limb on the roof with some shingle damage. Really, we got extremely lucky. The tornado must have dropped and went right back up. We feel fortunate about that."