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Moeder pushes La Crosse to big first day at state


WICHITA –  La Crosse High School junior Lucas Moeder displayed utter shock and disbelief after his first throw in the Class 1A state javelin competition.

Moeder entered as the seventh seed and had never thrown more than 169 feet in his career. Last week, he went 160-5 to qualify for state for the first time.

However, Moeder, despite suffering from cramps from running the 1,600-meter relay before throwing, uncorked a toss of 194 feet, 8 inches on his first attempt. Moeder’s mark nearly broke the state record of 195-7 set by Goessel’s Garrett Hiebert in 2007.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” Moeder said.

When the mark was announced, Moeder put his hands over his head and walked around, completely stunned.

“He is by far the most shocked out of anyone there, I can promise you that,” Leopard senior Kip Keeley said.  “He asked me, ‘Is this real life?’ I knew he had it in him. He has a great arm.”

Moeder eventually won the competition and Keeley, the defending state champion, finished second in 190-4. Kensington-Thunder
Ridge’s Trevor Lowe took third at 179. Moeder’s throw was the state’s best this year to that point, regardless of classification, according to Kansas track and field historian Carol Swenson.

“Pretty unbelievable,” Moeder said.

Moeder’s terrific throw highlighted a big Day 1 for the Leopards at Wichita State University’s Cessna Stadium. La Crosse won the state meet last year with 84 points, in boys' 1A record. This spring, the Leopards collected 45 points on Friday, 20 more than second place Blue Rapids-Valley Heights. Senior Levi Morss won his second straight long jump competition with a leap of 21-10.25.

Morss, who had one title and three seconds in 2012, wanted more gold this spring, but false started in the 200 at the regional.

He and Otis-Bison junior Jordan Hoffman are the leading contenders in the 100 and 400 for Saturday’s finals.

“All year, I have had a goal of four gold medals,” Morss said. “It’s easy to say, but I have to come out and perform. … I really do like competition, somebody to push me and knowing that I have to run hard.”

La Crosse opened the day with a 2-4-5 finish in the shot put with Keeley and sophomores Sheldon Schmidt and Cole Kershner. Like

Moeder, Schmidt and Kershner were competing at state for the first time. Keeley started the shot put at the end of the last year, but ended up third in the triple jump at state. This spring, Keeley stopped jumping to keep his knees healthy.

“My last meet here competing in front of this state crowd and La Crosse Leopards, I am fine with taking second in javelin as long as it’s still with my teammate and especially with a great throw like (Moeder) had,” Keeley said. “I would like to throw a little better in shot put, but overall (pleased).”

Kershner’s personal best was 39 feet entering the season. Early on, he went to a J.V. meet at Jetmore and gained confidence.

“Where did this kid come from?,” Keeley said.

A month ago, helped by Leopard assistant coach Chris Delimont, he threw 44-1 at WaKeeney-Trego and continually improved. He threw 47-4.5 at regional to qualify.

“I got over the fear of throwing in front of people,” Kershner said. “At a JV meet, there wasn’t that many people, and I got used to it. I did fine, I think. I am proud of myself. Just taking deep breaths. When you get into the ring, you can’t let them psych you out. They are just here to watch. You are doing it. Not them.”

Schmidt, Keeley and Kershner were seeded 2-3-4 behind Moscow’s senior Rigo Bustillos, the eventual champion. Keeley took second in 47-2.5, while Schmidt was fourth in 46-3 and Kershner fifth in 45-7. The 17 points quickly moved La Cosse into second, two points behind Valley Heights.

“I think I could have done better,” Kershner said. “I couldn’t get the shot put out right. I am proud of myself. We didn’t get very much points, but it’s still points.”

Around two hours later, Moeder and Keeley pushed La Crosse into first. Moeder and Keeley had talked about going 1-2.

“We came in thinking Lucas was going to have to throw 180 in order for us to go 1-2, thinking that I was going to have to take first place,” Keeley said. “He comes out and threw that first one and shocked everybody.”

Moeder has dealt with knee injuries throughout the years and wears a brace on both legs. He finished the relay shortly before javelin started and felt cramps. Teammate Clayton Basgall quickly stretched out Moeder next to the runway. Moeder asked head coach Jon Webster if he could take his left knee brace off. Moeder did – and then delivered his big throw.

The first throw was the only time Moeder had cramps, but he broke 180 feet on his second and fifth throw, too. Later in the competition, Moeder, mainly because of his mother's wishes, put his brace back on.

“I don’t think it affects anything,” said a smiling Moeder of throwing without his brace. “That’s just a coincidence.”

After the first throw, Keeley walked over to Moeder and said, “Now, it’s on me.” On his final throw, Keeley went 190-4, two inches longer than his season best. Moeder’s mark also broke Keeley’s school record of 191-5 set last year. Even after he received his gold medal, Moeder was still surprised by his winning toss.

“Honestly, it’s still going on right now,” Moeder said.