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Top stories 2013 -- Highway 183 owns state track meet

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

Within a 50 mile stretch of U.S. Highway 183 can be found eight state titles in boys' track and field over a four-year span. The spring season was highlighted by a fourth-straight title by the Hays High School boys' track and field team and back-to-back titles by both Plainville and La Crosse High, making it an easy choice to be one of The Hays Daily News' top stories of 2013.

Hays High's four consecutive Class 5A state titles is one of the most impressive runs for any sport in the area. But considering the coach is Ryan Cornelsen, the results shouldn't be too surprising. Cornelsen is the son of legendary Liberal coach Gary Cornelsen, who amassed 22 state titles in boys' and girls' track and field in 13 seasons at the school.

Whatever the Cornelsens have figured out has become an almost guaranteed recipe for a state championship.

"I think we make track a team sport, and I think we sell it to our kids as a team sport. I think our kids enjoy it because it's a team sport," Ryan Cornelsen said. "The key to the formula is spending time year round just trying to be good athletes, then put those athletes with good assistant coaches in their events and those coaches can kind of mold them to be good tracksters and that's kind of what we've done."

The 2013 track and field season was highlighted by the performance of seniors Cade Sharp and Adam Deterding. Sharp won the shot put for a third consecutive year, getting a personal best toss of 57 feet, 3.5 inches in the championship. Deterding won the 110-meter hurdle for a second consecutive year, edging Liberal's Trenton Hammond -- the 300-meter hurdle champion -- by 0.03 seconds with a time of 14.53 seconds.

"Both Cade and Adam are rarities in any sport," Cornelsen said. "It's going to be hard for me to go out this year and not have them there. It was a lot of fun over the four years watching them develop and only get better each year."

Hays High won the state title with 78 points, edging runner up Leavenworth by 11. Only Liberal, Wichita East and Quinter have accomplished a four-peat in Kansas track and field history.

Last year's senior class, who were freshmen when Cornelsen took the job at Hays High, never lost a varsity meet in their careers.

"Each year we have won it has presented it's own obstacles and it's own situations," Cornelsen said. "Last year was a year where we didn't have a lot of depth, but we had a lot of individuals that could score a lot of points. It's been exciting year-to-year to see what those challenges are and try to beat those challenges."

While Hays High winning a fourth-straight state title wasn't a surprise, neither was La Crosse repeating as the Class 1A champion. The Leopards returned virtually all of their top athletes from the year before and cruised to the state title with 87 points, well ahead of second place Centralia's 46.75 points.

Senior Levi Morss had arguably the best championship of any Leopard by winning four gold medals. Morss took first place in both the 100- and 400-meter dashes in 10.97 and 50.09 seconds, respectively. He also won the long jump the day before and anchored the 1,600-meter relay team's gold medal time of 3.29:68.

Lucas Moeder and Kip Keeley took first and second place in the javelin, while the Leopards went 2-4-5 in the shot put with Keeley, Sheldon Schmidt and Cole Kershner.

Plainville's second consecutive Class 2A title was a little more surprising, as the Cardinals had lost their top three scorers from the year before. The state championship meet started slow for Plainville, but a strong finish clinched them the title.

The Cardinals' 400-meter relay team of Brett Davis, Dalton Werner, Nick Hixon and Trevor Axelson took first in 44.53 seconds, before Hixon also won the 300-meter hurdles in 40.19 seconds.

"We lost some good guys last year, but we knew we had a lot of strong people coming back this year," Hixon said after the championship meet. "I have had people tell me the hurdles just weren't my thing. I just kept with it, and got here."

Werner also took first place in the long jump for a second straight year.