Heading into a tough Class 3A regional at Beloit, it was difficult for Phillipsburg coach J.B. Covington to predict what the Panthers’ numbers would be like for the state meet.

Covington thought Phillipsburg might have a chance to a take a large contingent to state, but could also see a scenario where the team might qualify just a few for Wichita.

Fortunately, several of the athletes that entered on the bubble stepped up with breakthrough performances in last Thursday’s regional at Beloit, leaving Phillipsburg pleased with its numbers for the state meet Friday and Saturday in Wichita.

The Panthers are taking seven boys and three girls to state and will be represented in 10 total events.

“It was one of those things where we thought we could get quite a few people in, or maybe get very few,” Covington said. “Super tough regional, but overall, we were happy with how everything turned out.”

On the girls’ side, Covington credited junior triple jumper Lexie Wood, junior thrower Ashley Babcock and junior sprinter Alexi Beach for making it out of regionals against tough competition.

“Lexie Wood was kind of a surprise for us. She was kind of outside, looking in. She hit a PR in the triple jump (34-1.5),” Covington said. “Another one that we thought had a chance, but it was extremely tough with all the girls throwers, was Ashley Babcock. She really came out and competed and qualified in two events. We were happy with that. And Alexi Beach is a returning state qualifier and will run the 100 and 200.”

Senior Trey Thompson is the only returning state qualifier for the Phillipsburg boys. He won the long jump with a leap of 20 feet, 10.5 inches.

Also qualifying were Jack Pakkebier in the 400 and Chris VanKooten in the shot put. Phillipsburg’s 400 relay team (Trey Sides, Pakkebier, Braden Juennemann and Trey Thompson) and 1,600 relay team (Pakkebier, Treylan Gross, Jacob Sisson and Sides) also will compete at state.

“On the boys’ side, we felt like both the relays would have a good shot but they’d have to run really well,” Covington said. “They were able to do that.”

With most of the Panthers experiencing state for the first time, Covington said the regional meet was good preparation for state.

“We kind of treated our regional like a mini-state, because we felt like a lot of the top four kids in 3A were in our regional and that proved to be the case,” he said. “We just prepared them for the fact that if we can just get through the regional, you got a great opportunity to get to state and be on the medal stand at state.

“We still feel that way, but we got to go perform well in the prelims. I think our kids are confident in the fact that just coming through the regional, we’ve got a great chance to get on the medal stand.”

Covington said he feels like the Panthers are performing at their best heading into state.

“We feel like we’re peaking. It’s just a matter of going out and laying it on the line, whether it’s a jump or throw or performing on the track,” Covington said.

“We’ve had a great year all the way through in all of sports,” he added. “We don’t want to put pressure on our kids but we feel like we have a chance to be a top 10 team in 3A and on the girls side we could score as many points as we’ve scored in girls’ state in a number of years. We feel like if we just go and set PRs we’ll be in good shape.”