By NICK McQUEEN
Despite his team posting 136 points and running away with the Class 1A regional last week at Lewis Field Stadium in Hays, La Crosse High School track and field coach Jon Webster knows nothing is certain.
That was evident in the fact his squad probably missed a few qualifiers through to the state meet he thought would make the trip.
It goes to show how anything can happen and on any given day. That's the attitude he wants his Leopards to take to this week's Class 1A state championships at Cessna Stadium in Wichita.
On paper, his boys' team is the favorite to repeat as Class 1A champion. But that's not enough.
"On paper, we are pretty tough," Webster said. "But, we haven't been able to win a meet on paper yet."
He also realizes it would be pretty tough to repeat last year's dominant performance when the Leopards produced a 1A record 84 points at the state meet, and rolled to the state title.
"We do like our chances, though," Webster said. "Scoring that many points will be a little difficult the way we go into it.
"We have the opportunity to be the team on the podium at the end of the weekend," he added. "We have to go down there and compete for it."
The Leopards take nine competitors in 11 different events, and get things started with Friday's 9:45 a.m. shot put, an event in which the Leopards qualified three in senior Kip Keeley, sophomore Sheldon Schmidt and sophomore Cole Kershner. Kershner and Schmidt are both first-time state qualifiers -- along with junior Lucas Moeder (javelin).
"It can be an intimidating situation to walk into," Webster said of making state for the first time. "Being able to go Friday morning will help us, because it will just be the small schools."
With a surprise qualification from Kershner, the shot put provides an opportunity to score plenty of points right away. Schmidt, Keeley and Kershner are the second, third and fourth seeds in the event after going 1-2-3 in the regional.
"Hopefully, they'll kind of keep their nose down," Webster said. "The seniors and juniors that have been there, the situation won't probably affect them, but you always worry about that with the young kids, because the shock and awe can get you if you're not ready for it."
Bad things can happen at the regional too, like when senior Levi Morss false started in his top event, the 200-meter dash, last week. Morss' missing event this weekend, though he still qualified in the 100, 400 and long jump, are a potential 10 points off the board -- a reminder of how anything can happen.
Morss is among the favorites in all three events, and Keeley is a potential gold-medal winner in the javelin and shot put. Plus, junior Marshall Jay and senior William Storie are each in four events -- a diversity Webster said will help his team if they perform to their potential.
"There are several teams out there that have a couple studs -- like Valley Heights' (Elijah Smith), Otis' (Jordan Hoffman), and Centralia's (Lukas Koch)," Webster said. "Those teams are all dangerous. Those kids could get 30 points or 40 points all by themselves.
"If their teammates go out and have a day, those teams are right in the mix," Webster added.
"It's kind of hard to look at this year to see which teams are the favorites."