Osborne's Princ has eyes set on state

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Osborne High School junior Jessica Princ used to play softball and threw well in the softball throw during junior high. Princ's coach told her to try javelin as a freshman. Princ hit 109 feet, but didn't reach the Class 1A state meet after a poor regional showing.

"I did bad that day," Princ said. "I choked that day."

Princ missed all of last track season because of a knee injury. She posted a solid winter in basketball and has improved this spring. Princ could become a rare non-freshman to win a state championship in her first trip to state. In the last five years, only two area athletes have accomplished the feat, including La Crosse's Kip Keeley in the 1A javelin last spring.

Princ won the Mid-Continent League javelin title with a throw of 133 feet, 1 inch, the classification's top mark, according to Kansas historian Carol Swenson.

"She has probably got as good of an arm as I have seen on a girl in a long time," Osborne coach Ken Ubelaker said. "As far as natural javelin motion, no. Her technique, when she does it right, it looks really good, and she throws well. But when she doesn't do what she is supposed to do, it looks awful. She has got a good arm and can still throw a decent distance even when her technique is horrible because of her arm."

Princ has set a goal to win the state championship and has her sights on the 1A record of 140-8, set by South Haven's Angela Meeker in 2003. Only Colony-Crest's Kurston Gilliland (131-1) and St. John's-Beloit's Meg Eilert (126-3) have come within 11 feet of Princ. She is also close to the school record set by Stephanie Corwin, who won the Class 2A 1999 state crown with a 135-2 throw.

On Friday, Princ and the Bulldogs compete in the Valley Heights regional. Start time is 3 p.m. The top four in each event advance to the state meet the following weekend at Wichita State University's Cessna Stadium.

"This year is really my comeback year," Princ said.

Princ has significantly improved her strength and technique in the last two years. As a freshman, Princ's bench press max was around 115 to 120 pounds. After her injury, Princ couldn't lift lower body, so she worked on her upper body. Now, she is up to 155 pounds in bench press. This spring, Princ's knee gave her problems earlier in the season and she was cleared to run shortly before MCL.

"I think she was kind of skeptical herself of whether it was fully healed or not healed," Ubelaker said. "In my mind, she has been good to go all year. She hit a slump here two or three weeks ago, and wasn't throwing quite as well."

Princ had several meets where she threw less than 120 feet, including 114-4 at the Beloit Relays on April 26 and a 119-11 throw at the Thompson Relays on May 9. At MCL, she easily delivered her season best throw -- and had several other throws within 10 feet. A similar mark Friday would likely qualify Princ and keep her among the favorites for a state title.

"That's what I really want to do," Princ said.

Cady, Kenton Ubelaker look for state berths

Last year, Boone Cady finished last in the 400-meter prelims at state with a 55.06, nearly three seconds from qualifying for the finals. Cady did help the Bulldogs win the 1,600-meter relay crown in 3:28.93, but he needed to improve to reach elite status.

"He probably took that to heart, too," Ubelaker said of the last-place showing. "I think it kind of embarrassed him that that happened to him. That was about as good as he was going to run."

Cady, a junior, posted a strong cross country season, ran throughout the winter and has seen a big drop in time this year.

"He has done everything he has needed to do to make himself stronger," Ubelaker said. "... It's fun to see that happen when someone improves like that."

Cady has ran a 51.12 and posted a 51.97 to collect a conference title last week.

"Boone has always had a really nice stride," Ubelaker said. "The thing from last year to this year is he is just so much stronger that he is able to maintain. He has got above average speed, but he is not really what I would call a sprinter, what you would think of as a 400 type of guy, but he has gotten so much stronger that he has made up for it."

This spring, Cady and junior Kenton Ubelaker are the lone returners from the gold medal-winning relay. Ubelaker, the ninth-place finisher in the 800 meters in 2012, has ran more on the 400- and 1,600-meter relays, 100- and 200-meter dashes and competed in the javelin this spring.

At conference, Ubelaker ran 11.53 in the 100, 23.50 in the 200 and went 158-7 in the javelin. All three marks would have qualified for state last year. However, his dad has seen his son throw farther in practice. Coach Ubelaker said his son hasn't "been consistent in the meets."

"That's probably one of the better throws he has had during competition this year," coach Ubelaker said.

Riedel, WaKeeney in 1A

For more than a decade, the Mid-Continent League, one of Kansas' top small school conferences, has remained unchanged. However, in two weeks, Osborne and WaKeeney-Trego Community will leave for the Northern Plains League and Northwest Kansas League, respectively.

"I wish I could stay in the MCL," WaKeeney junior Clayton Riedel said. "It's a privilege to win. ... That's really good competition."

Osborne dropped down to 1A a couple of years ago, while WaKeeney went to 1A for the first time this season.

Usually, Riedel, who missed the league meet because of a hip injury but is expected to compete at regionals, and his Golden Eagle teammates saw MCL schools throughout the season and then against at regionals.

It's different now WaKeeney will compete in the Class 1A regional at Fort Hays State University. Start time is 3 p.m. Central time. Stockton is the only other MCL school competing.

"Those little schools are foreign to me," Riedel said. "I have never seen even half of those schools I am going to be running against at regionals. It's kind of weird, because all of my friends are in the MCL. I go down there and I barely know anybody on all the other teams."

Riedel, who finished fourth in the 400 in 2A last season, looks to qualify in all three sprinting events after he suffered the injury April 26 at the Goldsmith Relays in WaKeeney. Riedel just did some light jogging and stretching last week. Riedel said sprinting hurts "the worst" and was expecting to "just jump into" regionals with little practice. He will face tough competition in all three events, especially from La Crosse junior Levi Morss and Otis-Bison junior Jordan Hoffman.

"1A, I think is a lot stronger than 2A this year," Riedel said. "It's going to be iffy now that I have been out for two weeks, but I still think that I have a chance in the three events that I am in. It's always those little schools that have that one good athlete."