Schlaefli a difference maker for Hays High
By KLINT SPILLER
The Hays High School girls' track and field team hasn't had the same success as the boys, and it is an area track and field coach Ryan Cornelsen would like to remedy.
Fortunately for Hays High, there is a spark of hope.
The team is loaded with talented underclassmen and plenty of potential. In fact, one of its highest scorers, Mattison Schlaefli, is just a sophomore.
After coming onto the scene as a freshman, Schlaefli has proven to be one of the most constant scorers on the team in some of the most diverse events.
If the girls are to catch up to the boys, it will start with athletes like Schlaefli.
"We haven't done that well as a girls' team, but she's been a big part of trying to turn that around," Cornelsen said. "She's found ways to score points in big meets. We have to have girls do that if we want to have a chance in the end."
As a whole, the girls' team already has seen a noticeable improvement. On Friday at the Buhler Invitational, while the boys won their side of the meet, the girls nearly won their half, coming five points short of tying Garden City.
While it's not all Schlaefli's doing, she has been a significant part of it.
Alongside junior Wendy Zimmerman, Schlaefli has been one of her team's highest scorers, placing high in the 100-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles, javelin throw and 1,600-meter relay on a regular basis.
"She's a good, well-rounded athlete," Cornelsen said. "Those kinds of kids you can put in a lot of different areas, and they'll find success."
Schlaefli qualified in two events at state as a freshman -- 100 hurdles and 1,600 relay -- and she's a front runner to qualify in all four this year.
Her most significant improvement has been in the javelin. She recorded a mark of 121 feet, 11 inches at the first meet of the season -- nearly a 19-feet improvement from her sixth-place regional throw as a freshman.
Her mark is the fifth best so far in Class 5A, according to track and field historian Carol Swenson.
"Coach (Kirk Maska) has worked a lot more on technique with me this year," Schlaefli said. "We've drilled technique more instead of focusing on how far it goes, and it just went farther."
Schlaefli, who hadn't thrown a javelin until her freshman year, said she focused on her plant leg, especially.
"I've worked on blocking instead of mushing my plant leg," she said. "... Last year, I was really bad about bending it, but I've worked hard on keeping it straight."
Cornelsen expects more improvement with her track events as the season progresses and the team gets more warm weather.
So far so good.
At Buhler, she recorded times of 16.40 in the 100 hurdles, sixth best in 5A; 49.62 seconds in the 300 hurdles; and 4:26.29 as a part of the 1,600 relay -- all season bests.
Though she has had her most success in the hurdles, Schlaefli said her favorite event isn't either hurdle event or the javelin. Her favorite event is the 1,600 relay, which she runs with Zimmerman, freshman Courtney Green and sophomore Summer Smith.
"I just like the team aspect of the 4x400," Schlaefli said.
"When you hit the 300 mark and the whole team is there cheering you on, that's my favorite part."
Hays High competes Friday at the Hutchinson Invitational.