HHS enters fourth track season under Cornelsen
By CONOR NICHOLL
Coach Ryan Cornelsen has won the Class 5A boys' track championship each season since he took over the Hays High School track program three years ago. This spring, Cornelsen returns senior Adam Deterding, a Kansas State University signee who has seven state medals and three state titles, and senior thrower Cade Sharp, the two-time state shot put champion and defending discus champion.
HHS brings back some other scorers, namely senior high jumper Derek Bixenman, the defending state runner-up, and seniors Ethan Fort and Josh Brungardt, that helped win a third straight 3,200-meter relay crown. However, Cornelsen lost junior jumper Jordan Windholz for the season with a knee injury in basketball and graduated several key Indians off last year's squad. Cornelsen said Windholz is the biggest loss he has had in his Indian track tenure.
"This is probably the most points that we have had returning since I have been here, but it's also the least amount of depth that we have had since I have been here," Cornelsen said. "We have been very fortunate. In some events, we had three guys where any of the three could win the event, and we are just not that deep. We are working extremely hard right now to try to create that depth."
HHS opens the season Thursday at Wichita Southeast, a change from the usual start of the Alex Francis Classic at Fort Hays State University.
This year, the Alex Francis conflicts with Easter weekend.
"I think the first few meets will really determine what the younger kids will bring," Deterding said. "If we have much athleticism there, it will definitely shine through, because we are going to need it."
The Indian boys have won every meet, regular season or state, under Cornelsen. Last year, HHS collected 118 points, 14 more than runner-up Wichita-Bishop Carroll -- and 68 more than any other school.
"I don't know if we has much talk about it as we just expect it," Deterding said of the streak. "Through the last three years, if we do lose one, we have built up our program enough to, if we get second at a meet -- where a lot of schools would be happy with that -- that it would be a disappointment to us. That's kind of what keeps us working hard, knowing that we have to come out and give it our best every single day in hopes for another state championship and an undefeated season."
Deterding is the lone athlete who has scored at all three state meets. As a freshman, he took seventh in the high jump and remembered when Tyler Rathke won two throwing events and Josh Munsch had four top-three showings in distance.
"All of those great athletes and now some of them are running in college," Deterding said. "Kind of feeding off that my freshman year. It started early. I have just seen people grow in the program, too, the last few years, which has been awesome."
The last two years, Deterding has won the 110-meter hurdles twice, collected second and first place showings in the high jump and finished third and sixth in the triple jump.
This spring, Deterding has worked on a fourth event, likely the 300-meter hurdles, but the 400-meter run is also in the mix. Deterding is expected to be a decathlete at KSU, a discipline where pole vault is one of the 10 events. However, Deterding will not pole vault this spring. He has set several goals, including under 14 seconds in the hurdles (he ran 14.54 at state last year), clear 6-foot-10 or 6-11 in the high jump (he has the school record at 6-8) and clear 46 feet in the triple jump (he was 44-7.75 at state). In the 300-meter hurdles, he would like to clear 40 seconds. However, Deterding and Sharp can tally no more than 60 points at state. Cornelsen and his coaches has to likely find at least 40 points.
"Most years, if you don't have a Carroll in there, maybe takes 75 to 80 points to win it, but the last two years, it has taken 100-plus points," he said. "To do that, you have got to have depth. Carroll is going to be just as good. You are not going to beat them with just a few individuals."
In the 800, Cornelsen normally wants depth that goes six to seven runners deep. Freshmen Keith Dryden and Jordan Betts are among those who could step up. The Indians lost all-state depth in the throws with Zach Binder and Luke Madden. However, both Mitch Harris, HHS shot put coach and Kirk Maska, Indian discus coach, have each earned Kansas assistant coach of the year honors. Harris and Maska have continually developed throwers -- and are expected to do so again this year.
"I have got a lot of faith in those two guys that they will find some guys who can score," he said.
The girls' program has slipped back some after it placed regionally and finished fourth at state in Cornelsen's first year. Senior Wendy Zimmerman and sophomore hurdlers Mattison Schlaefli and Ashlyn Parrish are among those with returning state experience. Cornelsen said he probably feels more pressure on the girls' side to coach that program up and be as successful as the boys.
"We have got a lot of good, young girls," Cornelsen said.