Top stories 2012: Plainville, La Crosse highlight strong year for area track and field
By CONOR NICHOLL
The area and local high school teams continued their tradition in cross country and track in 2012. However, the year saw some different teams enjoy some new success. While Hays High School won its third straight Class 5A boys' track championship and Ness City and Thomas More Prep-Marian again had strong years, perhaps the biggest stories came from Plainville and La Crosse.
Plainville won the Class 2A boys' title, the first track crown of any kind in school history and an improvement over a third-place finish in 2011.
The Cardinals overcame multiple obstacles on and off the track and finshed ahead of Meade 53-52 for the state crown. La Crosse earned the Class 1A boys' track title in dominating fashion and collected the second state championship, first on the track, in Leopard annals. La Crosse, Plainville and the rest of the cross country and track success was named one of The HDN's Top Stories for 2012.
"We put in all the hard work, all the days of practicing -- no one likes practicing, that's a fact," La Crosse senior Tayler Stull said at state. "To bring home our second state title, first in track, means a lot."
Plainville coach Norma Finnesy's grandson died late in the season, while Cardinal distance runner Brady Johnson, a state champion in cross country and track, had multiple injuries and couldn't run at full strength at state. Plus, senior Jameson Klein, in a controversial ruling, didn't qualify for state in the shot put when he fouled in every throw at regionals.
Still, at state, Plainville received big performances from Klein, who won the discus with a throw of 160 feet, 7 inches and junior Dalton Werner, who won the long jump (22-2). Andrew Casey and Nick Hixon delivered key points in the long jump and hurdles, respectively.
"It's been great," Hixon said. "Even though Brady is hurt and Jamo didn't make it in shot, it's great to see our team be there for one another, really work hard to still stay in that competition for the No. 1."
La Crosse's only previous state crown came with in 1996 in boys' sand greens. The Leopards scored 84 points, the Class 1A record, and rolled over runner-ups Centralia and Macksville, who tied for second with 38 points.
The Leopards scored points in a bevy of events, most notably from Stull, Levi Morss, Kip Keeley, Austin Webs and William Storie.
"State championship has always been my dream and to finish this, the last day that I am representing the La Crosse Leopards is the best way that I could have possibly ended it," Webs said.
Morss finished second in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes, all to Moscow's Osvaldo Granillo, and won the long jump crown after a pep talk from Keeley. It marked Morss' first state medals at La Crosse after he transferred from Rozel-Pawnee Heights after his freshman year.
Keeley, competing in his first state track meet, won the javelin with a throw of 181 feet, 11 inches and finished third in the triple jump.
"It means a lot to me that I gave the team 10 points and I am a state champion," Keeley said. "It feels really good. I came up here wanting to do my best and I didn't really do all that well, but I performed good enough to place pretty good. We don't have any room for excuses anymore."
As well, the Thomas More Prep-Marian girls' track and field team finished second in Class 3A, and in cross country, Ness City's Dray Carson won the Class 2A boys' title. Victoria also finished in third place in Class 1A boys' cross country. Carson ran 16:13 to break the Class 2A record. He bettered Johnson's time of 16:29.63 set in 2011 and was the second-fastest ever.
"Knowing I beat his time, it's pretty unbelievable to think I'm at that level already," Carson said.