Newlan sets new school mark for Phillipsburg
By CONOR NICHOLL
PHILLIPSBURG -- Through nearly a month of competition, area high school track and field teams have often enjoyed warm weather with little wind, a welcome change compared to the past few years. Multiple athletes already have posted personal bests or exceeded early-season goals. On Friday, the Phillipsburg Invitational still had nice weather, but the temperature was a little colder relative to most of the other meets this year. Few athletes improved their season bests.
However, Phillipsburg High School junior Sean Newlan, the defending champion in the Class 3A 110-meter hurdles, set a new school mark and broke a 20-year-old meet record. Newlan ran 14.77 seconds, the fourth-best hand-timed mark in Kansas this year, according to track historian Carol Swenson.
Newlan did run a 14.89 under a fully automatic timing system earlier this spring. Newlan was .02 seconds faster than he ran in the state finale last May.
"I wasn't so much surprised," Newlan said.
"I warmed up well for the colder weather, but I am kind of more comfortable here because it's a home meet and everything and I run on this track almost every day, so it's always good to have that comfort zone. But yeah, I was pleased with the results I had here today."
Beloit won both team titles. On the boys' side, the Trojans finished with 156 points, 17 more than runner-up Phillipsburg. On the girls' side, Beloit had 155 points, well ahead of second place Norton (110.5). Phillipsburg was fourth with 94 in the seven-team meet.
Newlan often critiques his hurdling form and notices aspects he needs to improve on. Newlan said he has his "form down pretty well" but still found things to improve on after the record.
"It always feels good," he said. "I know for a fact that I can come down, though. I need to work on my trail leg a lot more, I am kind of carrying, floating over that first and second hurdle, but once I get that down, my times will come down a lot more."
The athletic Newlan, also a standout in football and basketball, has done a variety of events in his track career, including discus, javelin, 300-meter hurdles and high jump. The 110 hurdles and discus are considered his core events. He also won the discus with a mark of 143-7, three inches better than Concordia's Gabe Bergmann. He was slightly off his season best of 144-11. As well, he helped the Panthers take first in the 400-meter relay (a season-best of 44.37) and third in the 1,600-meter relay (3:37.72).
"The base events like the discus and hurdles I have always done since I was in the seventh grade, so I kind of expected to do those in high school, too," he said.
Smith Center without top runners
The Smith Center girls have ranked as one of the area's top track teams for several years and have won three straight Mid-Continent League crowns. This season, the Lady Red have suffered a multitude of injuries. Senior Torie Fuller, one of Kansas' best sprinters, and junior Trenna Cox, an all-state hurdler, suffered knee injuries in basketball season. Then, senior Hallie McCall suffered a foot injury in an early season run and will miss the season. Sophomore Lynzee Mace missed several weeks with a hip injury.
Plus head coach Mike Rogers missed Friday's meet because his oldest son, Colt -- a former Redmen standout and current Bethany College wrestler -- is ill with a possible virus. Assistant coach Amy Terrill led Smith Center's girls' team to a fifth place showing with 91 points. The 1,600-meter relay, paced by senior Tangie Hileman, the lone returning all-state runner who hasn't suffered an injury, ran 4:17.99 to win the event.
"It's been difficult," Terrill said. "Coach (Mike) Rogers has done a great job. He has just tried to build confidence in our younger girls, because we are really young right now. Just let them know that you have got to start somewhere and get better each meet.
"He has done a great job finding a happy medium with what he has to work with," she added. "I thought our 4x4 today came and competed. They took quite a few seconds off their time, each one of them. I am real pleased about that and sorry that he missed it."
Hileman took the baton in fourth place, but ran a 1:01.30 final lap. At the end, she threw herself at the finish line to edge Concordia by .03 seconds. A few minutes after the race, Hileman still wasn't sure who won.
"I tried to lean first, so I could get it," she said.
As well, Hileman won the 400-meter run (.75), took second in the high jump (4-10) and helped the 400-meter relay finish in fourth place (53.14).
Clark makes national news
Russell senior Miranda Clark recently had her ears pierced before the April 10 Ellsworth Invitational. She wore earrings before the 1,600-meter run.
"The earrings that I had on I didn't know how to take out," she said. "Later that night after the track meet, I literally had to use pliers to take them out."
Wearing earrings is a Kansas State High School Activities Association rule violation. Clark knew of the rule, but decided to cover the earrings with tape, a tactic she used in basketball and cheerleading without penalty. This time, Clark was disqualified.
"I had never heard anything about it before," she said. "It was kind of a bad deal. ... I couldn't hold back my emotions at all. I was really upset about it and I went and ran like three or four miles at the track meet after that just to relax myself because I was so upset. Distance running is really all I do and all I care about and I was disappointed that I had been working and couldn't run."
Yahoo! Sports heard of the story and ran a piece on its sports blog, "Prep Rally" on April 13. The next day, Clark was walking down the hallway at school when people told her that she was on Yahoo. Clark called the story "pretty crazy" and didn't think it would become such big news.
Clark, who finished eighth in the 1,600 and sixth in the 3,200 on Friday, would not have been disqualified if she had worn her earrings and not covered them up. Then, she would just received a warning. Clark and her father, Marty, have contacted KSHSAA about the technicality and believe new rules should be in place.
Both Clarks believe the no-earrings rule should be in effect, but there should be more consistency with rules.
Many teams, both in the area and throughout the state, wear a uniform that the Clarks have an issue with.
"I think that if girls can run in spandex then I should be able to wear tape on my earrings," she said. "If you look at it that way, it's ridiculous that it's even a rule. The rule actually states that if you try covering (an earring) with tape, then it's unsportsmanlike because you are trying to hide it. But it was a white piece of tape. There was no hiding it. It was probably making it more obvious than it was if I had just let my earring show."
Flax comes back from injury
Thomas More Prep-Marian sophomore Mikaela Flax was practicing the hurdles Thursday when she tripped and fell. On Friday, Flax's right knee still had a bloody bruise, while her left knee had a similar wound and several cuts and marks where she spiked herself.
"My foot just caught the hurdle," she said.
Because of the injuries, Flax, one of the area's top 300 hurdle runners, was "a lot more nervous" than normal before races. She still finished in third place with a time of 51.27 seconds.
Flax took sixth in the 100-meter hurdles in 17.76 seconds.
"You kind of forget once the gun goes off," she said. "It just kind of stings, but it's not that bad."
The Monarchs had a solid day without junior Heather Ruder, a six-time state gold medalist who competed at the KU Relays. The girls took sixth with 80.5 points, but were only 19 points away from third. The boys were also sixth with 34 points.
Senior Emilie Taylor won the pole vault and tied her school mark with a jump of 10 feet. Senior Austin Werth went 13-0 in the pole vault, while Norton senior Seth Antrim and Norton sophomore Austin Hager also cleared the same height. Antrim won on misses, while Werth took second.