Good day for Phillipsburg at Goldsmith

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

WaKEENEY -- The Phillipsburg High School girls' 400-meter relay team received a glimpse of its potential at the April 12 Redmen Relays in Smith Center. The Panthers ran with freshmen Sadie Rodriguez and Cassie Wells and veterans Raegan Vanderplas and Kylah Ellis, a senior and junior, respectively. Phillipsburg won the event in 51.4 seconds, near the school record.

However, that was the only time the Panthers had that quartet in the relay until Monday's Goldsmith Relays at WaKeeney-Trego Community High School.

Vanderplas missed the season-opening meet at Fort Hays State University because of a quad injury. In the 200-meter finals at Smith Center, Ellis hurt her hamstring and had to stop. She missed the next three weeks.

"We knew they were fast," coach J.B. Covington said. "It was just a matter of getting them all healthy."

Monday, the relay was back together and ran 50.32 seconds to break the school record of 50.4 seconds set in 2010. Ellis, the anchor, thought about breaking the mark in the final 50 meters. When she crossed the finish line and looked at the scoreboard, Ellis announced, "We got it!" The Panthers enjoyed several rounds of celebratory hugs on the infield.

"I was so excited," Ellis said. "We hoped we could. I didn't think we could because of the wind, but we did."

A few minutes later, the Panther boys also broke the school record in the 400 relay when they ran 43.53 seconds with freshman Stuart Lennemann, junior Sean Newlan, sophomore Grant Wickham and junior Seth Derr.

"I knew they had smoked it," Newlan said of the girls. "But I had no idea they broke the record right before (our) race. Then, after our race, they came running over and told us what they had done and said we had done it also. It was just a good feeling to know that we both did it at the same track meet and we could share it together. It was really cool."

The relays punctuated a strong showing for both Phillipsburg squads. The boys won the team title with 137 points, 18 more than Plainville. The Phillipsburg girls took second with 107 points, four behind Thomas More Prep-Marian in the nine-team field.

The meet is normally one of the area's biggest, but was postponed from Friday because of weather. Many teams either didn't participate or brought partial squads, like Ness City and Victoria.

For Phillipsburg, the relay times lowered the Panthers' Class 3A-leading marks. In the latest statewide honor roll from Kansas historian Carol Swenson, the Phillipsburg boys' 400 relay already had the best time in the classification at 44.37. The girls did too with the season-best mark of 51.4 entering Monday. The new school records each rank in the top-11 regardless of classification this spring.

Last year, the Panther boys; relay finished second at the state meet in 43.75 seconds, while the girls -- one of 3A's best all year -- struggled and took 14th in 54.3 seconds.

"Just use that to remind ourselves that anything can happen," Ellis said.

Last year, Phillipsburg ran Vanderplas, Ellis, freshman Jade Bui and senior Melissa Blair. When the season started, Vanderplas "kind of hoped" the Panthers could break the school record. Rodriguez and Wells emerged as the other half of the relay.

"They have ran their best," Vanderplas said. "They work hard in practice and on their batons, so we don't have another accident like we had at state last year."

"They have done a really good job carrying the baton for us and they are both fast," Covington added.

Rodriguez and Lowell run the first and third legs, while Vanderplas and Ellis run the second and fourth legs -- the two longest sprints.

"Stretch those two legs out as far as we can," Covington said. "So that those two girls are running the furthest for us. It works out well."

While Vanderplas missed the first meet because of precautionary reasons, Ellis had to stop running at the Smith Center meet because of pain she called "unbearable." She took time off from training and focused on stretching and doing the 10s unit, a series of short sprints and exercises.

Ellis still feels like she is not in shape. She didn't feel the pain during the relay, but the hamstring started to throb afterwards. However, Ellis, like the rest of her teammates, still wore a big smile.

"This is a really big accomplishment for us," Vanderplas said.

Lennemann helps boys

Last year, the Panthers had senior Trevor Smith on the relay, but replaced him with Lennemann, a strong sprinter in the younger ranks.

"He has had substantial speed since he was playing little kids' football," Newlan said. "He could outrun anyone on the field."

Last summer, the football team was running sprints and Lennemann showed elite speed when he kept up with Newlan, the defending state champion in the 110-meter hurdles. Lennemann's early burst helped him finish second in the 100-meter dash in 11.73 seconds Monday.

"He is really, really quick on the start," Covington said. "If you watch the first 50 meters, he will have a lead on everybody in the 100. It's been that way all year long, so he is a great starter for us."

Earlier in the season, though, the Panthers struggled with handoffs. Newlan said sometimes the relay had to come to a complete stop because of the handoffs.

"In practice, we worked on our steps and our arrangements, and now, we are doing better at getting a full stride and keeping a full speed," he said.

The technical work and speed helped set a school record -- and could lead to a state title later this month.

"We felt like we are quite a bit faster this year than we were last year," Covington said. "They are running well."

Newlan adds 200, shines

Newlan is one of Kansas' best hurdlers -- and a versatile athlete. Newlan always competes in the 110 hurdles and discus, but the other two events are constantly in flux. On Monday, he ran on the 400 relay and competed in the 200-meter dash for the first time.

Newlan won the 200 in 22.61 seconds, tied for the second-best hand-timed mark in 3A this spring.

"I was going to try to have fun with it most of all, but I had no idea what my times were when my coach asked me what I could run today," Newlan said. "We had no idea. We ended up putting it in as a 23.9 and I thought that might have been about right. But I ended up beating that by about (over) a whole second, so yeah, I was really pleased."

With a busy week ahead, Newlan won the hurdles in 15.4 seconds, well below his season-best of 14.77. He took third in the discus (142 feet).

Plainville senior Jameson Klein won the event with a personal record of 169-3. Klein already the best mark in 2A this spring at 155-2; no 2A thrower has broken 147-2. Klein's throw ranks third-best in Kansas this year.

Klein also won the shot put with a toss of 51-61รขÑ2, below his season-best and Class 2A-leading mark of 53 feet.

On Tuesday, Newlan will compete in the 300-meter hurdles for the first this season at Oberlin and is expected to make a decision on his four events for league and regionals after Friday's Russell meet.

"Since there wasn't much competition as the hurdles, it was more like a practice to get prepared for Russell, where all the competition will be," Newlan said. "In the discus, I just tried to keep up with Jameson Klein from Plainville, which is almost an impossible task."

Other top performers

Phillipsburg's Derr won the javelin with a mark of 167 feet, while Wickham won the triple jump with a leap of 43-6 º. ... WaKeeney senior Lexi Riedel won the 100 (12.75), 200 (26.78) and 400 (season-best 59.67). ... TMP-Marian won the 3,200-meter relay in 10:04.12, four seconds off the school record and best in 3A this spring. Douglass had the mark with a 10:05.7.