Despite injury, Betts jumping well for Tigers
By KLINT SPILLER
Fort Hays State University true freshman Nick Betts wore a clunky cast on his left hand as he barreled down the long jump runway.
Betts broke his hand punching a bathroom mirror in a fit of frustration. It was a decision he regretted, and it's cost him plenty in medical expenses and hindered his lifting.
"I was agitated and mad," Betts said. "Living in the dorms, I wasn't used to it, being a freshman. There were a lot of people. Whenever I'm upset, I want to be left alone, and when I couldn't be left alone, I didn't know how to deal with it. I took it out on the mirror, and the mirror took it back out on me."
"It was a stupid situation," Betts admitted.
His youthful mistake was on display for all to see, but at the same time, he defied that youth with every stride and every leap, winning the long jump at the Alex Francis Classic.
The collegiate throwing and long-distance events occurred Friday, and the rest of the collegiate events and high school events happened Saturday at Lewis Field Stadium.
Punching the mirror was a mistake he sorely wishes he wouldn't have made, but he said he's learned from it and isn't letting it stop him or slow him down. That was evident at this weekend's track and field meet in Hays.
The explosive freshman set a lifetime best in the long jump, winning the event with a mark of 22 feet, 9 inches -- 2 feet, 2.5 inches better than his mark as a senior at Goddard High School at Class 5A state last year. However, he followed it with a disappointing finish in the his best event, the triple jump by fouling out.
"He's an incredible athlete," said jumps coach Ty Haas.
Betts transitioned to collegiate athletics seamlessly, posting the 19th best mark in the triple jump in NCAA Division II during the indoor season. But, his provisional mark wasn't high enough to earn a trip to the national championships.
Nevertheless, the freshman quickly made a name for himself.
"It shocks me a little bit, because it's happened so fast," Betts said. "I thought maybe next year I'll be up there, but if you get better every day, the results will come with it."
Haas said freshmen typically have to make adjustments between high school and college, and sometimes it takes a while for athletes to make that learning curve.
But that hasn't been the case with Betts or freshman Savannah Rose, a two-time Class 3A long jump state champion from Hoisington who won the women's long jump with a leap of 18-0.5.
"I think they are fearless," Haas said. "You have some of that with freshmen. Maybe not having so many expectations, there is less pressure. Those two, I think, put a little pressure on themselves after they hit those big marks. We've just got to keep them healthy and keep them going."
Betts didn't think he would do that well in the long jump.
In high school, it definitely was his second-best event. He didn't even make the 5A finals his senior year.
But when he came to FHSU, Haas said the coaches thought Betts had plenty of potential. Betts spent extra time working on it and set his personal best in his first collegiate meet.
Betts even had to experience a change of coaches. His primary coach James Gildon, who recruited Betts, got a job at NCAA Division I Bowling Green University and left midway through the year.
Haas, formerly just the high jump coach, took over the horizontal jumps as well.
"(Haas has) got a lot on his plate, but he's managing it super well and taking time for all of us jumpers," Betts said.
Other top FHSU marks
In the women's javelin, junior Makayla McPhail set an automatic qualifying mark of 154-5, taking first, and senior Holly Brown posted a provisional mark of 131-8, taking second.
Senior Gentry Linscott won the 5,000-meter run in 18:48.52, and freshman Mindy Wilson won the 400-meter hurdles in 1:05.89. Freshman Lexi Riedel won the 100-meter and 200-meter races in 12.23 and 25.42 seconds, respectively.
On the men's side, junior Jake Durham won the javelin with a throw of 190-9, and junior C.J. Wilson won the 200-meter dash in 21.97 seconds.
FHSU alumni Brady Maska and Christa Bergmann demonstrated they still can throw. Maska won the discus (179-11), and Bergmann won the hammer throw (185-7).
Saravia sits out
Senior Gabriela Saravia watched the high jump from a folding chair with a bag of ice wrapped around her ankle.
FHSU's top female high jumper will miss several weeks after rolling her ankle while performing box jumps in practice. Fortunately for the senior from Lima, Peru, she already set the second-best mark in the country with a leap of 5-8.75, her personal best, on March 22 at the University of Texas-Arlington Bobby Lane Invitational.
It's not an automatic mark, but it's right on the border.
"We at least don't have that pressure of hitting a jump before nationals," Haas said. "It's already there."
Haas said he hopes she will be fully healthy in time for the MIAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on May 3-5 in Hays.
Saravia has had a history of injuries at FHSU. Haas said Saravia told him she's rolled her ankle 16 times in her high jumping career, and she suffered a severe concussion after the wind blew the metal door of the high jumping aparatus on her head.
"She's had a bumpy road, but she's positive about everything," Haas said.