Indians getting better in sprints
By KLINT SPILLER
In Hays High's back-to-back Class 5A state championships in boys' track and field, sprinting events were never a big contributor to the winning effort.
Last season, first-year transfer Ebu Camara, originally from Guinea, finished third and fourth in the 400-meter and 200-meter dash, respectively. Other than him, no sprinter has scored for the Hays High boys at state in the last two seasons.
But with some improvement and luck, that could change this year.
Boosted by the arrival of freshman Alex Delton and junior transfer Emilio Mitchell and the development of sophomore Shawn Herrman, it's possible for the Indians to qualify two athletes in the 400, 200 and 100 as well as the 400-meter relay team.
"If we can find ways to score in places we didn't, it gives you a better chance," said Indian coach Ryan Cornelsen.
Delton has run an 11.06-second 100 and 23.15-second 200. Mitchell is right behind Delton with an 11.11-second 100, while Herrman has recorded a 23.02-second 200 and 52.86-second 400. With the addition of junior Josh Brungardt, who has ran the 400 in 50.87 seconds but has battled shin splints, the Hays High sprinting crew has a serious shot at qualifying two in each event.
However, it's going to take improvement for that to turn into points at the state meet.
Four runners in Kansas already have cracked 11 seconds in the 100, 13 have cracked 23 seconds in the 200 and five have cracked 51 seconds in the 400, according to Kansas track and field historian Carol Swenson.
"Their times are good, but they are not there yet," Cornelsen said. "We have a ways to go, but we feel happy with their progress."
The sprinters have the potential to improve.
Delton and Herrman are just underclassmen, and this is Mitchell's first year in track and field.
"It's a real big shift," said junior sprinter David Cardinal, who runs on the 400-meter relay with Delton, Herrman and Mitchell. "We usually don't score many points in the sprints, so these are some points nobody was expecting."
Mitchell, who transferred from California, said he still is getting used to the blocks.
At the Buhler Invitational, Mitchell said he changed his approach and it resulted in a first-place, 11.11-second finish. It was just his second 100 of the year.
"I never really ran in the blocks, and coaches gave me a technique to put my foot on the ground," Mitchell said. "It's kind of like running the 40-yard dash in football and it worked."
The 400-meter relay has struggled executing handoffs this year, but if they get them figured out, they could be a contender at state.
"If you mess up a few handoffs, that's the race. If you drop the baton, that's the race," Cardinal said. "We have some guys with some really fast legs, so if we stick our handoffs, with those legs, we should be all right."
Eastern and southern Kansas features some of the top sprinters in the state, so state could be a rude awakening if they don't continue to work hard and improve.
However, Delton said it's a fun group to work with and they build off each other.
"We've built the team chemistry," he said. "We want to help one another out the whole time. It's been great running with them."
Herrman said the sprinting crew is focused on the bigger picture.
"If we can especially get all of those guys in all of those events scoring, especially at state, that would help us out a lot," he said.