Ness City all about development
By CONOR NICHOLL
NESS CITY -- One of Ness City High School cross country and track and field coach Patrick Younger's major focuses is developing. Sometimes, runners might not have quality times as freshmen, but the Eagles who stay with Younger's program see marked improvement.
"I tell freshmen every year, 'my program will get you ready for college training whether you are a sprinter, hurdler, jumper, distance runner,' " Younger said. "I said, 'I promise you, you don't have to like me, but if you follow what I have you do, I guarantee you, you will be prepared to compete in college whatever your event.' That's big to me."
The practices have paid off with five state titles, three in cross country and two in track, in the last eight years. Several runners have signed for collegiate teams, but this year produced three signings, including two at the NCAA Division I level, a first for Younger.
Dray Carson, a state cross country champion, and Emily Hahn, the defending Class 2A 800 meter winner, will attend Wichita State University. Jessie Rubottom, a four-time all-state cross country runner, is headed to Fort Hays State University.
"When you compete in college, you get different experiences than what you can in high school, go to different places and stuff, so I try to develop kids," said Younger, who ran for FHSU. "I always enjoy when some of my athletes sign on."
Carson, who Younger called "night and day" in terms of improvement from his freshman year, took third in Class 2A cross country last year and ranks first in the classification in the 3,200 (9:40.71), according to state historian Carol Swenson.
Carson, known for his strong stride, has continued the Eagles' outstanding distance running under Younger that includes Colton McNinch, Kyle Calvin and Kyle Schauvliege and Wyatt Beckman.
"I just want to follow that and just keep the Ness City tradition of distance running," Carson said.
Carson knows former Plainville standout Brady Johnson, who now is running for WSU. Carson took his visit to the Shockers in the middle of cross country season.
"From that day, I was going to Wichita pretty much," Carson said.
Hahn had always been a sprinter before she started to run the 800 in the last month of last year. She delivered a state crown that surprised even herself and has ran well this season.
"It still hasn't really even hit me that I won state last year, I don't think," Hahn said. "It's weird to think. People ask me about it and congratulate me, and I don't really feel like it yet."
Hahn signed with WSU in early March. She was leaning toward FHSU and WSU, but then took a visit to the Shockers.
"I really loved it," she said. "I really loved their coaches. I just really liked it there, and it just kind of grew on me, I guess. I decided that's where I wanted to go."
Rubottom finished second to Hahn in the 800 at state last spring. Hahn and Rubottom currently stand 2-3 in the 2A 800 rankings this spring at 2:23.51 and 2:25.27, respectively.
Rubottom looked at schools farther east and then had her eye on Fort Hays. She called the choice a "last-second decision." She talked with FHSU cross country coach Jason McCullough for awhile and knew some of the men on the team.
"I really wasn't sure what I wanted to do," she said. "I was between schools and then with it being just an hour away from home. ... They were really encouraging and told me how well of a program it was, and I went on a visit and I loved it, so I just decided that I would stick with Fort Hays."