State track preview -- Ellis sending 10 to 2A state finale
By CONOR NICHOLL
ELLIS -- In his classroom, Ellis High School track coach Jack Wolf has kept results from every meet since he started coaching the Railroaders in 1997. As well, after regionals each year, Wolf pulls out a white sheet of computer paper and pens the number of Ellis state qualifiers. Following state, Wolf writes down the number of state placers, and if the finish is high, the team showing.
The paper has developed a few crinkles over the years, and Wolf ran out of room on the front side and now has written on the back the last several springs. But the sheet shows the longtime success of Ellis track with 118 total competitors in 17 years.
Last Friday, Ellis qualified 10 to this weekend's Class 2A state meet at Wichita State University's Cessna Stadium. Someone asked Wolf if it was the most he has had. Wolf checked Tuesday; it's the second most behind 13 in 2007, a year that produced a runner-up showing for the boys and fifth place for the girls.
"That's kind of a selling point for kids that are coming in, saying, 'We have had this many athletes that we've taken to state, and this many have placed at state,'" Wolf said. "It's actually a phenomenal number in that many years really."
This year, sophomore Alexcia Deutscher and junior Jared Pfeifer continued their success by each qualifying in four events.
"The more people, the more excitement there is going to be for each other," Deutscher said.
Deutscher, with three state medals last year, including a runner-up in the long jump, has taken a more serious approach to track this spring, especially after switching from 100 dash to the 100 hurdles.
"Since I had to pick a different event, I just thought that I should be more serious about all of them, and trying my hardest everyday at practice and at competitions," she said.
Deutscher had strong competition in all four events at regional, but took third in the hurdles (15.82), third in the 200 (27.44), won the high jump over freshman teammate Ashley Mattheyer (both went 5-2) and won the long jump (personal best 17-7.75). Deutscher has been jumping well off her left foot recently, which usually doesn't happen, but has set a personal record at two of the last three meets in the long jump.
"I was more confident in placing in my events this year," Deutscher said.
Pfeifer finished third or fourth in all four events, the 110 and 300 hurdles in 15.84 and 42.02, long jump (20-2.5) and 400 relay. The relay qualified at 46.14, a tenth of a second in front of Atwood.
"There were some surprises, some disappointments," Wolf said. "I knew the 4x1 had an outside shot, so I didn't know where we would fall there. It was a close finish."
In javelin, junior Brandon Groff threw 158-10 on his last throw to move to fourth place, one spot ahead of junior teammate Sean Lee, who was seeded ahead of Groff entering the competition. Lee will run on the relay, though.
Ellis qualified three pole vaulters with seniors Kaleigh Soneson and Sidney Gottschalk and Landon Younger. Soneson is a returning state qualifier, while Wolf said Gottschalk "was borderline" entering the meet. Gottschalk made 7-6, along with Hill City senior Bethany Parker and Oberlin senior Brittany Urban.
The three vaulters were third, fourth and fifth, so a tiebreaker was needed. In a surprise, Urban walked up and said she couldn't go to state because of a vacation trip.
Officials scratched her off, and Gottschalk and Parker tied for third and both qualified. Younger put together a solid athletic career, but had never reached state in wrestling and track. In the rain, 11 vaulters no heighted.
Younger, beaten earlier in the year by some of the no-heighted vaulters, took third at 12 feet. Younger will run the 400 relay prelims Friday, but might not be able to run in the Saturday finals because he is scheduled to fly out of Denver sometime Saturday.
"That was kind of a surprise," Wolf said. "That was an outside chance."
Senior Rachel Keller also earned her first trip to state with a surprising third place finish in the shot put (33-8.5).
"She was so happy," Wolf said. "She was beaming. She was so tickled. I am proud of her and glad for her."
Mattheyer had opportunities in other events, but fought injuries the last several weeks and didn't compete at league. Deutscher and her are seeded 1-2 in the high jump.
"It's just nice to have competition from your hometown to really feel like who really wants it the most," Deutscher said.
Last year, Deutscher had to run 200 prelims during the high jump. The conflict caused Deutscher to finish a disappointing 12th in the high jump. Because of the state schedule this year, Deutscher moved to hurdles early in the season and has a chance at four medals.
"She will perform well," Wolf said. "I think she will PR in a lot of her events on Friday and Saturday. That's my gut feeling."