State track preview -- HHS boys up for the challenge
By AUSTIN COLBERT
Hays High School junior Alex Delton spent much of late winter and early spring at various football camps, trying to impress people with his athleticism and speed. As a budding Division I athlete and Kansas State University football commit, there is already a lot riding on his shoulders with expectations always on the rise.
And at one point during the Indians' track and field season, Hays High coach Ryan Cornelsen decided it was time to point out to Delton he wasn't yet a college athlete and this wasn't football. Basically, he told Delton to stop taking things so seriously.
"The biggest thing with Alex is to start the year, he was very focused on his times ... we had to change his mindset. He was treating track like a combine," Cornelsen said.
"Reality is he lost focus of what it was to be part of a team and have fun. About mid season we had a visit and he's had fun ever since."
With Delton's attention back on high school track and the pressure of being a DI athlete put on hold, he has evolved into one of the state's best sprinters and a key leader for the boys' track team, which is chasing a rare fifth straight Class 5A state title.
When the Indians head to Wichita for the state meet at Cessna Stadium Friday and Saturday, a lot of eyes will be on Delton. And not just because he has been billed as the Wildcats' future quarterback, but because he will be one of the favorites to win both the 100- and 200-meter dashes.
"The label, it is what it is. That doesn't bother me at all. I kind of like having the label, 'Future K-State quarterback.' I can live with that," Delton said.
"I guess they expect me to do well. Which I work hard enough and I think I will do well at the state meet. But I'm not really concerned about what other people expect. I'm focused on my team and my coaches and us getting another state ring."
Delton, who will be competing in his first state meet, had the second-best time out of all 5A regionals in the 100-meter dash in 10.93 seconds, and the third best time in the 200 in 22.45 seconds (senior Shawn Herrman is also qualified for the 200 and sits fifth with a time of 22.72). Delton is also part of the Indians' 400- and 1,600-meter relay teams.
The 1,600-meter relay has been strong all season and enters the state meet sixth on the performance list with a regional time of 3:25.5. The 400-meter relay has been even more dominant this season and enters state ranked second with a regional time of 43.15 seconds.
The 400 relay team of Delton, Herrman and seniors Jordan Windholz and Clayton Riedel, will likely be the best shot at a gold medal for Hays High. Riedel, a WaKeeney-Trego Community High School transfer, has been a major addition to the team, not only for the relays (he also runs in the 1,600 relay with Delton, Herrman and senior Landon Munsch) but also in the 400-meter dash.
"Coming from a 1A to a 5A, I didn't expect much. But once the season started I knew I could compete with the big schools. Then I just kind of took off from there," said Riedel, who took fourth at state in the 400 as a sophomore with 2A Trego. "I feel like if we have all our handoffs and everything and we come with the mindset of winning we can be champions."
The Indians aren't bringing a whole lot in the way of numbers to the state meet but should have enough firepower to push for their fifth-straight crown. Hays High lost a lot from last year's group and entered the season with the lowest expectations in years.
But after winning the Western Athletic Conference crown -- again -- and a regional championship -- again -- the Indians see no reason they can't once again run their way to a state championship.
"Coach told me at the start of the season we might look a little bit shaky, but at the end of the year we are going to scare some people. And we have done exactly that," Delton said. "I won't say it has surprised us. We know we were going to be in this situation. Whoever wants to think we are the underdogs, that's fine with us. We are not worried about that. We are just working on competing."
Windholz leads way in field events
The key for Hays High winning a fifth-straight title won't be with its runners but in its jumpers. Windholz, on top of being the first one off the blocks in the 400 relay, is chasing the podium in both the long jump and triple jump.
Windholz went to state as both a freshman and sophomore but never placed. He had high hopes for his junior season but missed the entire spring rehabbing from an ACL injury suffered late in basketball season.
Healthy again, Windholz broke the school record in the triple jump this year with a distance of 45-8.75 (the Indians also broke a school record in the 400 relay this season in 42.55 seconds).
His regional jump of 43-7.75 is fifth entering state and his regional jump of 20-6.5 in the long jump is 11th, although he did hit 21-10.25 prior to regionals.
"I spent extra time working on the little things I didn't do. Coach tells me I'm a jumper before I'm a sprinter on the 4x1," Windholz said. "I have a good chance. I just have to jump my best. I'm hoping to PR. If I PR I will make it easy, but I'm trying to get higher. I'm trying to win."
Also with a good shot at the podium are senior Aaron Voss in the high jump (he is also qualified in the triple jump) and junior Hayden Kreutzer in the pole vault.
Kreutzer took fourth at state last year. Voss' regional jump of 6-2 is No. 2 entering state behind the 6-4 of Goddard's Austin Chippeaux, a mark Voss reached himself earlier this season at Valley Center.
If there is a surprise qualifier it would be junior Brandon Hardwick in the shot put. His regional throw of 49-5 ranks him seventh entering state. Hardwick has big shoes to fill as last year's 5A shot put champion was Hays High's Cade Sharp with a distance of 57-3.5.
"Brandon is one of those kids that football is his first love. But he's out here because he is competitive and he knows it makes him a better athlete," Cornelsen said.
"He found a way to get in. He was throwing low 40s, mid 40s early in the year and now he is throwing right at 50. We just need him to have another jump and pop another one this week."
Also qualifying for the Indians is Munsch in the 800-meter run.