State track preview -- Despite injuries, Zimmerman back at the dance for Hays High
By AUSTIN COLBERT
Wendy Zimmerman knows a thing or two about dealing with injuries. It seems every year the Hays High School senior is limited by something, with this year's problem coming via a foot injury suffered in the April 14 HHS girls' soccer game at Junction City.
"We were just running for the ball and the girl kind of tripped me up. I tore two ligaments in my foot and the swelling was pretty bad," Zimmerman said. "The injuries this year have been normal, which is kind of weird to say."
Zimmerman doesn't regret having played soccer this season, her first and only season playing the sport in high school. But it has slowed her down in track and field, her bread and butter sport that is taking her to Fort Hays State University next year.
She missed about a month of the spring soccer and track season, making it back in time for the soccer team's regional playoff games and the track team's postseason meets, including Friday's Class 5A regional meet in Salina.
And despite extremely wet conditions and hardly any time competing this spring, Zimmerman qualified for Friday and Saturday's state meet in Wichita in three events: the high jump, 1,600-meter relay and 3,200-meter relay.
"I think she will be the best she's been in a long time this week. She is finally, slowly getting things back," Hays High track coach Ryan Cornelsen said. "An injury that takes you out as many weeks at it did, it's tough to get back. But I think she'll be ready and will perform well."
Zimmerman has qualified for state three of her four years at Hays High, and likely would have as a freshman if she hadn't broken her foot in a dance recital just prior to the league track meet.
Despite a shortened season, Zimmerman's best high jump of 5 feet, 6 inches -- which took place before her injury -- is the second best jump in 5A this season, according to historian Carol Swenson. The only jumper better is Andover junior Jaylyn Agnew (5-7), the two-time state champ.
Zimmerman only managed 4-10 at regionals in Salina, good for first in that regional, but believes she still has better in her as she heads into state nearing full health.
"It wasn't a good jump, but I guess I'm satisfied with that. I was really happy that I even qualified. I don't have that many jumps in me," Zimmerman said. "I know that I'm going to be really scared going in. I'm just trying to face that fear of the bar and trying to let everything go behind me, injuries and all. I'm trying not to wear a brace so I don't have to baby anything. You just have to power through it and be tough about it."
Schlaefli rock solid for HHS girls
What the Hays High girls lack in numbers -- they have virtually no chance at the podium as a team -- they make up for in top-end talent, none more consistent than junior Mattison Schlaefli.
Schlaefli qualified for the state meet in four different events, the most among the Indian girls: 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles, 1,600-meter relay and javelin.
"She is very competitive. She is a good leader for us. To be in four events is not an easy thing to do," Cornelsen said. "She's just got to throw her times out and throw her distances out and just go compete and not worry about where she's sitting. Go try and win each race. If she does that she will do fine."
Schlaefli is headed to state for the third straight year. She went in the 1,600 relay and the 100-meter hurdles as a freshman, adding the 300-meter hurdles to both events as a sophomore. She is the team's best hurdler -- an impressive accomplishment considering fellow juniors Kali Pitcock (100, 300) and Ashlyn Parrish (100) are also qualified for state in the hurdles -- and finished sixth and seventh at state last year in the 100 and 300 hurdles, respectively.
But this year the biggest surprise has been Schlaefli's development in the javelin. Her season-best mark of 130-9 ranks second in 5A behind the 138-4 of Shawnee Heights' Kelsey Tenbrink, all the more impressive considering she didn't get out of regionals in the event last year.
"I've worked on it this season with coach (Kirk) Maska and it finally kind of clicked on what to do. It's just gone really well this season," Schlaefli said. "I've just learned how to control my bottom leg a little bit and keep my chest up. It's all form in javelin. My form's just improved a lot."
Also qualifying for the Hays High girls are sophomore Haley George in the high jump, Lexi Summers in the triple jump and the 3,200-meter relay team of junior Summer Smith, freshman Marie Reveles, sophomore Annie Gonzales and Zimmerman. The 1,600-meter relay team consists of Schlaefli, Smith, Reveles and Zimmerman.