Purchase photos

Trego girls carry on strong





WaKEENEY -- Because of high winds and cold conditions, the WaKeeney-Trego Community High School track team practiced inside Tuesday afternoon. Assistant coach Pat Haxton, with his high-energy persona, ran the Golden Eagles through 12 minutes of virtually continuous sprinting at the start of practice in the gymnasium.

Haxton told the team to not bend over when they were tired and stay strong. However, as the drill progressed, virtually the entire squad was bent at the waist, gasping for breath.

Senior Addie Zeman stood at one end of the line. During the entire drill, Zeman stood straight up, a stoic expression on her face.

When the sprinting concluded, Haxton walked over to Zeman and told her he was impressed with how she stayed upright. Haxton said her teammates watched how Zeman reacted. After a drink, senior Payton Nowlin went to freshman Cheyenne Nickelson and told her good job.

"Leaders are leaders, whether good or bad," Haxton said.

Nowlin and Zeman, longtime friends, have exemplified positive leadership for Trego. This spring, the two look for their third straight state appearance.

"People kind of look up to us, and we try and push people as well, lead them," Nowlin said.

As sophomores, they qualified in the 400- and 1,600-meter relays. Last year, they reached state in the 3,200-meter relay.

In 2012, Nowlin and Zeman were part of the Golden Eagles' school-record 3,200-meter relay time of 10 minutes, 49.18 seconds.

This season, Trego has a strong chance to make state in either the 1,600 or 3,200 relay, while Nowlin has an opportunity in the 400 and 800.

"Probably our work ethic in practice and the workouts that coach gives us are pretty tough," Zeman said of the Golden Eagles' relay success. "I think our drive to want to appear at state again and again is pretty strong."

Zeman, Nowlin, Nickelson and sophomore Elyssa Carr have formed the 1,600 relay. Nowlin, Zeman, Carr and junior Peyton Desormiers return from the state qualifying 3,200 relay that finished 13th in 1A last season at 10:51.8.

"I really like the 4x4, it's a lot of fun to run in, and I like the 4x8 because we have a good team," Nowlin said.

They have helped Trego continue on with a solid season after Lexi Riedel graduated two years ago, Jerris Reeder graduated last year and Clayton Riedel transferred to Hays High School this school year. Lexi Riedel and Reeder are on the Fort Hays State University track team, while Clayton Riedel has committed to play FHSU football.

"They just keep holding each year," seventh-year coach Jeff Rhoden said. "They are competitors. They are as reliable as any I have had. We have had Lexi come through here and Jerris, but those two are there day in and day out. Those two are the leaders of this team. You don't see that from the girls' side as often, so it's a pretty neat thing."

Zeman, Nowlin, Nickelson, the relays and senior shot putter/sprinter Devon Ghumm stand the best chances for state qualification for the Golden Eagles, back in Class 2A after a year in Class 1A.

One of the highlighted events of this Friday's Goldsmith Relays in WaKeeney is the girls' 800-meter run, which will likely feature at least five girls who can break 2:37 in Ness City seniors Jessie Rubottom and Emily Hahn, Thomas More Prep-Marian's Melissa Pfeifer, Norton's Katelyn Engelbert and Nowlin.

"It's a really difficult race, but I like being able to do well in it, because at some meets, I really do excel and at others, it's tougher, and I am challenged, but I do like the challenge," Nowlin said.

Rhoden's team-building philosophy centers around the two longer relays. Many years, Rhoden doesn't focus on the 400 relay as much because any small mistake can cost the team.

Trego has qualified at least one girl relay to state in four of the past five years. The only year the Golden Eagles missed was 2011, when Zeman, in position to qualify, tripped in the 400 relay at regionals.

"Continue to build your team and excitement around it, you take relays to state," Rhoden said. "You take more people, and that's kind of what we have focused on."

Zeman likes team sports and enjoys the team aspect of relays. She has tried other events, but the three relays are her core events.

"That's really not attainable so much on the guys' side, but with the females, you can see them run maybe all three relays," Rhoden said.

"Fast enough to run that 100, but still endurance and in shape to run that 800. That's what she will continue to do."

Nowlin wasn't supposed to run the open 400 last week at Oakley, but Rhoden looked at the entry marks and told her she could place high in the event.

She ran a 64.7, her personal best for an open 400 and has run a 63-second 400 in the relay. Her best open 800 is 2:36. Nickelson has run a 63.1 400 this year.

Rhoden believes around 63 seconds will qualify for state. Likely 2:30 or lower will qualify in the 800 at a difficult Smith Center regional.

Nickelson also does the high jump and pole vault, but might cut the high jump based on regional rankings in other events.

"I feel like I am off to a fairly good start, not completely sure if I am going to be running the 800 or the 400, and I have a chance at both, is what my coaches said," Nowlin said. "Just trying my best to do my best in both of them."