Several Victoria athletes borderline heading into 1A regional
By CONOR NICHOLL
Ever since she first started track and field in the youth ranks, Victoria High School sophomore Jayden Newbold's favorite event has been long jump. Last year, Newbold jumped a career-best 16 feet, 2.25 inches at regional and qualified for the Class 1A state meet, the Knights' lone qualifier on the girls' side. Newbold eventually finished 11th at state.
This spring, Newbold faces a difficult road to again qualify in the long jump. Newbold missed some meets and practices early on because of other conflicts and has a season best of 15-8.
Five jumpers at this Friday's Class 1A regional at Fort Hays State University have cleared 15-9, including Hoxie junior Carly Heim, the defending state champion. The top four in each event qualify for next week's state meet at Wichita State University's Cessna Stadium.
"I have a feeling that it will be an extremely tough field this year," Newbold said.
But Newbold has an opportunity to go to state in another event -- the pole vault. Many 1A teams, due to lack of facilities and/or coaching, don't have pole vault. Newbold has cleared 7-6 several times this season, a mark that puts her on the bubble for state qualifying.
"To not do as well as I have been (in long jump), it's really sad," Newbold said. "But knowing that I can do better in something that no one else does or is really hard, it compromises almost. You give and take."
Like Newbold, virtually every Knight is on the state borderline. From 2009-11, the Knight girls finished seventh, first and second in 1A. Two years ago, distance runner Jublain Wohler and pole vaulter Sarah Kuhn were the lone qualifiers. Like Newbold this year, Kuhn qualified in a smaller field of competitors. Last year, Newbold and long jumper Connor Gagnon reached state.
"It would be better with more people, rather than just one or two of us," senior Clayton Roth said.
Individually, Gagnon, Newbold and Roth (300 hurdles) stand the best chances. Victoria could qualify several relays, including both 400- and 1,600-meter relays and the girls' 3,200 relay. Currently, all five relays are seeded fourth through sixth. Before the league meet last week, coach Randy Stanley said he was "very happy" with the relays, but said they were "kind of plateauing."
"We need to drop down," Stanley said.
The 3,200-meter relay is generally an event with few participating teams, especially on the girls' side. Some teams only run the relay for one or two weeks and then qualify for state, which makes it hard to judge competition throughout the year.
"That's what's scary," Stanley said.
Entering the Central Prairie League meet last week, Victoria had run 11:05.33, which is borderline for state qualifying. Stanley wanted the Knights to be around 10:45. At league, Victoria, with freshman Julia Nowak, sophomore Kiley Schmidtberger, senior Audra Nowak and freshman Carly Oberle, posted a 10:48.94.
The 1,600 relay dropped just over two seconds and ran a season-best 4:32.12 with the Nowaks, Oberle and Newbold. Victoria has run a season-best 54.72 in the 400 relay and probably needs to drop at least a second to get through to state.
On the boys' side, Gagnon, a senior, lept 21-9.25 at league, his all-time best and a quarter inch off the school record set by John Windholz in 1993. Throughout the year, Gagnon has looked to break the school mark.
After he took eighth at state last year, Gagnon ranks second in the long jump in 1A, according to historian Carol Swenson. Gagnon paces a strong field that includes Natoma's Jackson Meiers, a two-time long jump state medalist, La Crosse junior Andrew Jay, Tribune-Greeley County's Elijah Stone and Hoxie's Christopher Weber. All five have jumped at least 20-7.
"I feel like I got a good shot," Gagnon said. "I like jumping there (at FHSU), so I am hoping to make it. I am hoping to do good things at state, too."
Roth, who has never reached state track, has consistently been around 39 feet in the triple jump, but Stanley believes "high 41s" will reach state in an extremely deep field. Roth and Stockton junior Jaden Williams are the two best 300-meter hurdle runners at the FHSU regional, though Roth took a step back last week at league.
Two weeks ago, Roth ran a career-best 43.1 at the Victoria meet, but posted a 44.7 at league, his worst time since a 44.9 on April 22 at Plainville.
Gagnon and Roth are each on the two relays that have ran season bests of 45.69 in the 400 and 3:42.33 in the 1,600, though neither time came at league.
"The 4x1, I feel like it should pretty good, hopefully do good things at regionals," Gagnon said.
Newbold pole vaulted last year, but said she "did it for fun," and "didn't care" how she placed. This spring, Newbold has taken the event more seriously and wants to break the school mark of 8-3 set by Desirae Karlin.
"That's my goal for this year," Newbold said with a big smile. "I am going to get it."
Newbold won conference with a clearance of 7-6, but she and teammate Hannah VonLintel, who no-heighted, were the only two in the field. Newbold went 6-6 at Plainville, but then vaulted 7-6 at the last three meets: WaKeeney, Victoria and league. She went just 6-6 at WaKeeney and league in 2013.
"It's more in the shoulders and the hips and abs," Newbold said. "I know I have abs, and I just have to work on bringing my hips up, and my shoulders need to be stronger, but I feel that I am a lot stronger than I was last year."
At Fort Hays, five vaulters have went 8-0, though none over Northern Valley's Brooke Baird's 9-7, currently the best mark in 1A. It will be difficult for Newbold to qualify, but likely easier than the loaded long jump field.
"I have done a lot better than I did last year," Newbold said. "I am actually starting to enjoy it a lot more this year. I feel like I have a better chance of going to state in pole vault than I do in long jump."