Roth, Gagnon lead Knights
By CONOR NICHOLL
VICTORIA – Victoria High School senior Clayton Roth has a long scar that runs along his left collarbone. Roth got the scar following surgery after he was injured in the third play of the first football game last fall.
A starter since midway through his freshman year and one of eight-man’s top players, Roth broke his collarbone against Macksville, one of several injuries to key Knights in 2013. Roth was hit and believes he might have come down on the collarbone, too. At first, it felt like a stinger, but when the trainer rubbed it out, Roth felt the pop.
“That’s not a stinger,” Roth said. “I felt it was broke.”
Roth didn’t play the rest of the fall. He returned for basketball season and has continually worked hard. Each year, Roth has put on 10 pounds. This spring, the 6-foot-1, 165-pound Roth and senior Connor Gagnon have led the Knights, and could post the best showing for the boys’ track team in several years.
“I realized you never know when it could be your last play or track meet or whatever,” Roth said. “So, you’ve just got to give 100 percent every time.”
On Thursday afternoon, Roth finished second in the 300-meter hurdles to Ellis junior Jared Pfeifer at the Victoria Invitational. Roth, wearing his trademark sunglasses, ran a personal-best 42.1 seconds.
“Every meet, I think I am getting better,” Roth said. “It’s not by a second each time, but it’s getting there. I will get to where I want to be eventually. I did start stronger this time, but I always stutter on the first two.”
Roth also finished the race in unique fashion to set the PR. Instead of jumping the last two hurdles, Roth basically ran straight through them and knocked them down. It helped him gain some time and draw closer to Pfeifer.
“When I am tired, I usually hop it like a deer,” Roth said.
He also won the triple jump with a 39-4 leap and ran on the 400- and 1,600-meter relays. Roth, who has never made the state meet, has strong chances to reach state in the two relays and the hurdles.
“When he runs repeat stuff, he is always pushing hard,” Victoria coach Randy Stanley said. “He works hard. I am pulling for him. He is wanting it. You can tell the kids that want it, and the kids that don’t care, and he is a kid that really wants it.”
Shortly after the end of the meet, Stanley was talking with his assistants, Cameron Reith and Tim McElroy, two former standout Fort Hays State University athletes, about the boys’ 1,600-meter relay.
“Who is going to be our guy who won’t give up?,” Stanley said. “The guy that will fight at the end, and he is the guy, I think. He is not our fourth guy right now, but we may put him in that fourth position. Because he is the guy who is going to give you everything he has got at the end.”
“I would rather have him fourth,” Reith added.
Roth missed last football season’s deep playoff run because of the injury and was a freshman backup on the Class 1A, Division I final four basketball squad. Last season, Gagnon and Jayden Newbold were the lone Victoria state track qualifiers, both in the long jump. Two years ago, Sarah Kuhn (pole vault) and Jublain Wohler (3,200-meter run) were the only qualifiers. This spring represents Roth’s final chance.
“It would mean the world to me,” Roth said of state qualifying. “Because I never did make it in football. I made it back in basketball I guess back in 2011, but track would mean a lot. It would be better with more people than just one or two of us.”
Gagnon takes third in long jump
Gagnon, who took eighth in the long jump at Class 1A state last year, has a career-best mark of 21-5, just off the school record of 21-9.5 set by John Windholz in 1993.
“The guy who has it gives me a lot of (static),” Gagnon said. “I like to go talk to him and tell him that I would break it.”
Gagnon “really wanted” the record at the home meet, but didn’t have a strong day. He scratched on his first two attempts and then went 19-10.75 to take third to Pfeifer (20-5.75) and La Crosse junior Andrew Jay (20-2.5). Gagnon moved back about four inches after his first attempt, and then moved back another four inches so he wouldn’t scratch. On his final two attempts, Gagnon felt like he was “stretched out” and “didn’t feel good.”
Last Friday, Gagnon jumped well on a windless day at WaKeeney, but thought a strong wind could have played a factor in his step Thursday.
“I have been coming in a lot harder these last several meets, and I think that has really thrown my step off,” Gagnon said. “I felt really good on my (second) jump, but scratched by a little bit.”
Pfeifer is one of Class 2A’s top jumpers, while Jay, Gagnon and Natoma senior Jackson Meiers are part of a strong Class 1A regional held at Fort Hays in two weeks.
“He is jumping better,” Stanley said. “Our thing with that is he wasn’t very consistent either, but today, he was right at 20 feet again. We are getting now to where we are consistently at 20 feet, so that’s a plus, instead of throwing down an 18 something. Now, if we are consistent around 20 feet, a 21 isn’t out of reach, and a 21-6 isn’t out of reach. I am happy with that. He is getting a little more consistent.”
Lee, Mattheyer lead Ellis
Pfeifer first changed his approach on the long jump and then Ellis sophomore Alexcia Deutscher and freshman Ashley Mattheyer changed theirs, too. The difference paid off in personal bests for Mattheyer and Deutscher. Mattheyer won the meet with a leap of 17-6.25, while Deutscher went 17-1. They are the third and fourth Class 2A jumpers to clear 17 feet this spring, according to historian Carol Swenson.
“I started walking into it, instead of running, and I wasn’t swinging my arms as much as I was used to,” Mattheyer said.
Mattheyer was surprised with the mark; the last two meets she hadn’t cleared 16 feet. When she first cleared 16 feet Thursday, Mattheyer was pleased, and then surpassed 17 feet later in competition.
“I was like, ‘Wow, where did that come from?,” she said.
Ellis junior Sean Lee pulled off an upset in the javelin when he defeated La Crosse senior Lucas Moeder, the defending Class 1A state champion and a Kansas State University signee.
A strong crosswind severely limited the throws for many competitors, but Lee, the lone left-hander among the top throwers, took advantage and uncorked a career-best 159-10. Last week, he threw 159 under different conditions at WaKeeney.
“Perfect weather overall (Friday), but this is awful,” Lee said. “I thought I was going to do terrible.”
Moeder had cleared 180 feet several times this year, and Lee never expected to defeat Moeder.
“He is just such an elite athlete in my eyes,” Lee said.