The Thomas More Prep-Marian track team hopes to reap the benefits of competing in the challenging regional meet when they take their 11 qualifiers to this weekend’s state tournament at Wichita’s Cessna Stadium.
“Everything we’re taking down, we feel really good about,” coach Matt Dumler said.
Senior distance runners Andrew Hess and Melissa Pfeifer led the Monarchs qualifying in three races apiece, but it wasn’t easy.
“They didn’t have very easy days, Melissa, especially,” Dumler said. “We knew in the 3200 it was going to be a difficult field. It ended up being a lot faster than we anticipated. I kinda thought it was going to take 12:40-12:45, but she ran really, really well.
Not only did Pfeifer run a 12:25, she was in contention for the race until the final stretch, according to Dumler.
“At the mile mark, it went from just simply trying to get in to all of the sudden ‘Hey, let’s try and compete for this race,’ ” the TMP coach said. “She was in it until about 100 meters left. At that point her legs were just absolutely shot.”
The good news for Pfeifer, is that she doesn’t plan to have to worry about losing her legs this weekend. The 3200 is scheduled for Friday night while the other two races are spread out on Saturday.
“There will be hours between races instead of just minutes,” Pfeifer said. “The two mile is on a completely different day, so I can go all out, and that won’t even affect my other races.”
“I’ve never run that on fresh legs.”
Her coach added that to make the most of the time between races, Pfeifer should eat well, rest and avoid too much time in the sun.
“If we can manage the other stuff outside of running, she should be really fresh,” Dumler said. “It’s going to be fun to see what she can do.”
This will be the Monarch senior’s fourth trip to state, and she’s looking to add to her medal collection that start with a gold medal as a freshman on a TMP relay team.
“I looked at the standings, and I’m sitting pretty good, so it’s cool to have a shot,” Pfeifer said. “It seems likes there are always some prodigy runners, and this year in 3A, it seems like there are any. It’s achievable, so that’s really cool.”
Pfeifer figures her best shot at gold comes in the 1,600, despite finishing 1.5 seconds back of Southeast of Saline’s Allison Stutterheim, a runner she beat earlier this season. Her coach gives her a chance in each of her events due to her competitive streak.
“I think Mel will be in all three of her races,” Dumler said.
“Mel is one of those competitors that doesn’t come along very often,” Dumler said. “(She’s) the type that can make up her mind that she’s going to do it, then just simply do it.”
Dumler also gave Hess a chance in both the 1,600 and 3,200. The TMP senior won both of those races at regional, albeit by a small margin.
“It was pretty good preparation,” Hess said of the regionals. “I had a big workload that day, so times weren’t my best, but they were pretty good.”
Like Pfeifer, Hess has qualified for state in each of his four track seasons. He expects the experience will be beneficial as he looks to earn a spot on the podium in his final trip.
“State is definitely a lot different race than any other,” Hess said. “You gotta know how to go into it.”
His coach expects him to compete for medals in both of his races for much of the same reason he believes Pfeifer will.
“Andrew’s drive is second to none,” Dumler said. “I think he’ll be in both races.”
Hess and Pfeifer are the only two Monarchs heading to Wichita with previous experience at the meet.
Sophomores Hayden Lowe and Savannah Yost qualified for the high jump by
“We knew they had a shot, but we knew they were going in tied with several other kids,” Dumler said. “We knew they had to be clean. Savannah had to be clean through five (feet); Hayden had to be clean through six.
“They both jumped really well.”
Junior Kendra Werth was the only TMP athlete to qualify in an individual event by finishing third in the 300 hurdles in 48.6. It was her fastest time of the season.
“We didn’t realize she was going to have to PR by two seconds,” Dumler said, “but luckily, she did.”
Both of the 3,200 meter relay teams qualified. Lowe and Hess were joined by Ethan Lang and Trevor Pfeifer on the boys side. Lang, just a freshman, started the relay with an impressive leg that helped the Monarchs finish in third.
“We were in contention the entire race,” Dumler said. “He kept us in contention. I absolutely love his heart to start that relay.”
On the girls’ side, Taylor Teel, Kiara Urban, Alison Schibi and Shelby Stouffer teamed for a first place finish.
“I think both our relays have a shot at getting on the podium,” Dumler said.
Another bonus of qualifying the nine other competitors is that the Monarchs will have some returning state experience after Hess and Pfeifer move on. There’s no telling how the younger Monarchs will preform at the first appearance in Cessna Stadium, but the hope is that the regional meet in Lyons helps.
“That was an advantage of having a tough regional,” Dumler said. “Whatever got out, we felt good with taking down. It’s going to be a fun weekend for us really regardless of what happens.”