WICHITA — Crossing the finish line just ahead of Gavin Lierz from Hiawatha, Jace Ruder raised both arms into the air with his index fingers pointing to the sky.
Ruder, a Norton Community High School junior, had outlasted the Class 3A field in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles — and claimed his first state title at the state track and field championships on Saturday.
It was somewhat of a redemption for Ruder, who last year entered the finals of the 300 hurdles as the No. 1 seed. Hitting a hurdle midway through that race, though, slowed Ruder down enough from placing. This year, there would be no such misfortune for the Bluejay in the race.
“Once I tripped, I was sure motivated right then and there that I wasn’t going to lose again,” he said. “I got it done.”
The motivation from not being able to accomplish what he had hoped to do in that race was enough to push Ruder throughout this season and keep him among the state’s best hurdlers. Though he did carry the memory of that race into the early part of this season.
“I took some learned lessons from last season about not getting too hyped up before the race,” Ruder said. “I made sure to keep an even keel throughout and just got it done once the gun went off.
“I’ll be honest, the first race of the season this year, coming around the corner I had a little bit of butterflies. Once I got over (the hurdle) I was good. It’s been good since.”
By winning, Ruder not only redeemed himself, but kept Norton within striking distance of the 3A state team title. All that followed his race was the 200 and the 1,600-meter relay.
“As a team we’ve done well,” Ruder said. “We’ve missed some opportunities and we’ve gained some opportunities. Overall, I think we’ve done a pretty good job.”
Ruder had a big individual weekend as he placed runner-up in the discus with his best throw being 155 feet, 1 inch. He was the Bluejays’ anchor in the both their 400-meter and 1,600-meter relays. Norton was second in both relays.
The team finished runner-up with 53.5 points. Hugoton won the 3A title with 62 points.
In the 1,600 relay, Ruder followed Hugoton’s Mitchell Hamlin across the finish line. Norton would have needed Hugoton to finish five places behind them in the 1,600 relay to have had a chance at the team title.
Ruder teamed with junior Tevin Petrie and seniors Tyus Henson and Carson Wallace in the 400 relay. In the 1,600, he joined Wallace, senior Koby McEwan and Henson.
Henson placed second in the 400 in 49.52.
Senior Jacob Green finished his high school career with a third place in the shot put for Norton. His best throw was 50-10.75.
Freshmen Slayten Braun and Lexi Kats were able to help the Bluejays’ girls’ team score some points. Braun, a sprinter, placed third in both the 100-meter dash (12.70) and 200-meters (26.14). She was part of Norton’s 400 relay, along with seniors Baylee Miller, Caitlyn Cox and junior Kara Flack that finished third in 51.07.
Kats placed third in the both the 1,600 (5:28.18) and 3,200 (12.07.38).