By CONOR NICHOLL
Smith Center High School senior Lynzee Mace and Ellis sophomore Alexcia Deutscher each compete in the Mid-Continent League and in Class 2A. Both have multiple track and field state medals.
But Ellis and Smith Center don't match up in the same meets until league. Plus, the pair has changed some of their events throughout the years, and Mace missed nearly all of last spring because of injury. They had never met in a meet until last Thursday's MCL competition in Phillipsburg.
"She is a great athlete," Mace said. "I was really excited. I was pumped."
Mace, a three-time state qualifier and two-time state medalist in the 100-meter hurdles, had competed in just league, regional and state in 2013 because of a stress fracture and plantar fasciitis. At the MCL last season, Mace ran just the hurdles.
This year, Deutscher started running the 100 hurdles midway through the spring. Mace also picked back up the 200-meter dash, an event she ran as a freshman and sophomore when Deutscher was in junior high.
On Thursday, Mace and Deutscher went 1-2 in the hurdles in 15.39 and 15.71, more than a second faster than any other runner. In the 200, Deutscher barely edged Mace, 27.44 to 27.46.
This Friday, Mace and the Lady Red host the Class 2A Smith Center regional. Many of the girls' events, especially the 100, 200 and long jump, feature the classification's elite. The top four in each event reach state.
"I am glad I beat her in those, because it made it kind of easier to lose to her in the 200," Mace said. "...It's frustrating, but hopefully regionals, I will be up there with her next week."
Eight runners at Smith Center, not including Mace and Plainville sophomore Shania Werner, have broken 27.4 in the 200. Last year, 27.8 was ninth at state in Class 2A. The eight includes Deutscher, Ellis freshman Ashley Mattheyer and the Atwood duo of Rohey Singhateh and Lexy Leitner.
In the 100 hurdles, Mace, who posted a career-best 15.03 two weeks ago at Mankato, ranks third overall and first in the regional. She will face strong competition from Ellinwood standout Sophie Hayes (season-best 15.08), Deutscher (15.71), Oberlin's Alexis Hissong (16.84) and Bennington's Jayme Sloan (16.85).
"I would like to get in the 14s," Mace said.
Hayes (46.84) and Mace (48.71) stand 1-2 in the 300 hurdle rankings for the regional.
Mace, who has decided to attend Kansas State and major in family studies and human services, will not compete in college athletics. But she has been very pleased with her senior season.
"My senior year has definitely been the best year," she said. "Sports has been awesome, I love it."
In the final basketball game before the MCL tournament her junior year, Mace noticed her left leg feeling worse. She ended up with a stress fracture; doctors believed it came from jumping and spiking in volleyball repetitively.
Then, Mace had overcompensated and developed plantar fasciitis in her right foot. Mace posted a 17.06 in the 100 hurdles at the 2013 MCL meet. She still won, but it was a slower time than she ran at league as a freshman.
"It was rough, because you wouldn't think just in the 100 meter hurdles that you are out of shape, but you really are," Mace said.
This year, Mace has been completely healthy, collected the 300 hurdle crown along with the 100 at league, and also helped Smith Center to a 400 relay championship and second place team showing.
This Friday, Mace looks forward to again facing Deutscher -- this time with state qualification on the line.
"Definitely it's a lot more fun this year than last year," Mace said.
Lee looks for elusive state berth
Ellis junior Sean Lee can throw the javelin more than 150 feet, or more than 1,800 inches. Lee never thought a few inches made a big difference until he missed qualifying for state by three inches last spring. Then, he realized everything matters.
"Every inch counts even if when it's thousands of inches," he said.
Lee picked up the javelin as a sophomore after he played baseball for Hays High School as a freshman. The left-hander threw 159 feet at Quinter on May 2 and then went a career-best 159-10 to win at Victoria on May 8. In a strong field at MCL last week, Lee finished eighth in 139-8 - and fourth among 2A competitors who will compete at Smith Center.
"I love it," Lee said. "You think of throwing a spear because you never really have that opportunity in life. So when you get it, you have got to take it."
Plainville senior Dylan Weisner, in his first year in the event, threw a season-best 169-7. Smith Center senior Cole Lorenzen, a Fort Hays State University football signee, went 154-1, and Ellis junior Brandon Groff threw 148-7. Weisner has not displayed great form, but has improved by more than 40 feet since the first meet.
"It's a technical sport, and when you only have one year to try to learn to do it, he just throws off pure strength, I think," Plainville coach Norma Finnesy said. "He has worked really hard. He is in the weight room with me three days a week in the morning, because I go in there at 5:30, he is in there at 6. He works - he is a worker. He wants to go, so we will see if that work pays off."
Weisner stands No. 1 in the regional, but eight throwers at Smith Center have went at least 157 feet.
"It should be an interesting contest," Lee said.
In addition, Ellis senior Brody Douglas has consistently thrown around 42-43 feet in the shot put. But shot put is not strong at Smith Center, and Douglas could earn a state berth. Lee, Douglas and Groff have never reached state for Ellis.