Cassie Waldschmidt will admit it took time for her to embrace the 400-meter dash.

Initially, the Ellis standout sprinter was not a fan of the grueling race.

“When I was a freshman, my fastest 400 time was a 65,” Waldschmidt said. “Looking back at it now, I really did not like that race my freshman year.”

But after consistently chopping down her time, Waldschmidt has learned to love the 400.

“Now it’s my favorite, just seeing the improvement and seeing where hard works gets you,” she said. “It’s nice to see.”

Waldschmidt will be looking to contend for a Class 2A state title in the State Outdoor Track and Field Championships this weekend at Cessna Stadium in Wichita.

The senior has turned in another strong year, going undefeated in the 400-meter this year with Mid-Continent League and regional titles in the event. She will also compete in the 100 and 200, as well as the 400 relay, at state.

“Overall, I think I’ve had a really good season,” Waldschmidt said.

The results don’t lie, as Waldschmidt continued to establish herself as one of the top runners in the 400 in Class 2A.

She clocked a 59.98 in the 400 at the MCL meet for her third league title and went 59.43 at regionals. Her personal record in the event is 59.01.

“It feels really good,” Waldschmidt said. “Our league is very hard, with good people in the 400. It’s always nice to come out on top in that race.”

Waldschmidt, who was runner-up in the 400 at state in Class 2A as a junior, attributed her improvement to endurance and pacing.

“I would say it’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of pace work,” Waldschmidt said. “My coach (Jack Wolf) does a lot of timed 200s, 400s and 500s. It just gets you to the point where you know how to push when you’re tired, which is always good. That’s a good way to get your 400 time down.”

Wolf said he has enjoyed watching Waldschmidt blossom into a standout in the 400.

“We had to talk her into it, but once she had success at it she bought into it,” Wolf said. “It’s kind of a love-hate relationship with the 400. She loves it, but then sometimes she doesn’t like it. It’s a tough race. But she usually runs a smart race and she finishes strong.”

“Her finish is probably her strongest point in all her races,” Wolf added. “She might come out slow out of the blocks, but she’s got a really strong finish. Great discipline and desire. She’s a great competitor.”

Waldschmidt had opportunities to continue her track career in college, but instead will attend Theatre Arts Preparatory School in Las Vegas next year for dance.

“I did have a few offers for track, but overall, I wanted to try something different and see where that leads me,” Waldschmidt said.

She knows it will be hard to move on from track but is grateful for the standout career she enjoyed at Ellis.

“I already told my mom that when it’s over I’ll be bawling my eyes out,” Waldschmidt said. “Track is my favorite sport by far. It’s going to be really hard not having it in my life, but I’m really happy and lucky that I got to do it for four years.”

The Railers combined for five event titles in last week’s Class 2A regional meet at Smith Center.

Auntonio Jones won the boys 100 with an 11.38, Jacob Eck won the pole vault with a leap of 13 feet and the 400 relay team of Trey Hudson, Austin Mattheyer, Logan Shaw and Jones won the event in 44 seconds.

Grace Eck won the girls 800 in 2:25.92.

Check HDNnews.net and the print editions for more state track and field preview coverage throughout the week.