Indians fired up for state track

Rick Peterson Jr.
Hays Daily News
Jaren Kanak of Hays runs anchor in the 400 meter relay earlier this season at the Salina Central Invitational.  [KIM RAYAS/SALINA JOURNAL]
Hays High's Re Green, seen here with coach Tony Crough, will compete in three events at state.

In a two-week span, Jaren Kanak's already high recruiting stock has soared into the stratosphere. 

The major college football prospect clocked a 10.37 in the 100-meter dash at the Western Athletic Conference meet on May 13 at Liberal. 

College football powerhouses all over the country took notice, with the Hays High junior adding offers from Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma, USC, Texas A&M, and Michigan, among others. 

"Whirlwind is a perfect description," Kanak said. "It's been a crazy few weeks. My phone's been kind of flooded and blowing up. Slightly overwhelming, but I'm trying to handle it as well as I can. It's definitely an exciting experience though."

Kanak said he's not letting himself get overly stressed by the attention. 

"This is what I've always dreamed of, so I'm going to sit back and I'm going to enjoy it," he said. "I'm not going to let myself get stressed out over something that I've always wanted. It's definitely easy to get overwhelmed, but I just don't let myself go there."

Hays High coach Tony Crough said Kanak's demeanor and personality help keep him even-keeled. 

"He's just such a humble kid, and it's nice to see. He could be acting like a big timer with all this (attention), but he's just so grounded and his family does a good job of keeping him grounded, and his faith and his teammates," Crough said. "It's been fun to watch him take off."

Kanak is set to compete in four events when the State Track and Field Championships kick off Thursday at Wichita State's Cessna Stadium. 

He earned four regional championships at last week's Class 5A regional meet at Valley Center, winning the 100 (10.54), the 200 (22.49) and the long jump (21 feet-8 1/2 inches) while teaming with Roy Moroni, Gaven Haselhorst and Malik Bah to win the 400 relay. 

Not bad, considering Kanak had never competed in high school track before this season. 

"I didn't have very many expectations," said Kanak, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder. "I just wanted to come out here and have some fun in the offseason. Whatever expectations I did have, I definitely exceeded them. Obviously the next goal's to go out there and win state."

It's Kanak's first season in track since the seventh grade. He missed the eighth grade season with a broken arm, was out with a back injury as a freshman, and last season was canceled by the pandemic. 

"Definitely learning to love it," Kanak said of track. "It's not my main sport but it's just another thing where you can go out and have some fun and compete with somebody. It will improve you in other sports as well."

The Class 5A boys 100 and 200 dashes figure to be two of the most anticipated events on Thursday.

Shawnee Heights' Jeremiah Smith ran a 10.36 in the 100 this season, and Lansing's Malik Benson has a season-best of 10.55. Kanak's 10.54 regional time is No. 1 on the performance list. 

In the 200, Benson owns the best time in the state with a 21.34.  Smith has a 21.85 while Kanak's best is 22.07. 

In the long jump, Benson went a staggering 25-feet, 2 1/4 inches last week at regionals. Kanak's personal best is 22-5.25.

Kanak said he's embracing the challenge in his events. 

"I love to get out there and compete. I want a guy next to me and I want him to make me earn it," Kanak said. 

"I think that's maybe his best attribute," Crough said of Kanak. "He loves to compete. He's up for the challenge. I don't know if he's going to win or take third or fourth or whatever, but I guarantee you those other guys are going to get his best race."

Green enjoying breakthrough senior season 

Re Green classified herself as an average track and field her freshman and sophomore season. 

This year, she's been anything but average. 

Green will look to cap an outstanding senior season with a strong showing at state, competing in the long jump, triple jump and the 400 relay. 

Green was the regional champ in the long jump (17-4 1/2) and runner-up in the triple jump (35-4). 

"When our season got cancelled our junior year, I came out here almost every day and got some work in," Green said. "I was really looking forward to this season. I really wanted to stand out and show what I could really do."

The highlight of her season was a leap of 18-2 in the McPherson meet. 

"Oh my gosh, it was crazy. I didn't even expect it," Green said. "I just jumped and then the person measuring it said, '18-2,' and I was like, 'What?!' Nobody really jumps 18 for the girls. It was pretty surprising."

Green's breakthrough season opened up an opportunity to compete in track and field at the next level. She recently signed with Cloud Community College. 

"I didn't really get any offers throughout the season, and then I popped that 18 in long jump and then Cloud started having in interest in me," Green said. "I went on a visit and after that, I was like, 'I think this is the school for me.' "

Crough said it was rewarding to see Green land a college track opportunity on the strength of her senior season. 

"It's fun because you don't see that a lot of time in athletics, especially in some of the bigger, more high profile sports," he said. "Kids are usually committed early on in their junior year and things. The Cloud County coach saw her and loved her.

"It's good for Re. She's worked hard and had a heck of a career as a track athlete. Proud of her and I think she's going to be a really good multi kid in college."

Green will be making her state meet debut on Thursday but looks to treat it like any other meet. 

"I'm actually pretty nervous. I really hope I do well. I think if I just come and do what I usually do at the meets, I'll do all right."

Adams eyeing discus title 

Trey Adams enters state with the best discus throw among 5A competitors, throwing a 174-6 early in the year. 

The WAC and regional discus champ is ranked No. 2 on the performance list after throwing 164-7 last week. 

"(Confidence) is pretty high," Adams said. "Practices have been really good. I've thrown pretty good all year. It's been a steady pace."

Adams, who also qualified for shot put, will be making his state debut after narrowly missing the meet as a sophomore. 

"That year in discus it was a really bad headwind," Adams said. "I just wasn't throwing good at all that day. And then in shot put I took fifth."

He said he'll soak up the experience of finally getting to throw at Cessna. 

"It means a lot to me," Adams said. "I've been waiting for this since my freshman year. I can't wait." 

Crough said he expects a big mark from Adams in the discus. 

"I think Trey is going to throw great," Crough said. "Really the weather, you don't like to blame it on things, but it just hasn't been good throwing weather for the most part. We had that nice windy day early where he got it up in the wind, and then it's just been some bad disc winds for a righty.

"He's throwing right where he should. We think he's going to pop one."

Discus is among the first events in the state meet, set for 8 a.m. on Thursday. 

Veach returns to state in pole vault 

Senior ole vaulter Tucker Veach is one of the few Indians with past state meet experience, qualifying two years ago as a sophomore. 

"That was a crazy experience because I was not supposed to make it state," Veach said. "That week leading up to regionals, I was a 10-6 vaulter, and I PRd by 2 feet to get me into state.

"Hopefully we can see some of that same energy coming into state."

Veach's personal best is 13-6.

"I feel pretty good," said Veach, a WAC and regional champion. "If there's a time for me to peak, it's obviously now. I feel like we've done well in preparing and we're on our way to do some good things at state."

He said he tries not to overthink things when gearing up to compete. 

"My philosophy is just get over the bar however you can," he said. "You can look at so many things in a vault that you have to have perfect, but just give it everything you can and get over the bar."

Crough said Veach usually turns in his best performances when the chips are down. 

"Nothing rattles him," he said. "He is just stone cold. Nothing bothers him at all. He is as tough as they come. I would fully expect Tucker to come out and PR at state, that's just the kind of kid he is. He loves the big stage. 

"He might be the fiercest competitor we have. We saw it during football season, we saw it his sophomore year on the vault. That's just who he is."

Haselhorst looks for another big mark in shot put 

Despite limited shot put experience, Hays High senior Haselhorst has the third best mark in the state, recording a 58-2 3/4 at the WAC meet. 

Haselhorst, who is headed to Kansas State for football, is second on the performance list after throwing 53-10 in the shot to win regionals. 

"I don't know that he will throw 58 again — I mean, he could — but at this point it's just about throwing further than the guy that's in front of you," Crough said. "We just keep telling him, whatever that guy close to you is, just beat him."

Kapaun's William Doolittle is first on the performance list with a 57-4 last week. 

Dale looking for another PR 

High jumper Jordan Dale is consistently hitting personal bests this season, following up a 6-4 at the WAC meet with a 6-5 at regionals last week. 

Crough believes Dale has a 6-6 in him. 

"It's been about an inch a meet lately," Crough said of Dale's improvement, "and now he's not really focused on anything but high jump, so we expect him fresh and jumping well. I could very well see him going 6-6 at state."

HHS boys looking to make podium

The Hays High boys team qualified 13 for state while the girls team is sending eight. 

Crough said the Indians were happy with the number they punched through to state, noting the team had several other near misses. 

Only Veach, Kyler Beckman and Landri Dotts have competed at the state meet before. 

"There's going to be a bunch of kids that are a little wide-eyed and a little star struck, but everybody else is in the same boat," Crough said. 

"It's been kind of fun to watch how athletes are turning into track kids out here. You get kids like that, that just are hungry and want to compete, they have a chance to be really successful on the track."

Because of COVID-19 concerns, it was announced back in March the state meet would will be divided into three separate days with two classifications participating each day. 

Classes 6A and 5A will kick things off on Thursday, followed by 4A and 3A on Friday, and 2A and 1A.

"They aren't going to get to experience the real Saturday for state track with all of the classifications and all that," Crough said. "But for us, with a bunch of kids that haven't been there, it might not be the worst thing.

"... This year, with COVID and everything, the kids get a chance to compete. We don't really care how it looks, we're just glad we get to get out there."

After the Hays High boys won WAC and regionals, Crough said the Indians' next goal is to make the podium as a team. 

"I think if everybody goes out there and does what they can, I think we'll have a good shot at standing up there for a picture," he said. 

Kanak said he's enjoyed watching the team flourish.

"It's awesome and exciting to be successful yourself, but it's even more enjoyable to do it with your teammates and have people around you be successful as a whole," he said. "That's just so much more fulfilling."

Hays High state qualifiers 

Boys — Gaven Haselhorst (400 relay, shot put), Jaren Kanak (100, 200, long jump, 400 relay), Trey Adams (shot put, discus), Ty Adams (110 hurdles), Malik Bah (100), Gavin Meyers (300 hurdles), Grayson Walburn (discus), Jordan Dale (high jump), Kyler Beckman (long jump), Kyreese Groen (triple jump, long jump), Bryce Salmans (javelin), Tucker Veach (pole vault), Roy Moroni (400 relay). 

Girls — Re Green (long jump, triple jump, 400 relay), Brooklyn Lewallen (110 hurdles, 300 hurdles, 400 relay), Amelia Jaeger (800, 3200 relay), Avery Winter (3200 relay), Claire Shippy (3200 relay), Brenlynn Albers (3200 relay), Lilian McGrath (200, 400 relay), Landri Dotts (400 relay).