Tiger track set for nationals
Fort Hays State coach Jason McCullough takes pride in having diverse track and field teams that can score in a variety of events.
This year's team certainly fits that bill.
The Tigers, who have national standouts on the track and in the field, are sending 14 athletes to the 2021 NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The meet runs Thursday through Saturday in Allendale, Michigan.
"I think right now we have a real diverse team when it comes to the events and the success we've had in those events," McCullough said. "In the conference meet, we were able to score in just about every discipline, between sprints, middle and long distance, jumps, throws, pole vault.
"I like to see track and field teams that have good diversity in their events, not just focused one one particular thing, and I think we've done a good job of that in the last few years."
Sprinter Lyric Holman enters with the meet with the fastest time in the country in the 100-meter dash, setting the school record with an 11.46. She enters fourth on the declared list in the 200 dash with a time of 23.71, also a school record.
The Junction City native has been able to build off a strong indoor season that saw her earn All-America honors.
"I think what's helped me this year is definitely my mindset," Holman said. "Last year in my second year, I don't think I had a very positive mindset. I think I would go to the meets and say, 'Oh, I'm just going to run and get it over with.' But this year I told myself I need to focus on being positive and I need to focus on really wanting it."
"She's really improved over the last two years," McCullough said. "She just works really hard and is riding a lot of confidence right now."
Holman said she'll do her best to not let the nerves get to her at nationals.
"I think I'm going to take it as the same approach I've had all season, just get out there and use what I've been doing in practice," Holman said. "Obviously I'm going to be a little more nervous because I do want to do well in the national meet, because it's obviously a big deal.
"I'm going to be nervous, but it's not going to stop me from running how I've been running this whole entire season."
Pole vaulter Ryan Stanley is looking to build off his school-record vault of 17-2 1/2 set last weekend in Kearney.
"That was good timing, I guess," Stanley said. "I had not had a lot of great meets up until that meet, so that kind of reminded me what I can do. I'm excited to build on that."
"That was an outstanding mark," McCullough said. "It just shows what kind of caliber of pole vaulter he is."
Stanley is a three-time All-American. He set the program's indoor record by clearing 16-11.5 at the Indoor National Championships to place fourth.
"I know at nationals it's anyone's game," Stanley said. "It's not necessarily who has the best marks, but who competes the best and who deals with the conditions well.
"Having gone to nationals my freshman year, I know that I just need to come in really focused."
FHSU high jumper Alexandra Hart will look to defend the national title she won during the indoor season, going 6-0 in the national meet. The Rolla native is undefeated in every meet she's competed in so far for the Tigers.
"She was a very good jumper in high school and she's really just elevated her performance to the next level here at Fort Hays," McCullough said. "To go six feet like she did in the indoor season is incredible for any level, but particularly for NCAA Division II.
"She's very talented and she works really hard as well. It's great to have young athletes come in and do that well. We have a young team, overall, so it should be fun to watch her and a lot of the other athletes over the next several years."
Other athletes enjoying standout seasons include Mattie Rossi, who is ranked fifth in the region in the 400m hurdles with her school-record time of 1:00.70, and sits in fourth in the central region in the heptathlon. She'll be competing in both events at nationals.
"She's someone to watch definitely for this year and for the future," McCullough said.
McCullough's also been impressed by the Tigers' 400 relay team of Xavier Robinson, Philip Landrum, Hayden Albright and Malcom Gardner, and the 1600 relay team of Hayden Albright, Jack Pakkebier, Nolan Churchman and Ethan Lang.
The Tigers will have a pair of true freshmen competing in the javelin throw in Rhyann Brown and Addie Berens. The pair sit in eighth and ninth, respectively, at 154-3 for Brown and 151-10 for Berens.
Laurel Haley will represent the Tigers in the hammer throw competition after her school-record throw of 186-3 at the Alex Francis Classic last month.
McCullough said he wants his athletes to keep the same approach heading into nationals.
"We don't make a lot of big changes," McCullough said. "If you've been successful throughout the year, continue to do what's made you successful, whether that's how you eat, or how you prepare or think about a competition.
"We don't really want to change things up too much. Maybe just bring it up one notch because you're going to be competing against the best."
FHSU Athletes at the 2021 NCAA DII Outdoor Championships
8:30 a.m. - Heptathlon 100m Hurdles - Mattie Rossi
9:15 a.m. - Heptathlon High Jump - Mattie Rossi
10:45 a.m. - Heptathlon Shot Put - Mattie Rossi
Noon - Heptathlon 200m Dash - Mattie Rossi
1:30 p.m. - Men's 4x100m Relay Prelims - Xavier Robinson, Philip Landrum, Hayden Albright, Malcom Gardner
4:10 p.m. - Women's Hammer Throw - Laurel Haley
5:15 p.m. - Women's 100m Dash Prelims - Lyric Holman
8:30 a.m. - Heptathlon Long Jump - Mattie Rossi
10:15 a.m. - Heptathlon Javelin Throw - Mattie Rossi
11:30 a.m. - Heptathlon 800m Run - Mattie Rossi
3:05 p.m. - Men's 4x400m Relay Prelims - Hayden Albright, Jack Pakkebier, Nolan Churchman, Ethan Lang
4:20 p.m. - Women's 200m Dash Prelims - Lyric Holman
10:30 a.m. - Men's Pole Vault - Ryan Stanley
10:45 a.m. - Women's Javelin Throw, Rhyann Brown, Addie Berens
Noon - Men's 4x100m Relay Finals - Xavier Robinson, Philip Landrum, Hayden Albright, Malcom Gardner
3 p.m. - Men's 4x400m Relay Finals - Hayden Albright, Jack Pakkebier, Nolan Churchman, Ethan Lang
4:15 p.m. - Women's High Jump - Alexandra Hart
5:25 p.m. - Women's 100m Dash Finals - Lyric Holman
6:05 p.m. - Women's 400m Hurdles Finals - Mattie Rossi
6:25 p.m. - Women's 200m Dash Finals - Lyric Holman