In one season, German exchange student Lena Poll breaks McLouth school records
Red is better.
McLouth High's Lena Poll felt right at home last weekend at the state track and field championships in Wichita.
While some American tracks have a black surface, including McLouth's home track, the Cessna Stadium track has a red surface. In Poll's native country of Germany, she's never competed on anything but red.
"In Germany we just have red tracks. I just like them," Poll said with a giggle.
The foreign exchange student competed in four events at state -- the 100, 200, long jump and shot put.
Although Poll didn't advance to the finals in the 100, she did make the finals in the 200. She finished eighth in that event with a 27.07-second time in Class 3A.
Not a bad finish for an athlete who broke the McLouth school record twice this season.
At regionals, Poll finished in 26.57. Her times broke the previous best of 26.8, which was set 31 years ago.
On Saturday, Poll just missed scoring for the Bulldogs at state. Seventh-place finishers receive a point in the team standings.
Poll also finished eighth in the long jump at state. She had a best distance of 16 feet, 5 3/4 inches, more than 3 inches behind Beloit's Lindsey Sahmburg, who placed seventh.
The four-event athlete didn't fare as well in the 100 and shot put. Poll didn't qualify for the finals in the 100 (13.73). In the shot put, she threw 32-7, good for 13th place.
MHS coach Gerard Aligo, however, said Poll performed well in the running and throwing events.
"She had a pretty tough meet, in terms of time spreads between events," Aligo said. "She's a champion. She went in four events."
On Saturday, for instance, Poll threw the shot put about 3 p.m. and then had to wait about four hours to run in the 200.
Poll said she experienced a little anxiety at the state meet, but she also was thrilled to compete on such a large scale.
Because all six classes compete at one venue, it's one of the largest track meets in the nation.
"I was a little nervous, but it was more excited than nervous," Poll said.
Although Poll didn't medal at state, she did do something no other McLouth track athlete has accomplished -- compete in four individual events at state.
In Kansas, track athletes may compete in a maximum of four events per meet.
In Germany, athletes may compete in more than four events, Poll said. And, athletes participate with club teams, not high school squads.
At McLouth, Poll was the equivalent of a junior, but she won't be able come back for her senior year, as she must return to Germany for more schooling. However, she is happy to have worn the purple and gold uniform for at least one year.
"I'm really glad that I was able to compete for McLouth," Poll said.
She also stressed that she received a great deal of support from coaches and other students.
This summer, she will return to the red tracks in Germany. Now, though, she can tell her classmates there that she competed in the top track meet in Kansas.
"I was really excited because I thought I did pretty good," Poll said about state. "It was exciting and fun."