Chieftains qualify 7 girls, 5 boys for state
THS girls take 3rd sans Hileman,
Halfway through Friday's Class 4A regional girls 800-meter final, Christy Weller knew her dream of running one more time this season was in serious jeopardy.
"I started off really slow for some reason. My first lap, I was really back in the pack," Weller said. "After that first lap, I was like, if I don't start moving, I'm not going to be going to state."
Fortunately for Weller, those thoughts made their way to her feet throughout the final 400 meters, as the Tonganoxie High junior used a strong kick in the final straightaway to not just qualify for this week's Class 4A state meet in Wichita, but notch one of the Chieftains' two individual regional titles during the 16-team gathering at Royal Valley High in Hoyt.
"It was pretty good," said Weller, who finished in a time of 2 minutes, 24.66 seconds. "It's always good knowing you're going into a state meet beating three other people if they run the same."
Weller was one of seven Tonganoxie girls to qualify for the trip to Wichita, punching her ticket not just as an individual, but with teammates Andie Jeannin, Katie Chenoweth and Megan Puhr courtesy of a fourth-place time of 10:28.49 in the girls 4x800 relay. Also making the trip are fellow regional gold medalist Roni Grizzle -- who won the shot put with a toss off 40 feet even; Ali Pistora, who took second in the high jump (5-2) and third in the javelin (144-11), and Roxie Grizzle, who was second in the javelin (146-11).
"I thought we might do a little bit better in the field events," said THS girls coach Chris Weller. "Overall, I thought we did pretty well."
The glaring omission on the Tonganoxie entry sheet is multi-talented junior Tracie Hileman, who placed in four events during the Kaw Valley League meet one week earlier. Unfortunately for Hileman and the Chieftains, an unexpected opponent -- a tonsil infection -- proved to be so severe it resulted in a brief hospital stay and kept Hileman out of the regional meet.
"She didn't get to participate, otherwise I think we would have been able to get closer to second place than we did," said Chris Weller, whose squad settled for third with 54 behind region champ Concordia and Wamego. "She's our leading point-getter the last three seasons."
In the boys half of the event, Tonganoxie continued its theme of depth winning out over individual excellence. The Chieftains had no individual winners, but qualified five athletes for state spread over four different disciplines. THS finished eighth with 32 1/2 points.
Jeff Hughes leapt 42-3 1/2 in the triple jump to place third, while javelin thrower Zeb Kissinger also took third with a throw of 165-1. High jumper Kendrick Whittington (6-0), javelin thrower Travis Guthrie (162-11) and 400 runner John Davis (52.70) each finished fourth, sealing their Wichita fate as well.
"I thought we did a great job. We didn't really have anybody that laid an egg at all," said Tonganoxie boys coach Phil Williams.
"The only one disappointment we had is our 4x800 relay got fifth instead of fourth. But they ran their best time of the year. You can't do anything more than that."
Williams was most excited by watching Davis sneak into the fourth spot just nine days after finishing eighth at the KVL meet.
"I think the one pleasant surprise was John Davis in the 400," Williams said. "He did a great job and ran his best time ever and got in there."
The two-day craziness that is the state meet kicks off Friday morning at Cessna Stadium on the Wichita State University campus. Thanks to a rotating schedule, this year's meet calls for the Class 4A schools to compete in Friday's afternoon session, meaning no Tonganoxie athletes will compete until 3 p.m., when Pistora takes part in the girls high jump.
The event will conclude Saturday night with a trophy presentation representing the top boys and girls teams in all six classes.
Despite Hileman's absence, the Tonganoxie girls are optimistic about topping last year's eighth-place team finish.
"I think we've got a pretty good crew," Chris Weller said. "I think we've got a chance to do a little bit better this year."
Meanwhile, with his smaller squad, Williams isn't necessarily focused on where the boys finish on the team leaderboard.
"I think, for the most part, they want to improve their performances and have a good time," Williams said.
Tonganoxie state qualifiers
Regional finish in parentheses
Triple jump -- Jeff Hughes, 442-3 1/2 (third)
Javelin -- Zeb Kissinger, 165-1 (third); Travis Guthrie, 162-11 (fourth)
High jump -- Kendrick Whittington, 6-0 (fourth)
400 -- John Davis, 52.70 (fourth)
800 -- Christy Weller, 2:24.66 (first)
Shot put -- Roni Grizzle, 40-0 (first)
High jump -- Ali Pistora, 5-2 (second)
Javelin -- Roxie Grizzle, 146-11 (second); Pistora 144-11 (third)
4x800 relay -- Weller, Andie Jeannin, Katie Chenoweth, Megan Puhr, 10:28.49 (fourth)