Heights track team claims one medal, just misses on several more at state meet
For the positive results the youth movement has yielded for the Jackson Heights track team this spring, with a number of freshmen and sophomores qualifying for state track this past weekend, the final meet of the season was highlighted by some senior moments.
Going in, it looked like veteran seniors Kaitlynn Little and Seth Holliday had the best chances of medaling in Class 2A competition and when it was all over, Holliday indeed walked away with the second state medal (2A boys 800m run) of his career, though it wasn’t easy.
“The field was an outstanding field for Class 2A and he stuck his nose right in there and competed pretty well,” JHHS coach Lyle Alley said.
“There was a lot of tough competition, so I was just going out, doing my best and trying to match that competition,” Holliday added.
Having a year of experience under his belt helped too, Holliday said, and pushed him to try and match his medal performance from a year ago and close out his career with a second state medal.
As tough a field as Holliday was competing in, fellow senior Little may have had it even tougher in the girls’ distance races. With 2A state champion Maranatha Academy sweeping the distance titles and getting multiple medalists in each race, it was clear the Cobra had her work cut out for her in the 800m and 1600m run.
Considering Little (who also ran the 4x800m relay) has had to compete against those runners just to get to state the past few years, she knew what she was getting into, but she just couldn’t quite get over the hump in her fourth and final trip to the Kansas high school state track meet.
“I’m sure she was disappointed that she didn’t medal in the state track meet,” Alley said. “She had probably her best opportunity of the four years because she was in three events. Unfortunately for her, she didn’t medal in any of the three, but I can promise you she gave it her best shot.”
As for those young athletes, many of them competed in relays for Jackson Heights, with the boys 4x400m relay coming the closest to adding to the Cobras’ medal count. The foursome of Mason Hamilton, Korby Strube, Westin Jacobsen and Holliday was another that Alley thought had a chance to medal.
That group missed out by the slimmest of margins, too, as the 4x400m relay team fell short of qualifying for finals (and a guaranteed medal) by a mere one second.
Freshman Abby Williams and sophomore Wyatt Olberding also qualified in the field events for Jackson Heights and while state competition loomed large for them just like the rest of the young athletes, Alley said they still held their own in Wichita over the weekend.
“You could sense it was their first time there. That’s the first time that any of those kids have ever seen a crowd that big at a track meet period. I feel like there was a good deal of nervousness going into the meet, but I thought they handled it pretty well for the most part,” Alley said.
Williams and Olberding both also just missed out on medals, finishing 10th in the high jump and triple jump, respectively.
As Alley noted, performances at state for first-time athletes can be difficult to predict and while some may have been overwhelmed, there were others who stepped up when needed, like Westin Jacobsen turning in his fastest split of the season in the 4x800m relay.
From the seniors closing out their high school careers to the young athletes at the onset of what could be some very promising ones, Alley said he came away pleased with what he saw from the Cobras over the weekend.
“I take pride in the fact that we’re always going to represent our school in a very good way and we did that. We went out and I saw good effort from everybody,” Alley said.
On top of being a special moment for the JHHS athletes, the weekend was a special moment for Alley as well. The veteran coach of 36 years will be stepping down as varsity track and cross country coach at the high school with his son, Brad, set to come in and take his place next school year.
That made Holliday’s medal all the more meaningful to Alley, as the senior earned it in the last event he coached for the Jackson Heights track team.
It was a fitting stopping point for coach and athlete alike, though Alley knows that depending on how the young athletes react to their first state experiences it could be the start of a very bright future for the Cobras as they get ready to start their next chapter.
“The cupboard’s not going to be bare. I know that and I’m looking forward to seeing track next year be better. I really think that will happen. I think that we’ve got some really great young people coming up,” Alley said. “I do think that Jackson Heights track is going to be in good hands and I think we’re going to come out and represent our school in a great way.”