WICHITA, Kan.—To the casual viewer, the distance races on the track appear to just be a mass of people turning left. On Thursday at the Pre-State Challenge, small tactical decisions were the difference in three of the four elite distance races.
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Winfield’s Josh Hanna ran a perfect race in the Elite Boys 1600-meter to take down Class 5A distance king David Thor of Bishop Carroll. Thor swept the 1600 and 3200 at state last year, but on Thursday he was nipped late by the Winfield sophomore.
Hanna was not intimidated by the decorated senior coming into the race as he has gone toe-to-toe with Thor before.
“I only lost to Thor by about a second last week, so I knew he was in my sights at least,” Hanna said.
Hanna gained the advantage in the race thanks to one early tactical move.
“It is windy out so I let him (Thor) get out and break the wind for us the whole time,” Hanna said. “I am sure that couldn’t have helped him at all. That had to have an effect on him. I didn’t want to be out there. I got out first on the straightaway and I knew I had to let someone pass me before I made that turn.”
That was the first of two mistakes by Thor that would ultimately cost him the race.
“In a race like the 1600 meters we always preach that you get one mistake at most. Two (mistakes) maybe if you make one really early,” Bishop Carroll boys’ distance coach Swords said. “I feel tactically we made two errors during the race and tactically Josh ran a perfect race.”
The second of Thor’s mistakes came in the final sprint when he couldn’t decide to kick on the inside or outside of Hanna according to Swords, which cost him precious strides.
Hanna broke the tape in a time of 4:22.17 to edge Thor’s time of 4:22.65 in a race that Swords lauded as the best of the day in the 1600’s.
“Josh Hanna from Winfield just ran a superior race. He ran a very smart race. He ran a very relaxed race. He ran a controlled race,” Swords said. “He ran the smartest race of the day in the 1600 meters.”
Hays’ Ethan Fort was in a battle of his own for third place with Western Athletic Conference rival Oscar Carmona of Dodge City and Campus runner Bryant Keirns. Fort edged Carmona and Keirns with a time of 4:24.35. Carmona came across the line at 4:24.52, just ahead of Keirns’ 4:24.77.
Hanna’s and Thor’s times are the third and fourth best in the state this season regardless of class.
Garcia kicks for win
Where his teammate made a couple mistakes in the 1600, Bishop Carroll’s Gage Garcia turned a corner with a big win in the Elite Boys 3200-meter run in a time of 9:38.48, which was .02 seconds better than Arya Bahreini of Edmond, Okla.’s second-place time.
The goal for Garcia was to remain calm and not to panic at the furious early pace set by Hutchinson’s Chris Wise and DeSoto’s Angel Vasquez.
“I was just running paces as best I could for eight laps,” Garcia said. “Just try and run the same pace (the whole time).”
That is exactly what Garcia did as he went out at 4:48 for the first 1600 and came back in 4:49 for his second 1600 split.
His coach was a bit worried early on as Garcia led the chase pack and did not reap the benefits of drafting like his competitors.
“I will be honest, I was nervous. I kept telling him ‘tuck in, tuck in’,” Swords said. “I think obviously he was feeling it. The big issue we have dealt with Gage for a while is confidence and I think he showed a new level of confidence tonight and a lot of maturity.”
Even with the great racing the race still came down to a 100-meter kick between Garcia and Bahreini, and Garcia remained calm and turned it on at the right moment.
“We always preach the person that kicks last wins and he didn’t kick until the numbers on the track. He waited until the last possible minute to try and finish and it worked out for him today,” Swords said. “I thought he was operating at top speed. I thought he was giving it all he had. Then he showed there at the end he had another gear that he switched it into.”
Familiar faces with girls races
It is not an uncommon sight to show up to a big girls distance race in the area and state and see Valley Center’s Morgan Wedekind and Bishop Carroll’s Kaelyn Balch out front breaking the tape first.
Thursday was no different.
Wedekind started things out with a solid race against Thomas More Prep’s Heather Ruder. Ruder took the lead early, and then Wedekind got out ahead in the middle of the race trying to negate Ruder’s foot speed.
“I really wanted to race to win. I was feeling good during the middle of the race, so I decided to get out and go,” Wedekind said.
Ruder responded to the move and the race came down to a sprint. Wedekind held her off to win in a time of 5:15.02, which is the third-best time in the state so far this year. Ruder was just behind at 5:16.09.
Wedekind bounced back to run the 3200 later, but Balch was fresh and too much to handle as she won easily in time of 11:18.20, which was well ahead of Wedekind’s 11:33.17.
Roth draws on experience to win Steeplechase
Hesston’s Eyan Roth ran the 2,000-meter Steeplechase at last year’s Pre-State Challenge, and it was valuable experience that would pay off on Thursday.
“Mainly (I learned) how to do the water jump. People get hung up there a little bit. I had a good feel for that (the water jump),” Roth said.
Roth also had a solid feel for the pacing required to do well in the taxing event.
“Normally in a distance race you don’t have a giant hurdle standing between you and the finish,” Roth said. “It is a little more important (to pace yourself) so you don’t face plant on one of the hurdles. For most of the guys, their legs were gone by the end. I think it is better just to stay back and save your legs for the end.”
Roth won his race in a time of 6:45.01, which was 13 seconds better than Rose Hill’s T.J. Slade.
Kaittlin Cabrin of Derby won the girls’ Steeplechase in a time of 8:13.78.