Three Marion County track and field athletes won state titles Saturday at Cessna Stadium on Wichita State University’s campus.
Marion High senior Anne Baliel defended her state title in pole vault. Marion High senior Todd Palic was first in discus. Hillboro High senior Nate Hein completed a winning jump in pole vault.
Trojan sophomore Wenxi Funk was one of three in Wichita who participated in the wheel chair races. He won a second-place medal in the 400 meter race.
Baliel nets 2nd title
Marion High senior Anne Baliel of Marion captured her second consecutive first at state in pole vault, clearing 10 feet 6 inches on her third try.
Baliel said she wasn’t nervous about the prospect of defending a state title, she just was glad to have the opportunity to compete.
“I reminded myself that nothing was guaranteed, and I still would have to come back and work for it,” she said.
Baliel repeating after a season lost to COVID-19 was remarkable, coach Grant Thierolf because an athlete’s body can change over two years.
Baliel had to get back into competitive form and then try to grow as an athlete this season.
She ended up peaking at the right time, Thierolf said.
“It was quite an accomplishment for her to be able to do that,” he said.
Baliel admits this season wasn’t easy. She struggled with leg injuries and her approach.
“I worked on my run and my step because it had changed so much since I pole vaulted last,” she said.
Baliel kept in shape by hitting the weight room five days a week and training at Tailwind Pole Vault Club.
She made the two-hour drive to Concordia at least once a month to work with club coach Jerry Smith in the off-season.
One of six Marion High valedictorians, Baliel will join the University of Central Arkansas track and field team this fall.
Palic wins discus
Warrior senior Todd Palic won first place in discus with a monster toss of 152 feet, five inches.
Palic was in a great position as the second thrower in the second flight to compete, Thierolf said.
“We knew that if he could get off a big throw early, then that would put pressure on all of those guys ahead of him,” Thierolf said. “And that’s what he did. His best throw was his first.”
Watching each thrower try to overtake him was “a little nerve-wracking,” Thierolf admits, but no one threw as far as Palic did.
“It was a great way to win,” he said. “And it was really fun to see his face in the throwing ring as he was getting ready for his last throw because he knew he had won.”
Hein first in pole vault
Hillboro High school’s Nate Hein pole vaulted to first place, clearing 13 feet 6 inches Saturday at state.
The Trojan junior has made an hour drive to Wichita twice a week this season to train with Shocker Track and Field Youth.
“I work on my form and just keep trying to go higher and higher,” he said.
Hein struggled to get back into shape after COVID-19 canceled the season. He coped by acting like the missing year hadn’t happened and focusing on the sport he loves.
Hein is happy with his state win, but he also is proud that he pushed himself this year.
“I forced myself out of my comfort zone to go higher,” he said.
Sophomore 2nd in new event
Fellow Trojan Wenxi Funk also grabbed a medal Saturday at Cessna Stadium.
The Hillsboro sophomore was one of three racers in Wichita who participated in wheelchair races. He placed second in the 400 meter and third in the 100 meter.
This was the first time that a wheelchair event was included at state track and field meet.
Funk competed against Tristen Wilhelm from LaCrosse and Tucker Baalman from Hoxie.
Other medal winners :
Sophomore Chance Shults competed in pole vault but was assigned no height by a judge.
Carson Linnens captured second place in triple jump with a leap of 44 feet, 3 ½ inches. He placed fourth in long jump, sailing 21 feet 3 ½ inches.
Jared Janzen earned two medals: fourth place in shot put with a throw of 46 feet, ¾ inches and fifth place in discus with a distance of 148 feet, 3 inches.
Jessica Saunders threw third place in discus, with a hurl of 119 feet, 1 inch” and fourth-place in shot put with a toss of 38 feet, 6 ½ inches.
D’Myia Cox grabbed sixth-place in triple jump with a distance of 34 feet, 11 ¼ inches.
The 4x800 relay team of Moriah Jost, Trudy Hein, Emersyn Funk, and Ainsley Duell placed seventh with a time of 10:33.92.
The 4x100 relay team of Grant Bryant, Lucas Wiens, Jacob Wiens, and Kacen Smith finished third in 45.96 seconds. The time placed them eighth.