6 HHS track athletes headed to state competition
Allen 3200-meter champ, Serene and Thiessen win bronze
For the second time in his career as Hillsboro High School track coach, Dennis Boldt achieved something Saturday that had never been done until a year ago — all of his state qualifiers earned medals.
Competitors faced the best of the best Friday and Saturday at an unusually cool Class 3A state meet at Wichita State University’s Cessna Stadium.
With such grueling competition, just qualifying for the state meet is an achievement let alone earning a medal.
This year, the Trojans weren’t content just to be there.
They made it count again, earning medals in all five of the events in which they qualified. Achieving this two consecutive years is no small task.
As the sole qualifier for the Lady Trojans, Callie Serene’s third-place finish for 6 points in the 800-meter race was enough to leave Hillsboro in a five-way tie for 23rd out of 38 schools.
Spearheaded by Joel Allen cruising to the 3200 championship and Shaq Thiessen placing third in the long jump, Hillsboro took eighth out of 45 teams.
“I don’t think many teams can boast that every single kid who competed got a medal,” Boldt said. “It happened last year, so we’ve been pretty fortunate in that, but a lot of the reason that happens is because we come out of such a tough regional.
“You come out of a weak regional, you might find yourself toward the back of the pack some, but it’s all about the experience and having fun here.”
Arriving the second half of the 2009-10 school year, Allen got a taste of state competition last year.
A year and a half was enough time to leave his mark as possibly the greatest runner in Hillsboro High School history.
Allen tore through cross-country that first season as a Trojan, setting a new school record en route to finishing runner-up to Northeast Arma’s Austin Bogina at state.
Allen picked up where he left off this spring going undefeated in the 3200 prior to this weekend.
Facing familiar adversaries, including Bogina, Allen made sure he went out on top.
Allen took off fast and was never really threatened, blowing away the competition and defeating Minneapolis runner-up Garrett Daughtery by nearly 16 seconds.
“I can’t complain about my finish,” Allen said. “I went out fast and so did Garrett. He kept pushing me and pulling me out so when I was finally able to pull out ahead of him, I didn’t have anyone there to run with.
“With about two laps to go, I had maybe a 50-meter lead, which is really a different position for me. In cross-country, when I took second, it was a battle between Bogina and me. I know a lot of those guys and it helps to be familiar with the competition,” he said.
Not only did Allen breeze through the finish line first, he set a school record time of 9 minutes, 50.94 seconds.
“Joel prepared for the morning race the entire week by getting to bed early and getting up early each day, preparing for an 8:30 a.m. race time,” Boldt said. “We talked much strategy, but as we discussed after the race, you just don’t know what will happen.
“Austin Bogina had won the cross-country title and was definitely on Joel’s radar, but when Joel ran laps five and six at his fastest time this season getting him through his most difficult part of the race, he had the race in hand going into the final 800 meters.”
Later, Allen teamed up with Josh Richert, Justin King, and Bret Mueller as part of the Trojans’ 4x800-relay team.
Running the fourth leg of the race, Allen benefited from Mueller’s fastest split time on the exchange to get Hillsboro into scoring position.
The quartet reeled in a sixth-place finish, defeating the 8:28 mark by one-tenth of a second — a personal best by the team.
Allen still had one race left to run — the 1600 — before his astounding high school career came to a close.
Once again, battling familiar foes Bogina and Daughtery, Allen gave it all he had.
The brutal day definitely had taken its toll on Allen, but he still managed to take fourth in 4:38, behind Riley County champion Adam Larson, Daughtery, and Bogina, respectively.
“That’s not normally my race to begin with,” Allen said of the 1600. “I was just fortunate to be good enough to do it here for us so I’m satisfied with my place.
“In lap two, Garrett and Bogina really took it out hard. I tried several times to reach down and muster a little bit more speed out of myself, but I felt I couldn’t give anymore than I was giving,” he said.
Just completing his sophomore year, Thiessen still has two more chances to win a state title. He made a huge stride toward that this year bagging a bronze medal, with a leap of 21 feet, 1.75 inches.
“You never know what will happen in such a technical event,” Boldt said of Thiessen’s performance. “Will you have your steps down, will you hit the board, will nerves distract you, what will the venue be like?
“You have to credit Shaq with hanging in there through some tough jumps distractions. He was distracted twice, once by the break taken by the National Anthem and then again with some confusion of the order of competitors in the finals.
“Anything like this breaks your rhythm, but Shaq ended up with some great jumps and should be proud of his effort,” he said.
A mere quarter of an inch was all that separated Thiessen from Atchison County’s runner-up Jacob Hansen while Galena’s Tylor Albright edged Thiessen by 9.25 inches with a leap of 21-10.5.
With Albright going to be a senior and Hansen and Thiessen both juniors, the same three could be battling again in 2012.
After Saturday, Serene has one last chance to improve on her third-place finish this year after improving from fourth a year ago.
As a two-year qualifier in the 800, Serene knows the importance of getting out fast and getting a distance from the pack heading into the second curve.
Serene avoided getting boxed in, moving to the outside lane, and around traffic at the 200-meter mark.
However, Serene wasn’t able to overcome TMP state champion Heather Ruder and Riverton’s runner-up Mackenzie Dunbar.
The sophomore Ruder crossed the line in 2:19.49, with Dunbar coming in at 2:24.23 and Serene beating the 2:25 mark by one-tenth of a second.
Ruder’s win in the 800 was only one of the three gold medals she won, the other two being in the 3200 and the 1600. She also finished runner-up in the 400 and fourth in the 200.
“It was pretty good, but I felt like I should’ve had a little more kick at the end,” Serene said of her performance. “The weather was a lot different than last year, but at least it wasn’t really windy.
“Some of the girls I’ve seen before and beaten some of them at regionals, but there was definitely a lot more competition today than there has been all season. As far as being the only girl here, last year there were only two, so it wasn’t much different. We should have a good girls team next year, so I think we’ll be strong,” she said.
Serene could see many of the 16 qualifiers again next year, as only she and two other qualifiers will be seniors with Ruder and Dunbar a year younger.
“I think the third-place finish gives her (Serene) a lot of momentum heading into next year,” Boldt said. “I’ve got some young girls coming up, maybe we could have a 4x800 team and she could run a few more races throughout the year and get a little stronger towards the finish.
“Give her credit though; she was here basically a day and a half before being able to run. She worked out when she needed to and she stretched when she needed to, she did well for being around a day and a half.”
The Rossville Lady Bulldogs clinched the championship, topping runner-up Thomas More Prep-Marian, 64-53.
The boys’ 22 points left them tied with Central Kansas League foe Lyons as Hutchinson Trinity comfortably edged Scott City for the state title, 69-51.
Last modified June 2, 2011