Hillsboro senior Josh Richert paced himself on the first three laps of the 1,600-meter run. He kept up with Ben Berridge of Nickerson and Drew Hageman of Hesston in a top three pack — not necessarily in first, not necessarily out of first.
He turned on the jets for the gun lap. He ran with the determined fury of a 400 runner. Over the last 300 meters, the gap between Richert and Berridge opened up to 25 meters, then 50, and almost 75 as Richert crossed the finish line.
“This summer, my family was getting mad at me because I would only do speed work,” Richert said. “I told them I knew what I was doing.”
He ran the race in 4 minutes, 40 seconds — a new personal best and a Central Kansas League record.
Richert was one of three Hillsboro seniors to set league marks and defeat personal records. Although he did not set the tone at the meet, his 1,600 run signified a truth for the Hillsboro track team — it’s go time.
“A lot people this year want to go to state,” Shaq Thiessen said.
Richert is definitely on that list. While he went to state with consecutive 4x800 relay teams, Richert has yet to qualify in an individual event. He missed a spot in the 1,600 last season by a half a second last year at regionals.
“If I have to I will pull hamstring before the finish line,” Richert said. “Well, not until state.”
This season Richert has an equally good chance of qualifying in two events. On Thursday, he won the 1,600 by three seconds; he won the 800 by more than six seconds with a time of 2:04.35. He ran the third leg of the first place 4x400 relay team. Micah Mashburn, Jordan Bezdek, Richert, and Avery Franz finished with a time of 3:40.39.
Franz, also a member of last season’s 4x800 team, had another strong meet on Thursday. He placed second in the 400 with a time of 54 flat, third in the triple jump with a leap of 40 feet, 5.5 inches, and fourth in the long jump, 19-9.
“His form has helped him out a lot,” Thiessen said of his fellow long jumper. “He needs to land with his feet apart.”
Thiessen knows a thing or two about the event, setting a league record with a first-place jump of 22-8.5. It’s far off his personal best and school record jump of 23-5, but he feels he is on target for his eventual goal — a state championship. He would not mind jumping over 24 feet, possibly pushed to the mark by stiff state competition.
Thiessen eclipsed a personal best in the high jump, leaping 6-4 on his second attempt at the mark on Thursday. Six-four had been a barrier for Thiessen; he has leaped 6-2 on several occasions.
Tyler Proffitt tied his personal best mark in the pole vault at 14 feet. He made three attempts at 14-6, which would have been four feet higher than the next closest competitor in the event. On those jumps, his top hand on his pole was below the bar. He would have needed incredible upper body strength to push himself over the bar.
Proffitt is in a situation similar to last season. Last year at the CKL meet, he bested a previous personal record with a jump of 12-8. He then moved up a pole length and crushed that mark at state 13-6.
In the practices before the league meet, he was working with a pole a foot longer than the one he used on Thursday. There were some difficulties; he hurt his ankle on the take off. The added length increases the difficulty in the run up and take off in the event.
He has two weeks to work out any kinks before the state meet. He wants to jump 15 feet, tying the school record, at state.
With Thiessen and Richert winning multiple first place victories on Thursday, the Hillsboro boys’ placed second in the 10-team league.
“What a day for the boys team,” head coach Dennis Boldt said. “Finishing second in our league is quite an accomplishment. They had the right mindset and it became more obvious when I needed to update so many season best performances after the meet.”
Grant Knoll also won multiple medals, placing second in the 3,200, 10:53.79, and fourth in the 1,600, 4:50.38.
The girls’ team finished seventh out of 10 teams. Emily Sechrist won the 1600, 5:24.22, and 3200, 11:45.08.
Marah Franz set a league record in the pole vault with a leap of 8-9.
Girls’ shot put — 6. Taylor Vogt, 32-1.
Girls’ high jump — 5. Heather Mayfield, 4-6.
Boys’ 110 hurdles — 4. Bezdek, 18.46.