A magazine focusing on all things sports in northwest Kansas
Special approach It takes a certain type of athlete to run the 300 hurdles, one willing to expend blood, sweat and tears
The Hays Daily News
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A look inside this issue
Megan Heier overcame a leg injury to compete in track and field — but with a new outlook.
Think you have the guts to run the 300 hurdles? Only a few athletes really have what it takes.
Charm of the Bullring It might be small in stature,
but Rush County Speedway is big on everything else.
Just a Minute Nick McQueen chats with Phillipsburg’s Grant Wickham.
To the finish Plainville seventh-grader Jacob Davis surges to the finish line during the 100-meter dash May 4 during the Ellis junior high meet. Davis won his heat. NICK SCHWIEN, Sports Ink.
Cover illustration by Raymond Hillegas email@example.com Sports Ink. contributors: Nick McQueen firstname.lastname@example.org Conor Nicholl email@example.com Steven Hausler firstname.lastname@example.org Nick Schwien email@example.com
Volume 2, Issue 4 Sports Ink. is published and distributed by The Hays Daily News. Copyright © 2012 Harris Enterprises. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. Sports Ink. is a registered trademark of The Hays Daily News, 507 Main, Hays, KS 67601 (785) 628-1081.
Sprinter battles back
f a person heard the troubles Heather Kuntz went through during the past few years, one might think she’s a professional bodybuilder. You know, the kind of person who was trained to show off muscles, rivaling any Hanz and Franz skit on “Saturday Night Live” from years ago. Kuntz had a problem many guys only could dream about, Hanz and Franz included — too large calf muscles. But before you get the wrong mental picture of what the Quinter senior might look like, you better think twice. She’s no American Gladiator clone. Unless you consider those behemoths to be about 5-foot-nothing and weigh just enough for the strong Kansas wind not to carry you away. She’s like Mini Me, just more impressive — a lot more impressive. Kuntz, after undergoing surgery to alleviate the calf issue, was burning up the track this year for the Bulldogs, making wind currents some might think could blow her down if she was caught in it. But she’s a beast, as the younger generation would say nowadays. The small sprinter is a specialist in the 100-meter dash and a key reason the Bulldogs had the state’s fastest time in Class 1A this year in the 400-meter relay. Still, the lingering FOR STARTERS pain in her calf muscles was enough to put her season in doubt. Kuntz switched from volleyball to cross country two years ago, and the longer distance races were what triggered the alarm something might be wrong. Tissue was too tight in her calves, not allowing the muscles to expand and caused her feet to fall asleep when she ran. It could have led to nerve damage. Surgery corrected the problem, then she had two weeks recovery time. But before the surgery, Kuntz had one thing on her mind. “That was actually my first question I asked: Will it affect me in track or not?” she said. “He said maybe if I was a distance runner, but being a sprinter, it shouldn’t affect me at all. I probably wouldn’t have went through with it if it would have affected me in track.” Kuntz had minor problems at the beginning of the track season, but not enough to slow her down — literally. She crafted herself into one of the state’s best sprinters this season while overcoming the leg problems. And it’s not like she was slow before, but her times this year were the best in her career. More importantly, though, Kuntz said she wanted to run this year to show others what can be done in the sport. Numbers at Quinter, a powerhouse in boys’ and girls’ track in the 1990s, have dwindled the last few seasons. This year, Kuntz is one of four female sprinters on the squad. Kuntz, along with the help of teammates, gave Quinter a shot in
the arm this spring. “We’re really trying to bring back track, because right now our numbers are really low,” she said. “We only have four sprinter girls, that’s it. Our sprinters are really low, and our distance is really low. This year, we’ve really fought for a new track, and our track is really weak. We’re getting a new one for next year. Having enough numbers to support that would be great — to help the junior high realize track is great and you can do good is important.” It’s funny one of the smallest people in the school is one of the biggest advocates for track and what it can do for others well past high school. Kuntz epitomizes the struggles in northwest Kansas, where schools might be small but the heart is big. She’ll never be the tallest, or perhaps the fastest. But there won’t be anyone else who can rival her drive to succeed. “It’s a sport anyone can strive in and do well in if you put your heart and mind to it,” Kuntz said. “All you have to say is, ‘You can. You can.’ ”
Who’s That? Notable performances in northwest Kansas Alexcia Deutscher Ashley Mattheyer
The eighth-grader at Ellis Junior High set three new school records this year. She set a record of 5 foot, 3 inches in the high jump this year, breaking Whitney Taylor’s mark of 5-2 in 2005. She also broke and re-broke the 200-meter dash record set by Paige Reilly in 2006. Her season-best time was 26.89. Deutscher also broke Reilly’s long jump record by leaping 16-31⁄2. OthDeutscher er athletes breaking records for EJH were Aspen Younger in the triple jump (30 feet), and school’s 400-meter relay of Tori Tebo, Rylee Torline, LexAnne Wolf and Younger in 55.43. The old record was set in 2002. Seventh-grader Ashley Mattheyer rivaled Deutscher’s season. Mattheyer won four gold medals at each meet, including the league meet. She tied the seventh-grade school record Mattheyer in the high jump (5-1), adding her name to Taylor’s mark in 2002. Mattheyer also consistently won the 100- and 200-meter dash, as well as the long jump.
The senior golfer at Phillipsburg High School had a solid final season for the Panthers this year. Hoover finished seventh at the Mid-Continent League meet. He won the MCL title in 2011and finished 20th at the state meet last year with a 78, helping the school to a tie for seventh in the team standings. Earlier this month, Hoover shot a 69 at the Mel Schremmer Invitational in Phillipsburg. Hoover has signed to play at Barton Community College next year.
The sophomore at Fort Hays State University had one of the nation’s best throws in the javelin through mid-may. McPhail, from Liberal, had a throw of 159 feet, 4 inches at the 2012 MIAA Championships on May 4. It also was an automatic qualifying mark for the NCAA Division II National Championships in late may in Pueblo, Colo. Only Brittany Aanstad had a better throw through May 11. Aanstad, runner-up in the event last year, had thrown 161-11. Got an idea of someone who you think should be included in Who’s That? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with Who’s that? in the subject line, or call (800) 657-6017.
After an injury, Megan Heier saw a new aspect of track and field
Life Adjustments Photo by STEVEN HAUSLER Sports Ink.
RAINFIELD — The wind blew constantly, shielded only by the trees on the north side of the track. Megan Heier stepped into the cement ring, hesitated for a second and let out a heave. The shot put landed with a thud in the crushed gravel, giving off a small puff of dust that quickly was carried away by the wind. She surveyed the toss for a brief moment, then turned and walked out of the ring, seemingly pleased with her performance. If the same scenario took place a year earlier, Heier might have thought she was living in a dream world. And if she was that close to the shot put ring, then she would have been cheering on a Wheatland-Grinnell teammate —
not participating. Funny how life can change in a year. Heier used to excel in the more agile events such as triple jump. In fact, she was a two-time state qualifier in the event as a freshman and sophomore, taking third at state two years ago. Things changed last year when pain in her knee caused Heier’s season to end abruptly, leading to a surgery and a change of events this spring. “It was kind of one of those things that I was like, ‘Oh, I get to do this now?’ ” Heier said. “My senior year, I get to try to do a bunch of throwing things I’ve never done in my life. It was a shocker more than anything. But I’ve learned some stuff from my coaches, and honestly, some of the stuff June 2012
you do in triple jump goes with throwing and how your feet need to be and your quickness and arm speed. So I’ve kind of learned that. The sprint thing has helped with throwing, too. It’s definitely something I didn’t see myself doing, but you just have to make the best out of it.” Heier competed at the 2011 Western Kansas Liberty League track meet, where she won the 200-meter dash but didn’t compete in the jumps. After the league meet, Heier had surgery on her knee, where doctors drilled numerous pin-sized holes into her femur to help alleviate pain. “The first time I noticed, I was at a track meet and tried to long jump,” Heier said about the abnormality behind her right SPORTS INK.
knee. “I hit and couldn’t even jump because it stung so bad. Even walking was tough. I had to sit on the ground for about five minutes. “That was my time to notice that I couldn’t jump and that something must be wrong and I needed to go to the doctor and got an MRI. One doctor said it was just tendinitis and it would go away. Then we went down to Great Bend, and luckily that doctor is pretty amazing and saw it. He was like, ‘Most people don’t see it, but I think you have this.’ And that’s what it was.” Heier described the injury as “pretty much a big word, but basically it’s a hole behind my knee cap.” Doctors drilled holes into the bone to help the blood supply heal the injury. She said doctors said it could take more than a year to heal. “I had hoped to keep healthy,” Heier said. “I had been hurt my freshman year during basketball and pretty much didn’t play that year with all the stuff with my knees and pulling muscles. I definitely was hoping not to get hurt so I could keep up in track and even volleyball.” Heier, who signed to play volleyball at Hutchinson Community College next year, played the sport this fall for the Thunderhawks. The injury sidelined her at times during practice because of pain. “It has always been in my mind to want to go on and play,” Heier said. “And my parents have kind of pushed that. I love competing, and I love volleyball so much. This year was tough because at times I had to sit out because my knee was hurting. I think it’s just competitiveness throughout my family and school and all my friends. My teammates are always amazing.” Heier wasn’t a stranger to the jumping pits, though. Instead, just as her teammates helped her during the recovery time, she offered assistance during meets. “I think it’s hard for an athlete to deal with something knowing you did that once and now you’re not able to do it,” Thunderhawk track coach Charles Packard said. “It’s tough
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NICK SCHWIEN, Sports Ink. Heier, center, competes in the 100-meter dash at the Quinter meet.
on them.” “It was hard, but it’s a team thing,” Heier said. “You just have to push your teammates to do better. We have a few girls who triple jump and long jump. I just tell them, ‘You can do this. Push it. I wish I was with you.’ But all you can do is help them out and stay with your coaches and do what you can.” What hasn’t been affected is Heier’s attitude, battling back from the injury to keep plugging away. “It’s just one of those things that sometimes you have kids who are really good athletes that they have injuries and sometimes get to recover from them,” Packard said. “And sometimes they don’t ever make it back.” Heier has, though. And despite competing in unfamiliar events such as shot put, javelin and discus, she put forth the best effort she could to improve. “When you’re hurt, you kind of get doubts in your mind if you are ever going to be able to do things again,” Heier said. “Or you’re wondering if you’re ever going to be able to go on in another sport or if it’s going to bother you the rest of your life. It’s one of those things were it’s more in your mind. You have to sit down and talk to yourself or someone else to not have those doubts because that’s all you do is think about it. It’s something you have to make up yourself. If
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you’re going to be negative, you’re going to be negative. I just tried to turn things positive and work with what I could do and just keep building.” That positive mindset aided Heier this year as she took home several medals in the throwing events. She even continued a strong presence in the 200 and on relays. Not too bad for an athlete who has the best long jump and triple jump marks in the school record books since Wheatland and Grinnell combined in 2007. “She wants to do well, and she sets a good example for the other kids,” Packard said. “She works hard and tries to do her best.” Just as the dust created by the shot put in the crushed gravel disappeared, so did Heier’s hesitancy about new events. And even though she’s wrapped up her high school career and now looks forward to college, the only thing she has to remember is to slow down at times. “It’s different, because it’s usually push, push, push, push,” she said. “Now I have to learn my limits. Just like when everyone else gets hurt, it stinks for a while. Then you tell yourself, when you start to hurt again, ‘Megan, you can’t keep going through this.’ I’ve been trying to cut back. It’s tough, but in your mind you know you have to go on and do it if you want to do what you love.” • NICK SCHWIEN, Sports Ink.
The 300 hurdles aren’t for everyone. It takes a certain athlete, such as Phillipsburg’s Sean Newlan Page 8
HILLIPSBURG — Phillipsburg High School junior Sean Newlan is perhaps the area’s most versatile track-and-field athlete. Newlan won Class 3A’s 110-meter high hurdles in 2011 and had run 14.4 seconds in the event this year, three-tenths off the classification record, by early May. He helped the Panthers set a school mark in the 400-meter relay and ranks among Class 3A’s best in the 300-meter conor nicholl intermediate hurdles and 200-meter dash. Newlan consistently has cleared 140 feet in the discus and has high jumped in the past. Newlan and Phillipsburg raymond hillegas coach J.B. Covington often discuss what events the junior and will compete in for each meet. steven Above all, two events rank as the hardest: the 300 hurdles hausler and 400-meter dash. “They are pretty close,” Newlan said. “They are both never fun to run.” Area athletes and coaches agree. While some events — especially the 400, 800 and triple jump — are considered difficult, no discipline is as
“They are both never fun to run.”
sean newlan, phillipsburg, talking about the 400 dash and 300 hurdles
unique or tougher for area athletes as the 300 hurdles. “You kind of need to know how to hurdle, so you don’t jump on them,” said Thomas More Prep-Marian sophomore Mikaela Flax, one of the better 3A 300 hurdlers. “You need endurance and a lot of guts.” In the last two years, area boy and girl athletes in Classes 4-1A (including TMP) have scored just 49 points at the state meet in the 300 hurdles. It’s the fewest among any event. Triple jump is second at 53. The average is 75.7 points. The 400-meter relay leads with 123 points. With two weeks left in the season, there was a good possibility no area girl could place in the 300 hurdles at state. Quinter senior Kayla Zerr had the best opportunity, since Smith Center junior Trenna Cox, all-state last year, missed the track season because of a knee injury suffered in basketball. In the last two years, the area boys and girls had scored at least three points in every event at state. “It’s a tough race,” Covington said. “You put an obstacle in front of a kid that is running fast, and sometimes bad things can happen. It’s one of those events a lot of other coaches in the area probably take the same approach that we do. We don’t want to force kids to do something they are not comfortable with. (The) 300-meter hurdles, if they are not comfortable with them, it can be a bad deal.” Multiple athletes have had fear when first running the 300 hurdles and falls occur, including some memorable ones involving area athletes at big meets. As well, unlike the sprinting and distance events, many don’t run the 300s in junior high or the younger ranks. Often, it’s an event an athlete discovers by decision or a coach’s prodding in high school. While many events are taught in similar ways, the 300 often has different philosophies concerning form and steps. “When they run the hurdles, I always tell them, make sure your school insurance is paid up, because you are going to find flesh comes out second,” said Winona-Triplains coach Kim Naden, a Sports Ink.
Thomas More Prep-Marian High School’s Mikaela Flax, center, clears a hurdle while competing in the girl’s 300-meter hurdles during the Phillipsburg Invitational Track Meet in Phillipsburg.
veteran of nearly three decades of high school coaching. At the Class 2A Meade regional in 2009, St. Francis senior Trent Kinen entered with the fastest qualifying time in the 300 hurdles at 40.3 seconds. Kinen never had won a state title and wanted to match his dad, Pete, who won the 1980 high jump crown for St. Francis. The 300s marked Kinen’s best chance. With approximately 120 meters remaining, Kinen landed strangely, fell and badly skinned his knees, elbow and hand. Then-St. Francis track coach Tim Lambert watched from the infield. Lambert turned away when he saw Kinen fall and believed Kinen couldn’t qualify for state. Kinen got back on his feet, and, thinking of the state title, finished in second place in 42.96 seconds. “I don’t know if I have seen anything quite like that,” Lambert said at the time. June 2012
When Kinen returned to St. Francis, his body was so badly bruised it hurt to shower. Kinen woke up one morning and discovered he broke the middle toe on his right foot. Kinen said the toe looked like “Mr. Deeds’ black” foot, from the movie starring Adam Sandler. Sandler, who plays Mr. Deeds, has a foot that resembles pitch-black darkness. Kinen overcame the injury to win the Class 2A state title the next week. As well, the 2009 Class 1A 300-meter hurdle prelims had to be rerun, the only event in recent memory at the state track and field meet that needed a second running. Two runners fell early and still finished. Colony-Crest’s Todd Johnston clipped the top of the last hurdle, stumbled, dove and face planted as he crossed the finish PAGE 10 line. Page 9
In the 1A final, La Crosse senior Marshall Musil, who now plays football for the University of Oklahoma, took seventh, the last placing position after he fell near the finish. His time of 49.52 seconds wouldn’t have placed in the 6A, 5A, 4A, 3A or 1A girls’ state final. Yet Nathan Isom of Inman was disqualified because of interference and took eighth. This spring has seen a near-fall from Flax. At the Goldsmith Relays at WaKeeney-Trego Community on April 30, Flax stumbled while starting the curve. She regained her balance and won the race. Afterward, Flax was in pain. “It’s definitely hard,” she said. La Crosse senior Austin Webs, the only area runner to place in the 300 hurdles in each of the last two seasons, never has fallen in a race. When Leopard coach Jon Webster heard Webs’ comment, he told the senior, “Going to have to find some wood to knock on.” “Just one misstep and that can change your whole race,” Webs said. “It’s a lot different than a lot of events. I think that kind of makes it a tough event for a lot of reasons.” Even with the difficulty, many area athletes enjoy the race, including TMP junior Heather Ruder, Zerr, Victoria senior Amanda Braun and the La Crosse tandem of Webs and junior William Storie. Ruder is a six-time state gold medalist with two crowns apiece in the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs.
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STEVEN HAUSLER • Hays Daily News LaCrosse High School’s William Storie, left, and Austin Webs prepare to clear their hurdles May 3 in the 300-meter hurdles at the Victoria High School Invitational.
In the 400, she has taken second twice. Ruder saw the 300 hurdles at meets and thought it looked fun. Her mom hurdled in high school and told Ruder she should try it. Ruder practiced the event twice before she competed in a meet. She ran a few meets last year, several times this spring and posted a 49.7. Ruder heard the 300 hurdles was the hardest event, but actually called the 400 more difficult for her. “Personally, I like the 300 more, but
maybe because I am in the air for some of the time,” she said. Zerr is an all-state high jumper who also runs on the Bulldogs’ all-state 400- and 1,600-meter relays. At the state meet last year, Zerr talked with Quinter assistant coach Andrea Hargitt during the 300 hurdles. “ (Coach said), ‘You know, I think you’ll be pretty good at that,’” Zerr said. Zerr’s mouth dropped and she responded, “No way.”
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Plainville High School’s Nick Hixon clears the 300 hurdles during the Goldsmith Relays in WaKeeney.
At the start of the 2011 season, Zerr was “very, very nervous” running the hurdles. She didn’t know what to expect but had run under 50 seconds with two weeks left before state, one of the 1A’s top marks. “For me, it hurts of course, but I don’t think it’s too bad,” she said. “I love it, and then to go from that to the 4-by-4, the 400 feels so easy compared to that. Yeah, it’s definitely a change for me. I have never, ever done hurdles in my whole life, so I was pleasantly surprised with my performance so far.” Braun qualified for the state meet in the 1,600 and 3,200 relays last season. This year, the Knights, mainly because of an injury to sophomore Kristin Huser, have struggled on the relays. Braun has looked for other events. Braun hurdled earlier in her career but had to stop her freshman year because of a hip flexor problem. One day at practice, Braun mentioned she missed the hurdles. Coach Randy Stanley heard Braun and asked if she wanted to try again. Braun’s initial reaction was fear.
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“She was very scared at the beginning of hitting a hurdle, and so she was very passive going over the hurdles,” Stanley said. “She is getting more aggressive with every race.” She has improved throughout the year and also broke 50 seconds. “What if I fall?” Braun said. “What if I
STEVEN HAUSLER • Hays Daily News
scrape my face up on the track? They are not too bad if you hit them. I have hit them before. You usually don’t go down. Just keep going.” Like many other 400 and 800 runners, the 300 hurdle distance works well for PAGE 12 Braun.
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“The distance is pretty nice for me, and they are low hurdles so I don’t have to really focus on form, which I am not super great at,” she said. “It doesn’t hurt my hips as much, because I did the (higher) 100 hurdles (earlier in my career) and that’s probably more what gave me my hip injury.” Arguably no area team has sustained success in the 300 hurdles like La Crosse. The Leopards have produced multiple strong hurdlers in recent years, including Andrew Schroter, Jeremy Garcia, Musil, Webs, Storie and Levi Morss (who now has switched fully to sprints). La Crosse coach Jon Webster said the Leopards “make sure” the athletes “get a lot of practice” on the hurdles. In the weight room, the Leopards have focused on developing what Webster calls a “full athlete.” That made Musil a state champion in the 110 hurdles and a state placer in the 300s and shot put. The weight room has helped Webs and Storie, too. Webs won the outdoor pentathlon at the K.T. Woodman meet earlier this season, one of the state’s biggest meets. Storie has run anything from 100 to 800 meters. When Webs entered high school, he ran with Musil and Garcia. Musil especially, who focused heavily on form, helped Webs learn the event. “I think the 300 hurdles are strategy along with skill,” Webs said. “Like a 400, it’s tough to run that distance. But in the 300s, you also have to worry about your steps being off. If you get off, you have to use more energy to get back into the race. It’s a lot more strategy than I think a lot of races, which takes a lot more
RAYMOND HILLEGAS, Sports Ink. Quinter’s Kayla Zerr competes in the 300 hurdles during the Ness City Invitational earlier this year.
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practice than just running. You’ve got to work on form.” Webs and Storie each have broken 42 seconds and have a strong competition in practice and meets. In the first five competitions this spring, Webs held a 3-2 lead over Storie. For both, the 300 hurdles works better than the 110s. Webs runs on the 3,200 relay, which is directly before the 110s and wouldn’t give him any rest. The 5-foot-9, 138-pound Storie is one of several — most notably Osborne’s Joe Sumpter and Smith Center’s Colt Rogers — shorter hurdlers who have more success in the 300 hurdles than the 110s because of the lower shoulder height. “When I used to do the 110s, (size) played a big factor,” Storie said. Newlan ran the intermediate hurdles in summer and confederate track and tried the 300s several times in practice. Last year, Newlan mainly focused on
the 110s because the Panthers had Trevor Smith in the 300s. The two went back and forth throughout the year. “We took little things from each other, and we always tried to help each other out as much as possible, like if we saw something going wrong, like if we weren’t getting our lead legs down as fast as we should, we told each other,” Newlan said. “We were pretty blunt about it. We always learned and got better.” Covington labeled the 300s Smith’s “baby.” Smith, also a versatile athlete who placed in the pole vault, was the area’s fastest 300 hurdler the last two years and won the 3A crown last season. “You have to be aggressive over the top of the hurdle, and Trevor wasn’t one of those guys that was a great technician over the top of the hurdles, but he was just fast between the hurdles,” Covington said. “Sean, technique-wise, being a high hurdler, he is a very good technician over the top of the
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hurdle, and obviously he is fast, too.” That speed has helped Newlan — despite the difficulty of the 300s — to post a 39.03 in the event and a new MCL record, one of 3A’s best times this year by early May. “Oh yeah, it’s more tiring,” Newlan said of comparing the hurdling events. “You don’t have to have as much form. (The 110s), it’s more speed over the 300s, but it’s a lot tougher race, I think.”
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Charm of the Bullring L a CROSSE — It’s not the largest facility by any means. But the quaint charm emanating from the dirt oval could fool just about anyone. Maybe the bleachers need an overhaul, and perhaps a new fence should be in place in a few spots. But that charm, well, it has spectators overlooking any of the aforementioned drawbacks. Perhaps “drawback” isn’t even a fair word. Perhaps blemishes? Perhaps pock marks? Perhaps, well, maybe the most minuscule thing there is. Still, all that just adds to the uniqueness of Rush County Speedway, located on the northeast corner of La Crosse on the Rush County Fairgrounds. There aren’t a lot of races on the quartermile dirt track each season. But that just might make it one of the reasons why the track has earned raucous applause from drivers and fans alike. “We’re not doing a lot of racing this year, but we’re making it a place to go so people can get in and not spend a lot of money,” said track promoter Kyler Fetters, in his second year at the helm of the speedway. Fetters still is wet behind the years as far as promoting goes. He’s only 27 years old. But what he’s been able to supply the Rush County community with has well exceeded his 27 years on earth. The track has played host to numerous types of racing in its history, but the 305
NICK SCHWIEN, Sports Ink. Ty Williams competes during the cash dash during a race at Rush County Speedway last year in La Crosse.
sprint cars of the United Rebel Sprint Series have helped put it on the map the last few seasons. “I love being able to bring this to La Crosse and Rush County,” Fetters said. “The track set empty for 10 years. It’s a gamble every time we put on a race because the economy is tough. … We don’t have the seating capacity to make up money we might need at the
time. I have to praise our sponsors for helping us with that.” The URSS has seen some of its best action in its seven years at the quarter-mile track. That wild action, slicing and dicing, has helped bring about the track’s nickname — the Bullring. “I like the short tracks because the racing is always close,” said sprint car driver
Camaro Enough said.
Jason Martin, who won the two races in La Crosse last season and has spent time on the nationally recognized World of Outlaws traveling series. “No one can really run away and hide, and there’s usually an accident. And like at La Crosse, you can stand 10 feet away from the race track and feel the wind coming off the wing and the cars when they fly by.” Up close and personal. That’s the way the track makes fans and drivers feel. Many times in a URSS feature that includes 20 sprints, the front row will take the green flag to start the race while the back row is still a half lap behind at the Bullring. It’s basically dirt-track racing on a venue the size of something runners would compete on. “That place is just a neat race track,” said former URSS driver Corey Lutters. “And, it’s a great atmosphere. That’s what’s missing in a lot of places now.” The Bullring holds a special place in Lutters’ heart. Two seasons ago, the Ransom native who now lives near Kansas City earned a large Bullring bonus. That race featured sponsors ponying up an extra $100 per lap led by drivers, and Lutters led 24 laps to snag an extra $2,400 payout. It would have been an even $2,500, but Brian Herbert got by Lutters in the final half of a lap to earn the win. “I always thought it would be a great race to watch,” Lutters said. “I don’t ever remember them having a bad track there. The guys don’t prep week in and week out like they do at other places, just one time a year. But they do a great job.” Some of the 25-lap features even have gone caution free, meaning the yellow flag never waved to slow action. And for a quarter-mile track with constant passing, that’s quite an
A boy watches action as Judd Schaeffer (56) and Jason Martin (36) prepare to start a URSS 305 heat race last year.
accomplishment. The speedway hosts the Rebels on June 2 for the Montana Mike’s Bullring Shootout, the first time the URSS will compete on the track this year. Along with the sprint cars, flat-track motorcycles and quads will be competing, and Montana Mike’s Trackside Cafe will debut, featuring kabobs and low prices. While it might be small and food prices rival the track’s size, the action exceeds it.
“We spend a lot of time to make sure the track is prepared perfectly,” Fetters said. “It doesn’t fall apart, stays the same all night long. We have (not great) dirt, and we need different dirt to help out. And I don’t know if the drivers know what makes it so special. I’ve had drivers say if we raced every week, they’d be here. … Without the sprint cars, I’m not sure the La Crosse track would be what it is.” • NICK SCHWIEN, Sports Ink.
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Just a Minute with Nick McQueen
Wickham Phillipsburg sophomore
Q: You participate all year long, what has been your favorite sport? A: I would have to say basketball — the way the coach is, the way I play with the team. Everyone encourages each other, and we do what we need to do to get the job done. Q: You have two older brothers, how have they influenced your participation in athletics? A: My older brother was in basketball and helped me a lot. When I was a younger kid, we used to go out by the house and play. Then, the middle brother wrestled, and I wasn’t really into that. They drive me to be a little better. (Both Garrett and Gabe Wickham compete and are NAIA national qualifiers for the outdoor track and field team at Hastings College in Nebraska). Q: You’ve come on lately in the triple jump. What’s the secret to success in that event? A: I weight lift a lot to get my legs stronger. I’ve always been able to jump, and my older brother did triple jump in high school. That’s been my favorite event so far this year — with what my coach does to help me get better every day. Whatever he says to do, I’ll do it and continue to get better.
Q: When it comes to Phillipsburg, who comes to your mind when you think of good athletes — past or present? A: That’s a real good one. My Dad (Galen) did track when he was in high school. He did long and triple jump and was really good. Can’t really think of anyone off the top of my head. (Note: Wickham’s family has been in Phillipsburg for 35 years). Q: Your career is young, but is there a moment that stands out so far? A: When I was at Scott City, I tripled 43-10, and that’s been my best. That stands out, but I still want to get to 44 feet this year.
JB Covington Track & field, football coach
“Mirror” by Lil Wayne
“The Great White Wickham”
Q: Even as just a sophomore, is competing at the college level on your mind? A: Yeah, that’s on my mind. Right now, I’d like to get better and go into college and do the triple jump and long jump.
“Sexy and I know It”
“Mirror” by Lil Wayne
If he were a car, he would be a …
Q: What’s a typical summer workout for you? A: Usually from Monday to Thursday, I weight lift. Then, come harvest time, I work for a farmer. I’ll go harvest all day, then get up the next morning and do it again. But, I usually push myself to run every day during that time.
Q: On the track, what’s an advantage you have over the competition? A: I’m a little bit taller, got the longer legs to help keep going. Plus, good teammates on this team to encourage you to keep going.
What song do you think is on the top of is iPod playlist?
Ford F-250 Super Duty Pickup
Q: When you’re not competing in school, what do you like to do? A: Play basketball a lot. We play a lot in the summer time. That helps quite a bit.
Trey Ellis Phillipsburg sophomore
If he could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Q: What are your plans this summer? A: Lift as much as I can. Work, get stronger. Hopefully, next year when it comes track season, I can do better than I did this year.
Q: How did you get started in the triple jump? A: I was in seventh grade. I used to watch my older brother and thought that’s what I wanted to do in high school.
Garrett Wickham Oldest brother
Little Ford Ranger. (We’re a Ford family)
Big dually pickup
Say he gets his own TV show, what would it be called? “Little G’s Backwoods Fishing”
“The Wickham Fishing Channel”
If there was a movie about him, what actor would have to play that role? Larry the Cable Guy
Larry the Cable Guy
Outside of athletics, what talent could he win an award for? Wig Making
Acting like his older brothers
Hunting and fishing
A spattering from NW Kansas
Track meets have taken on a different meaning for Tyler Masters. A few years ago, Masters was one of the state’s best 400-meter runners, winning a Class 1A state title in 2007. In fact, he even has the school record at Natoma. But now Masters is on the other end, trying to help craft high-schoolers into someone who can break his mark. Masters now is an assistant track coach at his alma mater. At the Quinter Invitational in late April, Masters gave quick insights and advice to the 400-meter runners at the school, then watched as they went out and competed. Never once did he hold his breath hoping his record would stay intact. Instead, he’d be just as happy if he would coach someone who could do such a thing. Masters was one of the best 400 runners I’ve seen, and it’s only an added advantage the Tigers now have him on the staff to help. — N.S. In the April 2012 Sports Ink. issue, I wrote about Oakley senior Eric Albers, who won the Class 3-2-1A title at 160 pounds this winter and was the area’s lone undefeated wrestler. Albers was a terrific kid to talk with and his coaches called him a leader, one with a great work ethic. Albers’ goal was to fly planes for the military, especially the Air Force. When I first talked to him in late February, he hadn’t heard back from the Air Force yet on whether he gained admittance. Albers recently heard back and earned a seat to the Air Force Academy Prep School. He also will wrestle for the team. I love writing about great stories and people, and Albers is one of those. Congratulations, Eric, and good luck. — C.N. This year in the high school ranks, La Crosse’s Austin Webs reminds me a lot of myself when I was at Parkway North High School in St. Louis. Webs had to work hard to become a strong athlete and always looked to be a leader on the field and in the classroom. As well, Webs studies many topics, including high school sports statistics and trends, and is wellspoken. Other La Crosse athletes have been amazed with Webs’ knowledge of sports. Webs and I had similar body types in high school (I grew some in high school, but was 6-foot-2, 150 pounds when I graduated). He was a better athlete than I was — injuries cost me some in high school — but his knowledge and work ethic is similar to mine. When I was in high school, teammates would always ask about
NICK SCHWIEN, Sports Ink. Tyler Masters now is an assistant track coach at Natoma High School.
numbers and stats. I always knew – it was something that has come naturally to me and I enjoy it, even to this day. Webs, ACIDIZING
who will attend Kansas State University next year, is similar. He is another athlete I’ve really enjoyed covering. — C.N.
Northern Valley High School
Hays, a senior runner for the Huskies, finished third in last year's Class 1A state meet in the 3,200-meter run. Hays' best time this season came on May 10 when he won the Northern Plains League meet in Tescott with a season-best time of 10 minutes, 0.64 seconds. He won the event by more than 12 seconds. Hays also won the 1,600-meter run in a time of 4:35.53, his best time in the 1,600 this season entering the regional meet. Hays also ran a leg of the Huskies' 3,200-meter relay team this season.
email@example.com P.O. Box 466, Ness City, KS 67560
Office: 785.798.2300 Cell: 785-798-5341
Things dreams are made of
nce upon a time, there was a 7-year-old boy named Neal soon was to be seen on a bigger stage. who woke up on the first day of summer following his By the time he reached the collegiate level, he donned the gold and second-grade year of school. This was no ordinary day, navy of the Fighting Irish, his all-time favorite team. His heroics were though. Today, he was going to live like he never had before. It was not lacking there, either. Neal caught a 90-yard pass in the national title game one year, spiked the ball and was carried off the field by the first day of the rest of his life. As wide-eyed as he could be, the exuberant youngster was a poster all his teammates with thousands cheering his name. During one child for the freedom and playfullness we all wish we could return game against his team’s biggest rival, Neal broke nine tackles, twisted to at some point — with an imagination that ran wild. Today was no his ankle, but still got up to complete a 50-yard touchdown run off different. a pitch from his quarterback. The fan-favorite, Neal then entered the The first thing he did was strap on his football cleats, a youth size-5 NFL, getting a chance to play for his favorite team — the Pittsburgh pair of Nikes, probably a hand-me-down or Steelers. The Closer garage sale item — but his, nonetheless. And because he had enjoyed success at every level, Neal was a proven winner. His first season Next, he picked up his youth-sized Spalding, a plain brown football that had been scribin the NFL was no different. Neal put up videobled on with magic marker — a gold ND, and game type numbers, including 19 game-winning scores in various forms. During the Super a circle with three colored stars (red, blue and yellow to be exact). He headed to the backBowl his first season, Neal picked up a fumbled snap backed up against his own 1-yard line, and yard where he set up patio furntiture to signify the end zones. It would have to do for now before he could stake his ran it 99 yards for the score. It went down as one of the greatest plays in football history, and Neal’s iconic spike and drop to one knee still claim to fame on the gridiron. Little did he know, it was just a short is recognized as the greatest image of all time. time before all his dreams came true. First, it came at the high-school eight-man level. A star quarterback You’ve probably never heard of him, because it was time for lunch. Neal never left his backyard. and receiver in his hometown, Neal made more than a handful of But, no one can ever deny these events took place — Neal lived game-winning plays and guided his team to a win in every state more before lunch that day than most can hope to accomplish in championship game it played. He once threw a game-winning touchdown pass for a state title, then caught a game-winning pass to three lifetimes. Let that be a reminder to never underestimate the give his team another state crown. He also ran in a 70-yard score to imagination of a kid with a dream — or a writer’s recollection of those same events. help along the way. This was a common occurrence for Neal — and
Where It All Begins
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