By William / www.mcpherson-county-ks.com
LINDSBORG – In the spring of 2021, the Smoky Valley track/field team had many successful stories including winning the Class 3A Girls State Championship, having four individual state champions and earning the 2021 Track/Field Coach of the Year honors for head coach Jay Myers.
Coach Myers will be in his 29th season working with the Viking track/field program and his 16th season as the head coach.
Besides Coach Myers being named as the 2021 Coach of the Year by the Kansas Cross Country and Track/Field Coaches Association, two Viking assistants earned honors as well with both Chuck Peters and Christine Deterding awarded Assistant Coach of the Year for Pole Vault and Distances, respectively.
Looking ahead to the 2022 season, Coach Myers is anticipating as many as 28 boys and 25 girls pushing for spots on a team that includes 24 returning letter winners, 14 for the Viking boys and 10 for the state champion Lady Vikings.
Among the returnees, Smoky Valley will have five Viking boys who placed in an event at the state meet while the Lady Vikings will have five who placed in 11 events at the state meet and earned seven gold medals to go along with one silver and one bronze.
Gracie Lambert led the Lady Vikings in 2021 with three gold medals at State in the 800 meters, and both the 4×400 and 4×800 meter relays plus placing seventh as part of the Smoky Valley girls 4×100 meter relay.
Abby Rose and Keira Mullen also return from the state champion 4×400 and 4×800 meter relay teams while Rose also earned a silver in the 400 meters. And do not forget Breanne Peters, who as just a freshman, earned one medal and three placings at state with a third place in the pole vault, a sixth place in the 100 meters and a seventh-place finish as part of the 4×100 meter relay quartet.
According to Coach Myers, the stronger girls teams in the Central Kansas League for 2022 will be Hesston, Hoisington, Halstead, Larned, and Pratt while potential state contenders include Eureka, Colby, Chaparral, Anderson County, Phillipsburg, Riley County, and Norton.
Top returnees for the Viking boys include junior Tytus Reed, plus seniors Garrett Huffman, and Justice Gardner who were three of the four members of the fifth-place state finishing 4×800 meter relay team, while junior Wyatt Johnson ran a leg on the ninth-place state finishing team in the 4×400 meters.
Hesston, Halstead, Hoisington, and Hillsboro appear to be the stronger boys teams in the league while Southeast of Saline will be the heavy favorite to repeat as Class 3A state champions though Coach Myers sees challenges from Girard, Perry/Lecompton, Silver Lake, and Scott City.
Here is a summary of the Viking Boys and Lady Viking 2022 track/field teams:
LADY VIKINGS TRACK:
Top Returnees (10):
- Return 10 letter winners that include 3 sophomores, 3 juniors, and 4 seniors.
- Clara McElroy – a sophomore running sprints, hurdles, relays and doing jumping events.
- Keira Mullen – a sophomore running sprints, relays, middle distances and throwing the javelin; member of State Champion 4×400 meter and 4×800 meter relay teams.
- Breanne Peters – a sophomore running sprints, relays and doing jumping events and pole vault; placed 3rd at State in pole vault; placed 6th at State in 100 meters; placed 7th at State in 4×100 relay.
- Gabby Behanna – a junior running sprints and doing jumping events.
- Kenzie Franklin – a junior running sprints and doing jumping events and throwing the javelin.
- Noelle Peters – a junior running sprints, relays and doing jumping events and pole vault; placed 7th at State in the 4×100 meter relay.
- Aubrey Boldra – a senior doing jumping and throwing events.
- Gracie Lambert – a senior running sprints, middle distances, and relays; State Champion in the 800 meters, 4×400 meter relay, and 4×800 meter relay; placed 7th at State in the 4×100 meter relay.
- Lydia Peterson – a senior running hurdles and doing jumping events.
- Abby Rose – a senior running sprints, middle distances, and relays; State Champion in the 4×400 meter relay and 4×800 meter relay; placed 2nd at State in the 400 meters.
2021 Seniors Lost to Graduation:
- McKinley Johnson, Belle Peters, Ellise Peterson, Kajsa Peterson, Ileia Wampler.
- Belle Peters was State Champion in the pole vault and accounted for 38 of the team’s 85 points at the 2021 state meet. Now competes at Pittsburgh State.
- Kajsa Peterson, and McKinley Johnson were part of the 4×400 meter and 4×800 meter State Champion relay teams.
2022 Season Outlook for Lady Vikings:
- Return three of four members of State Champion 4×400 and 4×800 relay teams.
- Returns five Lady Vikings that placed or have won state titles in five different events.
- Return 10 letter winners from 2021 Class 3A State Champion team.
Coach Jay Myers Reflections for 2022:
“We are excited about the potential with the returning letter winners, and we have had several who competed in the past but not in 2021 that are returning again to the track – so that will be a plus as well.”
“While we will have a few with team experience opting out for the 2022 season, we don’t dwell on them and move along to develop the ones we do have out.”
“What we have is exciting as our girls have won the league title three years in a row and were undefeated last season on their way to the Lady Vikings 3rd State Championship in school history.”
“We do have some firepower returning and we are upbeat and looking forward to working with our freshmen and see the potential to provide help at the varsity level with several of them.”
“Our Lady Vikings broke five Central Kansas League records at meets last year, including Gracie (Lambert) in the 800 meters, and three of the four members of the record setting 4×400 meter and 4×800 relay teams in Gracie (Lambert), Keira (Mullen), and Abby (Rose). Gracie also holds the school record in the 800 meters.”
Lady Viking School Records set in 2021:
- High Hurdles = Belle Peters, a senior, ran a 14.39 breaking the 1998 record of 14.90 by Mary Ruggiero.
- Pole Vault = Belle Peters, a senior, vaulted 13’3” breaking the 2018 record she held of 12’10”.
- 800 Meters = Gracie Lambert, a junior, ran a 2:16.11 breaking the 1979 record of 1:18.10 held by Debi Pihl.
- 4×800 Meters = Quartet of McKinley Johnson, Keira Mullen, Abby Rose, and Gracie Lambert ran a 9:45.14 breaking the 2014 record of 10:01.63 held by Emily Deterding, Sophia Peterson, Allison Rose, and Telea Peterson.
VIKING BOYS TRACK
Top Returnees (14):
- Returns 14 letter winners that include 2 sophomores, 9 juniors, and 3 seniors.
- Ki Blanchat – a sophomore running sprints; State participant in the 400 meter and 4×400 meter relay events; finished 9th at State in 4×400 meter relay.
- Samuel Peterson – a sophomore running distance.
- Jerome Autry – a junior running sprints, relays, and doing jumping events.
- Justice Autry – a junior running sprints, relays, and doing jumping events.
- Zach Gross – a junior running sprints, and relays.
- Justin Holt – a junior doing throwing events.
- Wyatt Johnson – a junior running sprints and relays; State participant in the 4×400 meter relay; finished 9th at State in 4×400 relay.
- Mason Morel – a junior doing throwing events.
- Vincent Pickering – a junior running sprints, middle distances, hurdles, and relays; doing jumping events.
- Karson Pihl – a junior running sprints, middle distances, and relays; injured in 2021 season.
- Tytus Reed – a junior running sprints, middle distances, and relays; (State participant in the 4×400 meter and 4×800 meter relays; finished 5th at State in 4×800 relay.
- Lukas Apel – a senior running sprints, middle distances, and relays; injured for second-half of 2021 season.
- Justice Gardner – a senior running middle distances, relays, and distance; finished 5th at State in 4×800 relay.
- Garret Huffman – a senior running middle distances, distance, and relays; finished 5th at State in 4×800 relay.
2021 Seniors Lost to Graduation:
- Ryan Heline, Stephen Peterson, and Kort Sjogren.
- All three placed at state in various events and were leaders in practice and at meets.
2022 Season Outlook for the Viking boys:
- Strong class of junior returning.
- Should be competitive in the relays, middle distances, and long distances while we are expecting growth from our returning throwers.
- In 2021 the Viking boys were 4th in the Central Kansas League despite some injury issues.
- In 2021 the Viking boys tied for 22nd at the Class 3A State Meet with Council Grove.
- Both the 4×400 meter and 4×800 meter relays placed 5th at state in 2021.
Coach Jay Myers Reflections for 2022:
“We are looking for this year’s bunch to step up and I have enjoyed the spirit and work habits of our guys.”
“We have had a few new guys come out that may be able to add some depth and help the team.”
“We have some holes to fill in two of the relays but see some potential in non-lettermen and should also get some help from incoming freshmen with intense competition for positions in most of the running events.”
“We will need to continue to develop our vaulters, jumpers, sprinters, and hurdlers with the potential of doing so existing in most of those areas.”
(William is a free-lance writer covering McPherson County Activities – he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)