By MIKE COURSON
Great Bend Post
Great Bend and Kapaun Mt. Carmel. The drama worked in favor of the Lady Panthers last year. A split-second, come-from-behind win in the final race of the 2022 season propelled Great Bend past the Crusaders for second place in Class 5A. That was not the case in 2023. After beating Kapaun by a single point last year, Great Bend came up a point shy of the Crusaders for a third-place finish at the KSHSAA State Track and FIeld Championships Saturday in Wichita.
Kapaun led Great Bend by four points Saturday evening. The Crusaders, however, did not advance to the 4x400m finals. A top-four finish for Great Bend would have again secured the second-place trophy. The team of Sadie Spray, Eliana Beckham, Daizy Gomez, and Makenzie Premer ran its best time of 4:04 in Friday's prelims. Saturday, the team ran a 4:07.32 for sixth place, picking up three points. The girls finished 0.02 seconds behind fifth-place Blue Valley Southwest that would have garnered another point. Only two teams in the finals field ran under 4:06.
The weekend did have its highlights, however. Early Saturday morning, senior Valarie Luna won the 5A title in the high jump by clearing the bar at 5-6. The school-record holder at 5-7, she just missed her final attempt at 5-8. Two big points were lost on a single jump at 5-4 when Spray missed her first attempt and Hays sophomore Katie Linenberger made it over. The pair stayed at 5-4 and Spray finished third. Cassie Ellegood finished 10th in the field.
Premer and Spray did all they could in the 300m hurdle finals. Hutchinson's Annalisa Cullens was denied a third-title in the 100s after an ugly fall, but was still a favorite in the 300s. She won in 45.43, followed by Premer in 46.66 for the silver, and Spray in 47.34 for the bronze.
The junior Beckham picked up crucial points in the 800m run with a fifth-place finish. She ran a personal best of 2:21.52 to miss fourth place by half a second. Freshman Sienna Smith ran 13th in the field.
The 4x800m relay proved extra crucial with Kapaun in the mix for big points. The Crusaders ran third in 9:36.99, followed by Great Bend's team of Premer, Beckham, Smith, and Addy Nicholson in 9:41.88 for fourth, even after breaking a 25-year-old GBHS record.
The 1600m race featured two of the top-10 all-class times this spring. Nicholson ran seventh in 5:22.16. Kapaun freshman Taylor Barringer secured fourth place by less than half a second to keep that extra point. Nicholson ran her best time of the season in Friday's 3200m run to place fourth in 11:38.38, six seconds out of third place.
The javelin proved to be another crucial event for Great Bend with no Kapaun throwers in the mix. Junior Macy Nachtigal finished seventh at 124-10 to miss another point by just six inches. Senior Kyndall Blessing placed 12th on a throw of 113-1.
Great Bend's 4x100m relay team of Premer, Gomez, Spray, and Luna finished 11th in Friday's prelims in 50.71, missing a spot in the finals by less than half a second.
St. James Academy won the 5A team title with 81 points. Kapaun followed with 52 points, and Great Bend brings home hardware with 51 points. DeSoto scored 41 points for fourth.