Right on track
unior Katie Dukes earns medal with 7th-place finish at state
In each of the last two seasons, Basehor-Linwood junior Katie Dukes has walked away from the state track meet disappointed.
As a freshman in 2001, Dukes qualified for state in the shot put only to miss the finals.
A year ago, Dukes reached the finals but failed to earn a medal, finishing 11th in the final field of 16.
This year Dukes again qualified for the state meet, but this time she made the most of her trip to Wichita as she finished seventh and earned the first point for the BLHS track team at state in several years.
"After I had medaled I was just so happy I couldn't believe it," Dukes said. "I don't think it hit me until the next morning, but just being there and getting something for the team meant a lot to me."
Of course, it meant a lot to get something for herself, too.
When Dukes entered high school, BLHS track coach Paul Brown saw something special in her. Brown knew that if she worked hard enough, Dukes could one day become a state champion. And now with three chapters of her high school career in the books, Brown said Dukes is right on pace to achieve the ultimate.
"I'm very pleased with Katie's performance," Brown said. "She medaled and scored a team point, and that's a step up for her. After the meet I told her that she has a chance to do something special next year, but that it's going to take a lot of hard work and dedication."
As the sister of a former state champion in wrestling, Dukes knows all about hard work and dedication. In fact, Dukes' brother, 2002 state wrestling champ Matt, helped her get ready for this year's state meet.
"Before I went down there Matt gave me a huge pep talk about not letting anything stand in my way," Dukes said. "He's prepared me well, and now I'm just going to hit the weights harder than ever and see what happens."
The first two throws of the day for Dukes were nothing special. They were consistent and right around the 35-foot mark, but in an event where the winner threw 43 feet, 10 inches, 35 was not overwhelming.
But because of her consistency, Dukes was able to stretch her third throw -- 35 feet, 9 inches -- into a seventh place medal.
"Katie had a good series of throws over a three-day period," Brown said. "She's thrown further than 35-9, but that was all it took for her to reach her goal."
The Bobcats sent two other competitors to Wichita last weekend. Although neither of them cracked the top seven, both performed well and enjoyed the experience.
Senior pole vaulter Brian Fish finished 11th in extremely difficult conditions. Because the temperature on the stadium floor was in the upper 90s, the heat was hard on the athletes and hard on the equipment. Brown said Fish probably should've used a stiffer pole, but that he still gave it a great shot.
Fish cleared 12 feet and went out on an attempt of 12 feet, 6 inches.
"Brian knew the competition would be tough and he knew he'd have to be at his best to medal," Brown said. "He's definitely capable of it, he just didn't get it done that day."
Another Bobcat capable of medaling was junior hurdler Ryan Robinson.
Robinson ran a time of just more than 16 seconds in the 110-meter hurdles and failed to qualify for the finals, but Brown said experiencing the meet was worth the trip for Robinson.
"The state meet can be overwhelming, so I think it was neat for him to see that if he had run his best he could've placed," Brown said. "That experience is invaluable and I think Ryan might be one of the best hurdlers in the area a year from now. He's only going to get better."
And with two returning state qualifiers in 2004, it looks like the same can be said about the BLHS team.