Braves gain experience, little else, at state meet
Just the thought of it can be intimidating.
Widely known as the largest high school track meet in the nation, the Kansas all-classes state track and field meet at Cessna Stadium on the campus of Wichita State University is a site to see.
If not for the sheer size of the stadium and the crowds it houses, for the site of the best athletes the state has to offer.
From sprinters who appear blurry even while standing still, to hurdlers and high jumpers with legs as powerful as machines, the state track meet is the place to be for the "who's who" of high school track.
Whether they're highly touted seniors who own national marks, or green freshmen aghast by what they see, they're all there with one goal in mind. That goal is to win a state title, and last weekend 12 of Bonner Springs' bravest gave it their best shot.
The team traveled to Wichita on Thursday, all part of coach Jim Mitchell's plan to give his young squad a chance to warm up to the idea of competing on the state's biggest stage.
But by Friday, Mitchell said he could tell his team was awestruck.
"It's state," Mitchell said. "It should mean something. And I think some of our guys had their eyes opened a little bit. We practiced there on Thursday, that way they could at least walk in to the competition on Friday saying they'd been there before. But there were definitely nerves."
And it showed.
Of the six events that featured a Bonner Springs qualifier, none qualified for the finals.
Freshman high jumper Christina Delladio had the distinguished privilege of being the only Bravette to qualify for state.
By clearing 5 feet at the regional meet, Delladio entered state with an outside shot -- and hope -- of cracking the top seven and bringing home a medal.
Had it not been for a sprained ankle she suffered on Thursday night, she might have.
As it turned out, Delladio cleared the opening mark of 4 feet, 8 inches and exited the competition at 4-foot-10.
While Delladio made her first of what will surely be four appearances at the state meet, a few Braves were there for the final time.
Seniors Kenny Mack, Matt Middleton and Everett Shepherd all made the 2004 state track meet their swan song, not just for track and field but for competition as Braves.
Mack, who ran the lead leg of the 4x100-meter relay race helped the Braves place 14th in the prelims with a time of 45.82 seconds.
Mack was joined by Will Davis, Anthony Brown and Chris Callahan and together the quartet ran about a second slower than they normally had.
"That surprised me," Mitchell said. "I thought they had an outside shot of finishing strong. But that just shows how tough it is to compete down there."
Shepherd, who finished strong with a sub-11-minute 3,200-meter run, finished 16th overall, leaving a sweet taste in the mouth of Mitchell and his staff.
"There are always silver linings in track," Mitchell said. "And Everett finishing with a time under 11 minutes was great."
If last weekend's meet signified the flickering out of Shepherd's torch, a trio of young distance runners were right there to keep it blazing.
Josh McConico, Solomon Bennett and Dylan Tuckel all joined Middleton on the 4x800-meter relay team that finished 16th with a time of 9:14.57.
While the rest of the group was able to see the silver linings Mitchell spoke of, the team's two throwers left disappointed.
Junior javelin thrower Christian McDonald and sophomore discus thrower Emanuel McComb both had high expectations for this year's meet.
McComb entered the meet as a returning state medalist. He left looking for answers.
Fortunately, Mitchell had a few.
"Emanuel had his best series of throws of the entire season," Mitchell said. "I don't think that means much to him now, and I know he's disappointed. But that's something to be proud of."
McComb's three throws all hovered around the 130-foot mark. Twice he threw past the 131-foot mark, including his best of the day, a throw that sailed 131 feet, 2 inches.
McDonald's disappointment came from what could have been, not necessarily what was.
Although McDonald ripped off three respectable throws near 140 feet, -- including his top throw of 148 feet, 9 inches -- his season-best would've earned him second place.
"It's there," Mitchell said. "If Christian would've matched his best throw of the year, he would've gotten second place. So it's there. But you just never know when it's going to show up."
For the Braves, the answer was not this year. But with the experienced they gained and they talent they have coming back, Mitchell is certain that next season will be a different story.
"A lot of those athletes had never been to a meet this big," Mitchell said. "So it was kind of overwhelming. But it was a good experience, they had a good time and I'm looking forward to working with them next year."