Beneath the wilting Friday sun, Heritage Christian's Ryan Hurley ran to a third in the 1A 800. Photo by Alan Versaw.
One thing was apparent going into the state meet; it was going to take an enormous effort to overcome the depth of Heritage Christian in 1A boys.
The enormous effort came on cue from Bethune but it still came up short. The numbers from Heritage Christian were unrelenting, and eventually those numbers did in even a spectacular effort from the Bobcats of Bethune. The outcome was in doubt all the way down to the final event, but an eighth for Bethune and a third for Heritage Christian put the first-place trophy in the hands of Heritage Christian.
Clearly, HCA found the right formula. Heritage Christian managed to score in 10 of the 18 contested events, but ended up first only in the 4x200. It wasn't the 10s that made them champions, it was the steady production of 5s, 6s, and 7s that did the trick.
Matthew McGinley had a second and two thirds in the 100, 200, and 400. Joel Barreras, Jake Huebner, and Ryan Hurley each placed in multiple events as well. The relays added a handful more participants into the team's title picture. All this from a school which recently dropped baseball and took on track and cross country this school year to provide opportunity for the dwindling number of students enrolling in the school. All this from a school that will struggle to reach this level again next year as most of the point-producing talent graduates in a few days.
As much as Heritage Christian's story is one of triumph of a few willing individuals, that is the story out of Bethune as well. Bethune is just off of I-70, a little before you reach Burlington on your way to Kansas. The past two years Bethune brought solid teams to the 1A state meet, but were done in by the overwhelming power of Walsh.
All season long, Bethune has been producing results way out of proportion to the size of their school--one of the smallest track and field schools in the state. It was no different on Saturday.
John Strobel picked up wins in both hurdle events and tied for third in the high jump. John Griffin threw the discus 136-8 to snag a third. Alex Duarte added a second in the 1600 to his first in the 3200 from Thursday. Cole Koepke and Justin Seamans added points in the 3200 and 800 and took legs on a state-champion 4x800 meter relay team.
All of this had tiny Bethune very much in the hunt, but without enough gas left in the tank to get it done in the meet's final event, the 4x400.
McClave, Elbert, and Holly each were able to keep in close as well. In the end, however, none had as many guys suited up at the state meet as Heritage Christian, and that superiority in numbers eventually wore down the resistance.
Along the way to the meet's dramatic conclusion, several new 1A state meet records were established. Among those were an 11.19 for McClave's Gabe Longworth in the 100, a 50.55 for Longworth in the 400 (Longworth, incidentally, is only a sophomore this year), a 4:43.68 for Holly's Manuel Tarango in the 1600, a 10:14.48 for Alex Duarte in the 3200, a 13-6 for Vail Christian's Mack Cooper in the pole vault, a 21-3 for Kit Carson's Alberto Gutierrez in the long jump, and a 43-10.25 for Stratton's Kyle English in the triple jump (like Longworth, English is also a sophomore).
Judging by the number of seniors on their roster, Heritage Christian will not enter next year as a favorite to retain their state title, but these young men have certainly enjoyed a most unlikely first and (likely) last season of track and field.