ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro High School track team finished its remarkable season with a boys’ team championship crown this weekend in Wichita.
The Trojan boys finished with 50 points and a 15-point edge over second-place Minneapolis. The girls managed only seven team points and finished well back in the pack.
Fueling the boys’ title were two first-place performances from senior hurdler Ryan Jilka and one from sophomore Alan Yoder in the long jump. Yoder added a fourth-place finish in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.42.
Jilka overcame a slow start in the preliminaries on Friday to win the highs in a time of 14.93. He completed the sweep with a winning time of 39.07 in the intermediates.
“When people come to watch the state championships, there are always a handful of athletes from different towns and different classifications that people sit up and take notice,” head coach Dennis Boldt said. “Ryan is one of those athletes. They know when he gets into the blocks, he is the favorite to win, and there is always a chance of a record-setting time.
“He handled what must be considered the most extreme pressure in athletic competition very well. He was the favorite, he was the focus, and he stepped up and met the challenge.”
Jilka’s wins came on a solid Saturday of competition for Hillsboro. Yoder’s winning leap of 22-11/2 in the long jump was easily the high point of a difficult first day of competition for the Trojans on Friday.
Scott Winter, who had qualified in three throwing events, finished in seventh place in the discus (147-2) and eighth place in the shot put (48-21/2) with throws well below his season’s best. On Saturday, he placed eighth in javelin with a throw of 168-0.
“Scott was disappointed in his throws,” Boldt said of the senior. “That just shows how much of a competitor Scott Winter has become. I couldn’t have asked for any more from a young man the past two years. He is a team leader and just an exceptional young person.”
Heartache followed Sheldon Funk into the boys’ pole vault. The school record holder at 14-0, Funk was eliminated from the competition after missing all three attempts at the opening height of 12-0.
“Once a competitor misses a first attempt, he tends to tighten up because the pressure is on,” Bold said. “He worked through it at least three times in regionals to place second, but today wasn’t his day. He is determined to come back next year, and I know that he will.”
Boldt said pressure to win the team title may have fed the first-day jitters.
“I felt the guys put too much pressure on themselves and came out tight,” he said. “It showed in many of our field events and our running preliminaries. But on Saturday they relaxed and started having fun.”
Even Saturday wasn’t fun for everyone. After easily qualifying in the 100-meter high hurdles on Friday, Andrea Peachey caught her foot on the second hurdle in Saturday’s final and fell to the track. She had brought the state’s fastest time of the season into the competition.
A similar fate had fallen on her primary competition, Alexis Soller of Hesston, who tripped in the preliminaries and did not qualify for the finals.
“The crowd did not see two of the best hurdlers today,” Boldt said. “People who have never competed in track and field could not even fathom the disappointment she felt after that race. She is absolutely the most aggressive competitor we have and she is already determined to return next year.”
Aaron Yoder kicked off the Saturday schedule of events by competing in the 3,200 meters. The freshman standout finished 10th in a time of 10:21.46. Later the same day, he ran 4:35.58 in the 1,600 meters to finish third.
Finishing behind him and out of the money in the 1,600 were teammates Pete Richert, who placed 11th in 4:48.89, and Garrett Call, who finished 14th in 5:18.74.
“It is really special to have three people qualify in one event,” Boldt said. “I felt that Aaron and Pete ran an exceptionally good race today. Garrett saw his position and cruised in, knowing he had an 800-meter to run in a few hours.”
Saving that energy paid off for Call, who ran his 800 in 1:59.1, breaking the school record set by Tim Hodge in 1994. He led the field on the second lap before finishing third.
“Garrett Call’s performance was the absolute epitome of our season.” Boldt said. “He finished with a personal-best and school-record time. I truly believe he must be considered as the most overachieving individual I have ever had the privilege to coach.”
Shannon Kroeker’s finish in the girls’ 800 meters wasn’t quite as satisfying. The junior standout completed the two-lap race in 2:29.92, which placed her ninth in the field and more than six seconds slower than her qualifying time at regionals a week earlier.
The Trojans had qualified three relays, one for the boys and two for the girls.
The boys’ 4×800 team of Adam Jilka, Daniel Yoder, Aaron Yoder and Call finished fourth in 8:20.04.
The girls’ 4×800 team of Julie Hett, Katie Fast, Alisa Jost and Shannon Kroeker finished third in a season-best time of 10:03.26.
The girls’ 4×400 team of Jessica Boese, Alisa Jost, Kroeker and Hett finished sixth in a season-best 4:12.17.
The two relays marked the end of an outstanding track career for Hett. The 4×400 marked the senior’s fourth state appearance in that event and her seventh medal overall.
“It is always difficult for the senior athletes when the competition is over because they know that it is their last,” Boldt said. “It truly sets in that they will begin a new chapter in their lives. Julie Hett has given much to this program and she will be greatly missed.”
Rounding out the competition for the girls’ team was Trista Hanley, who threw 32-0 in the shot put in the preliminaries and did not qualify for the finals.
“It is her first year and it is always the most difficult,” Boldt said. “She didn’t have her best day, but when she returns next year, she will appreciate the experience of the competition.”
By season’s end, the Trojan boys and girls combined for an unprecedented 12 new school records this season, 10 by the boys’ team. The boys’ team finished undefeated for the season.