Tucker finishes career with 11 medals
By KEVIN THOMPSON
By KEVIN THOMPSON
WICHITA — Two gold-medal performances highlighted the area boys competition on the final day of the state track meet at Cessna Stadium Saturday.
Heath Tucker of Holcomb celebrated his birthday by defending his title in the 300-meter hurdles in Class 3A.
And Wichita County surprised even themselves in winning the 4x800 relay.
Tucker began his 19th birthday with a third place in the 110-meter hurdles, running 15.53 seconds, his third straight year taking the bronze medal in that event.
In the long jump, his 19-7 wasn't enough to make the finals.
But the recent graduate made the day special by repeating as the winner of the 300-meter hurdles, a race he controlled from the start.
His 39.27 was slightly faster than his Friday prelim time, but slightly behind the 38.1 he won with last year.
Tucker got out of the blocks strong, and cleared each hurdle perfectly as he established a solid lead through the turn.
On the final two hurdles, though, he went wrong-foot over both and stumbled slightly after each, causing him to slow a bit and allowing the field to come back to him.
"I just tried to stay clean and keep everybody off me," he said. "The home stretch I opposite legged every time. It was kind of ugly, but I'll take the win."
Steps got in the way, he said, and that caused him to switch legs.
"Probably because I had more adrenalin today, so I was going faster through the hurdles," he explained.
"I get butterflies every time I run this race. It's a tough race. You've got to have guts to even finish it," he added. "It was really fun."
Tucker ended his high school career with a fourth place in the 200 meters (23.10), giving him 11 state medals in four years, four of them gold.
It was high drama for the Wichita County boys 4x800-meter relay team in Class 2A.
Not only did they win gold, they shaved 18 seconds off their season best time to run the best time in 2A state this year.
Jorge Gallegos, Layton Tankersly, Thomas Ridder and Josh Mehl stood atop the medal podium hoisting gold after running a dream race.
Gallegos opened and kept his team in the top pack, and Tankersly took them from fourth to first.
Ridder kept the shoulder-to-shoulder lead on his leg before handing off to the Mehl, who broke away on the last lap to give the Indians a state-best 8:09.80.
"My mentality was to go out there and run as hard as I could," Mehl said.
Tankersly separated himself from the pack with a strong second lap.
"I thought I might as well try to get in first place," he said of his 2:03 leg. "Coach always tells me I'm the one who has to push really hard at the end, so my last race I gave it my all."
Before the race, he said he wasn't sure they could do it, but lining up before the race, Tanksersly said they all had a feeling it would happen.
Gallegos said his job was to keep his team at the lead.
"I couldn't out-sprint them, but I felt really good. I was proud of how I finished," he said.
Ridder got passed on the back stretch but kept his pace for the final handoff.
"This feels great," he said.
Mehl said they thought that 8:15 would be a good time for them. They never expected what they got.
The same foursome set their personal best at regionals a week ago.
In the 4A 4x800 race, Scott City finished fourth in 8:13.51 and Hugoton fifth in 8:20.29.
Scott City's Brett Meyer fulfilled a dream, to beat his older brother Joey's time in the 800 meters and win a medal.
His 1:57.47 was good enough for fourth, and he beat his brother's time from a year ago.
He also ran a 1:57 as the first leg in the 4x800 relay earlier in the day.
The pace was fast, as the leaders made the first lap in 57 seconds. But Meyer found himself boxed in going into the second turn, and that cost him some time.
"I had to sprint around on my first lap, which killed me," he said.
Meyer said he had a great start, but found himself forced into lane one after the group broke in.
He had to make up time on the final backstretch to move up to fourth after getting backed into seventh with 200 meters to go.
"I felt I was in good shape. I just had to dig deep," he said.
He also anchored the final race, the 4x400 relay that finished fourth, alongside reley teammates Brayden Strine, Drake McRae and Wyatt Kropp.
Hugoton finished sixth and Holcomb was eighth in 3A.
South Gray's Jake Peters repeated as runner-up in the 2A discus.
His throw of 159 was behind Lyndon's Joe Walsh's 165-03.
Peters' third and final throw of the prelims of 157 feet got him into the final group, and it was his final throw that sealed second place.
"To win, it would have taken my best throw," he said. "I've had a 170, but I haven't been throwing close to that since I hit it. This is the best I've done since the 170, though."
He threw 158 last year. The junior still has another year.
"I want to win both next year," he said, referring to his runner-up finish in the shot put Friday.
His teammate Ryan Griebel finished second in the 300 hurdles by the closest of margins. His time of 40.85 seconds lost by just .01 seconds.
Ulysses' Tregg Rodriguez went 6-4 in the high jump to place sixth. Teammate Ian Rudzik finished fifth in the discus at 158-11.
The boys 4x100 relay team of Kyler Barlow, Juan Anguiano, Jacob Irvin and Rudzik finished fourth in 43.76 seconds, just .39 seconds out of first.
Sergio Trejo of Greeley County medaled eighth in the 1A 1,600 meters, as did Mehl in 2A. Isaac Castro of Hugoton finished eighth in 4A.
Holcomb finished third in the 3A 4x400 (3:31.44), Wichita County fifth in 2A (3:37.00) and Satanta fourth in 1A (3:33.39).
The Deerfield boys medaled seventh in the 1A 4x100 relay (45.39 seconds), while Ulysses finished fourth in 4A (43.76).
Area placers in the 800 meters besides Meyer were Jose Garcia of Satanta in fourth, and Mehl and Holcomb's Logan Flores, both eighth.
Marc Skipper of Deerfield and Lance Edmondson of Ingalls were fifth and eighth in the 1A 400 meters, respectively.
Sky Davis of Sublette finished fifth in the 100 meters.