Improved confidence for Track and Field teams this spring


Photo courtesy Ryan Prickett, FHSU Athletics

The Fort Hays track and field teams have had a solid start to their indoor season after six meets. Coming into the season the men’s team ranked fifth in the MIAA and the women sixth. Between the two teams, 10 returning athletes earned all-conference honors last year during the indoor season, while 13 have earned all-American honors during their overall career.

“Last year was a very good year for us,” said head coach Jason McCullough. “We had four all-Americans indoors and 14 outdoors. It’s carried over to this year as far as the confidence and performances. We’ve started out really strong here with our first three or four meets, and right now we’re ranked 8th on the men’s side and 16th on the women’s side [in the U.S Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association]. We’re doing really well and just trying to keep everybody healthy.”

Leading the Tigers are reigning national champions Alexandra Hart and Ryan Stanley. Hart won the indoor high jump national championship last season, along with both the indoor and outdoor conference championships. Her jumps of 6’0’’ during the indoor season and 5’9.75” during the outdoor season are both school records.

“I would say I’m more determined to get back to where I was last season. I feel like I did pretty well, so I’m just trying to get back to accomplishing hopefully the same thing this year,” Hart said.

Stanley is a four-time all-American. He won his national championship during the outdoor season last year in the pole vault, with a mark of 17’2.75’’, a school record. He also held the indoor school record which was 16’11.5’ prior to breaking the mark this weekend with a jump of 17’1.75”.  

“My mindset is definitely just to continue improving and work on little technical things. Our [pole vault] coach Randy Stanley has a lot of big goals for us, and to accomplish them it’s going to take focusing on technique.” Stanley said. “The men’s pole vault squad has the goal to be the best in the nation and that comes through just helping each other and encouraging each other throughout the season.”

Stanley also added that his personal goal is to do well this indoor season and win his first conference championship. Last season he placed second with his then school record of 16’11.5”.

Two other standouts for the Tigers are Mattie Rossi and Taylor Savolt. Last year Rossi was an all-conference honoree in both the indoor and outdoor seasons. She was on the 4x400m team that placed third at the outdoor meet, and she placed second in heptathlon at the outdoor meet. She also placed ninth in the heptathlon at the outdoor national meet.

“This year I’m just looking to qualify for nationals. I want to make it in the pentathlon, and I’m looking to score and place in conference in the 60m hurdles, and just put together a really good indoor season and hopefully carry that to the outdoor season,” Rossi said.

Savolt, like Rossi, also ran on the 4x400m relay team last season, earning her an all-conference honor. She also placed fourth in the heptathlon at the outdoor conference meet last season

“I’m trying to accomplish some new PR’s in all my events,” Savolt said. “I want to be able to hit some of those provisional marks that are going to get me to nationals, and be successful there, and hit some good marks, even with the higher level of competition.”

Recently, the women’s 4x400m team of Rossi, Savolt, Lyric Holman, and Chloe Stanley placed first at the Washburn Open on January 29. Their time of 3:51.23 is now the indoor school record.

“That was really exciting for us,” Savolt said. “We were trying to hit the provisional, which is 3:52, so we were just trying to do the very best we could. It was kind of an odd race, it felt kind of weird, but when we finished he told us that we actually got the school record too, so that was kind of the icing on the cake.”

“Now that we have a few more meets left and a few more opportunities to run, I think that we’ll only get faster and stronger as we keep going throughout the season,” Rossi added.

All four athletes said that they are looking forward to the competition and being around their teammates the most.

“Honestly just competing in general, being around all my friends on the team, and hanging out with everyone every day is pretty fun, so that’s what I’m looking forward to the most,” Hart said.

“I’m definitely looking forward to conference, and then potentially vaulting at nationals with some of my teammates along with me,” Stanley said.

As for improvement, McCullough said that his athletes are believing in themselves more this season.

“I think the big difference is just the confidence, knowing that they belong at this level, and knowing that they can compete with everyone in our conference and on the national level,” McCullough said. “We have a lot of people in the top five and top ten nationally right now, so I think they’re going out and competing and doing well with that confidence.”

With three meets left until the indoor conference championship, the teams are focused on either qualifying for nationals or performing to get a higher seed at the conference meet.

“It’s just about performing during these meets and then getting ready for the conference and national meets,” McCullough said. “We just need to continue this confidence and continue working hard towards the outdoor season as well.”

The Tigers continue their indoor season at the Indoor Gorilla Classic in Pittsburg on Friday and Saturday.

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