Lions enjoy exciting finish

LHS girls relays win silver, bronze; Free State's Toussaint third in 400

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Unlike the previous 24 hours, there was no gold rush by the two city schools Saturday at the Kansas Relays.

Instead, Lawrence High and Free State High embraced solid showings, including personal and school bests, to close a strong weekend at Memorial Stadium.

"We broke three school records and medaled in 11 events," LHS coach Scott Stidham said. "That's a lot of medals coming home from the Kansas Relays. If you medal here, you've accomplished a lot."

The Lions turned in the day's top city finish long before the high-profile GoldZone 2. Three Taylors - Allyson, Kristi and Jennifer - teamed with Liz Beisner to win the silver medal in the girls sprint medley relay in a time of 4 minutes, 19.04 seconds.

Some of those same faces turned up again in the final girls event of the day when LHS won bronze in the 1,600-meter relay.

"It's a pretty exciting experience," said Kristi Taylor, a sophomore who also placed seventh in the 400. "Three 400s in a day, it's pretty tough. But I made it happen."

The LHS boys didn't miss out, clocking 43.54 to finish fourth in the 400 relay.

"We're happy about how we finished," senior Nathan Hickey said. "We still know we have a lot more potential, and we can do better. We still have to drop some time in the events to come."

Free State enjoyed strong individual efforts. The best came from junior Keron Toussaint, who, despite missing practice all week because of a tender hamstring, came on strong in the homestretch to win the bronze medal in the boys 400 in 49.73 - the top time by a Kansan this year.

"From being a freshman running here to being a junior now, I feel like I've improved a lot. I'm proud of what I ran today," Toussaint said. "I have ... some confidence (but) I feel somewhere down the road I have to run faster to win state."

FSHS senior Alysha Valencia topped off a busy weekend with a fourth-place finish in the 1,600. She turned the four laps in 5:08.82, nine seconds behind winner Laura Roxberg of Blue Valley Northwest.

"I'm not too bummed," Valencia said. "I'm not excited about it. I know it wasn't one of my best races. My legs ... I just couldn't get them up. They felt heavy.

"I would definitely say this is one of the best meets I've had, and it feels good."

Free State coach Steve Heffernan agreed.

"Overall, I think just about every kid came in here and was really ready for the environment and the atmosphere and performed really well," Heffernan said. "Too often the atmosphere in the past has overwhelmed us."

LHS and Free State now must work out the kinks before the Class 6A regional meet May 19 in Olathe, followed a week later by the state meet in Wichita.

That has both coaches eager to get right back to work.

"It gives us an idea where we are," Stidham said. "We saw almost every team in the state of Kansas. We've got four weeks before the regional meet, and we can still improve in a lot of areas."

"I think this may really be a starting point for the kids," Heffernan said. "I'm really excited. We can't get to the next meet fast enough."