Manhattan boys' and girls' track teams defend home turf at Manhattan Invitational

Jimmy, The Manhattan Mercury, Kan.
·7 min read

Apr. 16—Jaden Magana untangled his torso, pivoted on his right foot and uncorked the discus high into the air outside Bishop Stadium.

The disc landed 169 feet, 4 inches from the starting circle, longer than Magana had ever thrown it, and 13 feet off Manhattan High's school record, set in 1977.

But perhaps as importantly, it landed between the chalk-white lines.

Magana couldn't always guarantee that result while becoming one of eight Manhattan boys' track and field champions who contributed to the Indians' team win during Thursday's Manhattan Invitational. He had to switch from power throwing to front throwing just get a mark to qualify for the finals (two of his three qualifying throws landed out of bounds).

But on his first throw of the final round, Magana perfected his power form. He smashed his previous best distance (155 feet) and earned 10 of the Indians' eventual 154 points.

"Sometimes, I get nervous," Magana said. "It's self-pressure, pretty much. But it just takes one throw."

Many throws begot the one that Magana, who said he's set a personal record at every meet this season, unleashed Thursday. After missing out on state his sophomore year, he often practiced with a friend on the same grass Manhattan hosts its meets.

No net, no lines, no measurements.

"It's not really about measurements when you're practicing," Magana said. "It's about what feels good."

Magana's latest personal record-setting throw felt good as soon as he let it go. Once it landed, all the self-doubt he harbored evaporated.

His nerves will return; no permanent cure exists. But all it takes is one successful throw to relieve the symptoms.

"It just releases everything," Magana said. "It feels so good. The best feeling."

Magana shifted his attention to shot put as soon as he won discus. Darius O'Connell, Manhattan's 2019 state champion, was eying a green flag planted 61 feet, one inch away.

That Indians' school record in that event also has stood since '77, but that reign nearly ended during O'Connell's second qualifying throw Thursday.

Holding the shot put under his chin, O'Connell torqued his body and forced the 12-pound ball toward the flag. He threw it long enough — 60 feet, 4 inches — to win the event, but came up 9 inches short of the flag.

"I'm not particularly frustrated," O'Connell said. "I have plenty of time to get better at it. If I'm not better in a couple weeks, I'll be frustrated."

O'Connell said he's maximized his front-throwing form, so he plans to work on his "glide" technique, which is a full throw starting from the back of the ring. He also plans to build strength to improve his distance.

Manhattan head coach Kory Cool believes in O'Connell's pragmatic approach. O'Connell's face can't contain his determination when he discusses the record with Cool.

"(I see) his eyes glow when we talk about it," Cool said. "That record has been there for 43, 44 years. Whoever breaks it, they're going to have a lot of time on that board, too."

Cool asked Charles Jones how he was feeling before Jones was scheduled to compete in the high jump.

Jones' response: "Bouncy."

He wasn't lying. After failing to eclipse his 6-foot-4-inch personal record all season, Jones jumped 6 feet, 5 inches on Thursday.

Jones said he hadn't even cleared 6 feet before Manhattan's home meet. He began to wonder if he could match his high mark from 2019.

He answered his own question by earning another first-place finish for the Indians.

"It was just determination, for real," Jones said. "Boom, I started getting up. I feel like I'm tired of losing."

Now that Jones has regained his confidence, he's hoping to expand his role. Toward the end of Wednesday's practice, Jones asked jump coach Nate Gipson if he could try triple jump. Gipson refused, but Jones wouldn't relent.

Finally, and without previous training, Gipson let Jones skip-skip-jump onto the sand. Jones landed 43 feet, 10 inches from the starting board, which would've placed second Thursday.

Now Jones says he could join the Indians' triple-jump lineup within the next few meets.

"I'm trying to break a record," Jones said.

Other Manhattan winners included Dan Harkin in the 3,200 meters and the Indians' 4x400 relay team, consisting of Julian Avila, Baptiste Lacroix, Zac Hirschey and Tanner Dowling.

Avila closed a two-length deficit during the second leg, and Hirschey and Dowling closed the race comfortably. The boys finished in 3:30.92, almost four seconds faster than their closest challengers.

Avila, who Cool said is "itching" to become a permanent member of the Indians' 4x400 relay, ran the fastest split while filling in for the injured Joe Hall.

"I just kept a good mindset, ran hard and held on," Avila said. "It was fun to watch (my teammates)."

Harkin won the 3,200-meter run after winning three tennis matches Wednesday and placing fourth in the 800-meter run (which he doesn't normally run) earlier Thursday.

Cool let Harkin decide whether he wanted to run his second event. Cool didn't expect Harkin to do it.

"My spikes are already on," Harkin said.

Harkin trailed Olathe South's Matthew Tolman until about 3.5 laps remained, but he finished the race two seconds clear of Tolman's time.

Once Harkin passed Tolman, he had one goal in mind.

"Just try to keep the same pace," Harkin said. "Just try not to die."

Manhattan girls take 1st

Manhattan's girls' team finished atop the leaderboard in its portion of the home meet despite winning just two events.

Avery Larson won the long jump, and Jillian Harkin, Hallie Gaul, Andi Tanner and Josie Koppes won the 4x800-meter relay.

Larson set a personal best by jumping 17 feet, 4 inches.

"I felt good," Larson said. "I feel like I'm getting closer to being ready for regionals and state and league."

Larson called two of her jumps "iffy" after the event. She almost scratched on her first jump and "barely" hit the board on her second. Eventually, she adjusted her launch point and won. But if she wants to reach her year-end goal of jumping on the high end of 17 feet, she has to maximize her runway.

"She still has a little bit of space in front of her," Gipson said. "If we can get her to cover the full board, I feel like she can definitely go high 17s if she does that."

Unlike Larson, Harkin, Gaul, Tanner and Koppes weren't accustomed to their circumstances. Of the four, only Gaul is a regular member of that relay team.

The others missed Thursday's event due to injury.

"I thought they did well, considering," Cool said. "It's still early in the season, and I wish we could've had more than three teams run the event. But it was good for them to get a win on tired legs."

Virtually every win the Indians' earned came on wary legs because of a last-second schedule change. Thursday's meet was supposed to be held Friday, but Manhattan moved it up a day to avoid inclement weather.

That gave athletes less time than usual to recover from what Cool called a "hard" Tuesday practice. So while Cool wanted more victories, he appreciated the points his team accumulated.

The Indians finished runner-up in five individual events, including Rachel Corn in the 3,200 meters (12:18); Teuila Ilalio in the shot put (37 feet, 11 inches); Kyra Arasmith in the 300-meter hurdles (52.05 seconds); Hannah Loub in the 400 meters (1:02) and Alessandra Porres in the triple jump (33 feet). They also finished second in two relays: Lasron Erika Boye, Emma Griffe and Maxine Doering and finished the 4x100 in 51.48 seconds. Arasmith, Loub, Doering and Jillian Harkin won the 4x400 in 4:17.

"Everybody's important, even the people who didn't compete today that are here," Cool said. "Both teams are very well rounded. We have people (who) might not be at the top of their event but are succeeding, doing well, getting better."