Special to The Gardner News
Since winning the Kansas 6A Boys Track and Field State Championship in 2019, the Gardner-Edgerton boys track and field returning athletes and coaches had set their sights on a title defense in 2020. However, the circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic gutted the coming season for the Blazers (and every other program in Kansas), breaking the hearts of the team’s seniors, who had hoped to leave their signature as repeat champions and program record-holders.
Still, the track and field careers of the 2020 GEHS senior boys could not be seen as anything less than triumphant, not only for the State Championship they won, but also for the progress these impressive athletes had made since their freshman years.
“This was a highly motivated group,” said Brian McGee, Gardner-Edgerton Boys Track and Field head coach. “We had returning leaders who had been part of the program for a long time, so we were excited about our prospects. Olathe East and Manhattan almost certainly would have had a say about whether we repeated or not, but this team was just so darn talented.”
The heartbreak of losing the season began to unfold drip by drip, at first slowly, and then in a torrent. McGee said that, at the team’s final practice before Spring Break, the majority feeling was that that was going to be the last practice for two weeks, but not for the season.
“I had no inclination that would be the final time we would meet as a group,” McGee said. “By the beginning of Spring Break, it was not looking good, and — by Saint Patrick’s Day — I knew it was over. I had a little emotional preparation for it when my Jayhawks couldn’t play in the Big 12 Tourney, so that possibly lessened the blow, but the first text I received after the season was called off was from (senior high jumper) Dayton Williams, who was just in shock. Having to work through the heartbreak with him was just the beginning of the next very difficult 24 hours.”
“It’s just really the kids not having track, on top of not having prom, then graduation — the totality of it was hard to stomach. I didn’t know what to do, I was lost. I was in a daze, it was sort of surreal. I was like that for a couple of weeks before I kind of snapped myself back into it and said, ‘Alright. This is the new reality. I’ve got to do things to make it work.’”
Recently, McGee took some time to recognize some of his influential seniors who made their mark on the program even before the Corona Virus struck.
Dayton Williams was one of the senior team leaders going into the season. Williams, who had already earned a track and field scholarship to Fort Hays State, had recorded some impressive performances in some indoor track and field meets in the winter.
“Dayton had just cleared 6’10” (in the high jump) indoors and was poised to go over 7 feet this season,” McGee stated. “I know he felt that he had a poor performance at State last year, but he’d worked so hard since then. He’d been really dedicated and he was poised for a chance at redemption.”
Fellow senior Teven McKelvey, who had earned a football scholarship to South Dakota University, was also on track for a memorable senior season.
“Teven was going to be big for us in both the 4×100 relay and the triple jump,” stated McGee. “He had a chance to win an individual State Championship in the triple jump. He had a real good chance of becoming nationally ranked in the event.
Nick Allen had missed his sophomore track season and half of his junior season to injury. When the javelin thrower was finally cleared halfway through his junior year, he had to start as a thrower on the JV squad. During his first JV meet, Allen had a throw that was so far it qualified him for Regionals, and from Regionals he made the State squad and scored a point that helped the Trailblazers secure the State title.
“Nick is heading to Mid-America Nazarene University where he’s going to throw the javelin and be a yell leader for the cheer squad,” said McGee. “He came out of nowhere, grinds it out in JV, outhrows his competition by 30 feet at one JV meet, and becomes a vital component of our championship team. He is a farm kid, he understands hard work. We felt that he could reach 190 to 200 feet and be one of the top three at State.”
Jakob Renaud, a senior sprinter, who’d been part of the GEHS record-setting 4×100 team at State last year, was ready to unleash his speed in the 2020 season.
“Jakob had worked so hard to be the best sprinter on the team,” McGee said, “especially as our anchor on the 4×100 team. He was also going to be our 100-meter guy. He ran a 10.8 last year in a loaded regional. He was highly motivated for a breakout season.”
Senior distance runner Mitch Lumley turned down several opportunities to continue his athletic career in college, choosing to concentrate on being a student during his time in post-secondary school. He was poised for perhaps the biggest season of all, according to McGee.
“Mitch is the owner of three school records,” stated McGee, “and he was probably our most talented athlete on a great relay team last year. He was looking incredibly impressive in our first team workouts. We felt he was going to reach a 1:56 or faster in the 800. He had chosen not to pursue college offers, so he was putting everything into his senior year track season.”
Though the 2020 season failed to materialize, the 2020 boys track and field seniors left an indelible mark on the program. Being a part of a State Championship team in 2019 was only part of what they left behind. Most importantly, their work ethic and their leadership is what will be felt in the GEHS program for years to come.
“We had returning leaders in various events,” said McGee. “These seniors had been a part of the program for a long time, and they were just so darn talented.”
2020 Blazer track, field senior boys left influential mark on program