PHS track squads shine in season opening meet

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

The Pawhuska High School track-and-field teams got their season off to a flying start Friday at the Covington-­Douglas Wildcat Relays.

“Considering it was our first meet, things went pretty well,” said PHS coach Mark Frye. “Obviously, we’re not close to where we need to be down the road — but everyone seems like they’re headed in the right direction.”

First-place finishes by the 4 by 200-meter relay squad and state champion high jumper Haylee Mouser headed a well-rounded showing for the Lady Huskies, which brought 24 medals away from the meet. Pawhuska’s girls compiled 99 points — the most of any women’s team present. Pond Creek-Hunter scored the second-best girls’ total, with 70.

The PHS Huskies’ squad captured 14 medals while racking up 78 points, which was No. 2 highest among 20 schools represented in the meet’s male division. Only Oklahoma Christian Academy, the state’s defending Class A team champion, registered a higher points total (100).

Mouser’s top jump of 5 feet, 4 inches, was a fairly routine height for the standout senior. Nonetheless, it ranked as the best of the current season in Class 2A or 3A. The gold-medals’ winning quartet for the Lady Huskies (lead runner Sarah Phillippi, Kyleigh Riebel, Danae Laird and anchor Star Sweeden) covered the 800-meter distance in one minute and 52.49 seconds.

“That’s about four seconds off our time at last year’s state meet,” Frye said. “But, one of the girls competed even though she was sick and another had been injured — so I’m proud of their effort.”

The other three female relay units of PHS also posted high finishes. The 4x100 squad (Phillippi, Sweeden, Laird and Darienne Frye) took second and the Lady Huskie 4x400 (including Phillippi, Sweeden, Mouser and Heather Conner) and 4x800 (with Riebel, Aubrie Walker, Mouser and Madeline Priest) runners both placed third.

Pawhuska’s boys likewise recorded some rapid relay times in claiming second place (behind OCA) at 400 and 800 meters. The Huskies’ 4x100 unit was composed of Tyler Wilson, Mathew Taft, Brian Jeffers and Warren Graves, while Ben Gray replaces Taft in the 4x200 lineup.

Also winning second-place medals were PHS pole vaulter Bradley Moreland and the high jumper of the Huskies, William Merrell. Nathan Richardson placed third in his first pole-vaulting competition for Pawhuska. Moreland cleared the bar at 12 feet, six inches, which provided a stiff challenge for the defending 2A state vaulting champion, Connor Davis from Crossings Christian.

“That 12-6 showed that he (Moreland) is right there in the hunt for Class 2A,” the PHS coach said. “I think he cleared the bar by about a foot.”

Merrell high jumped six feet, one inch — losing the title by an inch to Hominy’s Sergio Mendez, one of 2A’s main contenders in the event. The Huskies’ primary speed merchants, Graves and Jeffers, took third and fourth, respectively, in the 200-meter dash — where Graves was just half a second behind the winner, and only a tenth of a second ahead of sophomore Jeffers. Graves, a junior, finished fourth at 100 meters, with Jeffers coming in sixth.

In the Covington-Douglas girls’ competitions, uber-versatile senior Phillippi snagged a second-place medal in the 300-meter hurdles — just as she had done at last year’s 3A state meet. Frye, a junior, placed third in the 100-meter hurdling event. Pawhuska’s other standout middle-distance hurdler, Riebel, skipped Friday’s event due to illness.

Other Lady Huskie medal winners included: senior Erika Barker took fourth in the discus; Kirk, a senior wunderkind who also contributed to the team’s relay success, finished sixth in her career debut flinging the discus; freshman Kianna Taylor, who placed fifth in the 100- and 200-meter sprint events; sophomore Walker, in addition to running the second leg of the 3200 relay, took fifth in the individual 3200-meter event and barely missed a medal at 1600 meters, where she finished sixth; Laird was fifth in the long jump, with teammate Heather Conner close behind in sixth.

Because of school testing and other conflicts, the PHS track squads were forced to cancel plans to participate in a Tuesday meet at Dewey. The Pawhuska coach said the next competition for the Huskies and Lady Huskies will be this Saturday in a four-division meet at Vinita — home of last year’s 4A state champion girls’ team.

“It’s bound to be a tough meet, but that’s the type of competition that will make us better,” said Frye.

A year ago at Vinita, the Lady Huskies finished a respectable second to their Lady Hornet hosts. PHS will hold its annual High School Invitational at Ormand Beach Stadium on Thursday, April 7. Last Thursday, the annual junior high meet kicked off track season at the Beach.

“Our seventh- and eighth-graders had a very good day — the runners, jumpers, throwers … everybody,” Frye added. “It looks like we’ve got some real good kids coming up.”