Silver Stars: Five Sabetha track athletes are state runners-up
Sabetha High School track and field athletes secured two silver medals at the State Track and Field Championships held Friday through Sunday, May 24-26.
These silver medals were the highlight of Saturday’s events with senior Mason Engelken securing state runner-up in the 110-meter hurdle finals and the 4×800-meter girls’ relay team claiming runner-up in their race. The 4×800-meter relay team consisted of seniors Hunter Lowdermilk and Skylar McAfee, sophomore Hattie Lukert and freshman Jadyn Dorn.
Engelken also medaled in the top three in the 300-meter hurdle race, taking third.
For Engelken, it was humbling to be on the medal stand in the top three in both of his hurdle events at the State Track and Field Championships.
“There is so much amazing talent to be seen at the state track meet,” he said. “It truly feels amazing to place in the top three in the state for both of my favorite events. Especially after four years of hard work, seeing it all come together is really something special for me.”
This was Engelken’s third trip to state in the hurdle competitions. As a sophomore in 2017, he placed sixth in the 110-meter. As a junior in 2018, he placed fifth in the 110-meter hurdles and fourth in the 300-meter hurdles.
“Mason is a very competitive athlete, but very appreciative and respectful of his opponents for helping him to get better,” Coach Dave Remmers said. “He always competes near his PR level, if he isn’t setting a new one.”
Engelken entered the Championships with a No. 2 seed in the 110-meter and a No. 3 seed in the 300-meter. He finished first in the 110-meter preliminary race on Friday with a time of 15.05 seconds, qualifying him for finals on Saturday. On Saturday, Engelken finished in second in the 110-meter finals, behind Scott Community senior Marshall Faurot. His finals time was 15.26.
With the lightning delays, the Friday preliminaries of the 300-meter hurdle were canceled. Instead, the event was held Saturday with two heats, taking the best times overall from the two heats. Engelken claimed the third-place spot on the medal stand in this event with a time of 40.06.
In his high school career, Engelken has seen league and regional championships in both hurdle competitions, along with breaking school records.
During his sophomore year, he earned second place in both races at league and second place at regional in the 110-meter. During his junior year, he was league and regional champion in both races.
As a senior, Engelken placed first at every meet in both hurdle events, except for placing second in the 110-meter hurdles at the Sabetha Invitational.
But the accomplishments Engelken is most proud of during his high school track career are his two school records, which he accomplished at the 2018 Big 7 League meet.
At that league meet, he broke a 1981 record set by Doug Allen in the 300-meter hurdles when he finished with a time of 39.37 seconds. He tied the 1997 110-meter hurdle record at 14.65, which he shares with Jasper Frazee.
Engelken is the son of Jerry and Alanna Engelken. He plans to further his track career at Washburn University.
“I am very excited for this because it is a fairly new program that I believe has tremendous potential, and I believe it is a place I will be able thrive,” he said.
Engelken plans to major in kinesiology, while pursuing an associate degree in Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA). His goal is to become a physical therapist.
“The thing I will miss most about high school track is the friends that are made through the sport,” Engelken said. “There is a certain level of bonding and appreciation between athletes when competing in such a physically and mentally taxing sport.”
Engelken’s final thought on Bluejay track was only for his teammates to understand — “Yeah, track!”
The 4×800-meter girls’ relay team returned to the state championships this year ready to defend their state title from a year ago. Three members of the team were repeat performers — Lowdermilk, McAfee and Lukert — while Dorn, a freshman, experienced her first state meet.
Not only did they claim the silver medal, but they also achieved a personal record as a team — 10:06. Other team accomplishments this season included a league championship and regional runner-up.
“The 4×800 girls were really looking forward to the state meet to attempt a repeat performance from last year,” Coach Remmers said. “Even though that didn’t happen, they competed extremely well and everyone was pleased with their split times.”
All of the girls indicated they were happy with their performances at this state meet.
“Obviously, after experiencing first place last year, it would have been amazing to win it, but I’m so thankful for how each of us ran. We all gave our 100 percent and we PR’d as a team by 6 seconds, which is awesome,” Lukert said. “There is nothing to complain about, and I am so proud of how hard these girls worked to earn a well-deserve second place.”
“This experience is so amazing, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world! I’m so glad our hard work throughout the season paid off,” Lowdermilk said.
“Earning a silver felt so rewarding to know that all the hard work and dedication that my teammates and I put in throughout the season had finally paid off,” McAfee said.
Dorn said she feels very proud and blessed to have had experienced teammates at her side during her first experience at Cessna.
Lukert ran the first leg in the relay, taking the lead. Her split time was 2:22.68. Lowdermilk took the handoff and had a split of 2:33 — her best split this season. Dorn took the third leg with a split of 2:39. McAfee took the final leg, keeping close to her Scott Community and Cimarron competitors the whole way. She finished with a split of 2:30 — just above her career best of 2:29. The team captured their silver with a time of 10:06.003, which is a season best for them. Scott Community finished third with a time of 10:06.51. Cimarron claimed the state title with a time of 10:00.42.
Encouraging, positive and trust were words the girls used to describe their team dynamic. It certainly helped that they all ran together during the cross country season earlier in the school year, building a relationship with newcomer Dorn, who felt lucky to have gotten to know them during cross country.
“We had a great relationship from then,” Dorn said. “As a [relay] team, we are positive and have fun to help cheer each other on.”
“We have grown so close as a relay team. We knew we needed to take Jadyn under our wing to help defend our title,” Lowdermilk said. “We all pushed each other every day in practice to make us the best we can be.”
“We each know what we are capable of doing and we count on each other giving our best. We know nothing is given, only earned,” Lukert said. “We love to converse about our individual split goals and team time goals as well. It’s important to have something to shoot for. When the baton is not in our hands, we are right along the track cheering each other on as loud as possibly can. It is so encouraging!”
“Throughout the season, we have encouraged each other in numerous different ways. My favorite way to encourage my teammates or help calm their nerves was to remind them that all they could do was their best,” McAfee said. “We all knew that each of us were going to go out and compete as hard as we could so there was never any reason to feel nervous.”
Though Lowdermilk and McAfee have completed their high school track careers, both Dorn and Lukert said they hope to compete in the 4×800-meter relay again. Lukert said she knows she needs to earn her spot, though, because “nothing is just given.”
The two underclassmen agreed they will miss their senior teammates’ encouragement and positive attitudes.
“They have set such great examples. They are so positive and always lift us up. They give their all and show so much grit in every race,” Lukert said.
“I will miss Skylar’s positivity and encouragement at every meet and practice,” Dorn said. “Hunter was always outgoing and fun to spend time with.”
Senior runners Lowdermilk and McAfee have competed together since their freshman year, and they will miss it.
“We started off running the 4×400 relay together our freshman year and now we’ve earned a state championship and state runner-up title with our 4×800,” Lowdermilk said. “We’ve even broken the school record. Skylar is so dedicated and determined to compete at her best and I truly admire it. She’s always there to push and encourage her teammates to be the best they can be.”
“My favorite part about this team was that no matter the situation, we always seemed to be able to make each other laugh and enjoy the moment,” she said.
Lowdermilk said she is thankful for supportive coaches, school, family and community.
“I have loved being able to represent Sabetha for the past four years,” Lowdermilk said. “We truly live in an amazing community that supports everything we do. I would not be able to compete like I do without all the amazing support. It is something I will truly miss.”
In 2018, Lowdermilk, McAfee and Lukert, along with Nikki Kuenzi, were members of the state champion 4×800-relay team. They were league champions, regional champions and broke a 1998 school record when they finished 9:56.03 at the 2018 Championships.
In 2016, McAfee was a member of the state runner-up 4×800 team of Hannah Enneking, Taryn Schuette and Alexis McAfee. That team also was regional and league champions.
About the Team
Lukert is the daughter of Brett and Sara Lukert and will be a junior. Dorn is the daughter of Thomas and Nicole Dorn and will be a sophomore.
Lowdermilk is the daughter of Matt and Amy Lowdermilk. She plans to attend Butler Community College on a vocal music scholarship, majoring in pre-veterinary medicine.
McAfee is the daughter of Alex and Nikki McAfee. McAfee plans to attend Bethel College to continue her basketball career. She will major in psychology with hopes of eventually becoming a child life specialist, planning activities and events at a camp for children with severe illnesses.