Jaguars leave KU with mixed emotions
It was 80 degrees Saturday at the Kansas Relays, and Justin Woods wore tights under his track shorts.
Woods has been running with caution since he strained his hamstring in Mill Valley's April 5 home track meet. The tights were another precaution.
"I've been holding back a little bit," Woods said.
On Saturday, Woods knew it was time to quit holding back. The KU Relays was the last track meet he didn't win, finishing fourth last season in the 100 meters. So far this season he has won all of his 100- and 200-meter races. His goal this season is to win every race.
Before the race, Woods knelt at the starting line, bowed his head and prayed. He said it was the first time he has ever knelt down like that. This race meant something.
Woods jumped out to a fast start. He emerged out of the pack with Raytown South's Maurice Mitchell. Mitchell had the lead and Woods turned to another gear.
"I've never felt that gear before," he said.
Then with about five meters left and in second place, Woods slowed down, grabbed his hamstring and limped to the finish line. As he crossed the line in sixth place, he fell to the ground. Woods' teammate Josh Grimes was in the stands. He jumped the fence and rushed to Woods' side.
"When Justin lays down, you know something is wrong," Grimes said.
Woods said he thought he pulled his hamstring.
"I'm in pain right now, but I'm more mad that I had to pull up," he said.
Woods met with the MVHS trainer on Monday and learned he has a mild hamstring strain and will be out of action for a week. With a week of rest, he hopes to return to the track in time for the Shawnee Mission North Relays on May 4.
Woods' injury only added to the frustrations for the Jaguars at this year's KU Relays. The team had several solid performances, but the negatives seemed to outweigh the positives.
The Jags' 400-meter relay team, which featured Woods, Matt Sittenauer, Grimes and Nicholas Woods, was disqualified in the Sunflower Showdown when Sittenauer dropped the baton.
"I was just thinking about too much," Sittenauer said. "Too much was going through my head, and I wasn't focusing on getting the baton to Nick."
The race featured the top Kansas schools that did not qualify for the finals. Sittenauer was the first leg of the relay and had gotten off to a good start in a race coach Mark Peck said his team had a good shot to win.
The same foursome ran the 800-meter relay and finished 15th.
Mill Valley's 400-meter relay girls' team had similar luck as the boys' 400-meter relay team. The girls were disqualified because one of the handoffs was one step before the exchange zone.
The Mill Valley girls' 400-meter hurdles relay had the best showing at the Relays for the Jags. The team finished fifth overall. Senior Sara Exon, sophomore Bethany Gagelin and freshmen Kirsten Moore and Alaina Fairbanks ran in the relay.
The girls 1,600-meter relay team finished sixth in the Sunflower Showdown. They did so without Moore, who is their faster runner in the 400 meters and was away at a soccer tournament. Exon, sophomore Becky Newhouse, and freshmen Jasa DuMontelle and Whitney Hartman ran the race for the Jags.
Woods was the only MVHS athlete to qualify for the finals. Senior Elise Umbarger and sophomore Katie Bauer were the closest Jaguars to reaching the finals in their events.
Umbarger finished 11th in the shot put -- nine advanced to the final -- and Bauer also finished 11th in the triple jump.
The Relays were a disappointment in some respect for the Jaguars with Woods injury and the disqualifications; however, Peck still took some positives from the weekend.
"It's a good place to go to start getting yourself prepared mentally for the state track meet, a big venue like that," he said. "Now when we go down to Wichita, it doesn't seem quite as overwhelming. We have a lot of young kids that needed this experience."
Other MVHS athletes who competed at the Relays:
- Exon 17th I n the 300-meter hurdles.
- Senior Andrew Wendorff finished 23rd in the javelin.
- Senior Myron Collins and Sittenauer competed in the long jump. Collins finished 23rd and Sittenauer 25th.