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Leeling and Ahrens Strike Gold in Omaha

It was an historic day for a Sidney Red Raider Track and Field team that sent a slate of qualifiers with high expectations, and at the end of the second day's competition, the Red Raiders were heading home with four individual State Titles.

It wasn't the biggest of surprises to take home four gold medals, two each by junior Lady Raiders Chloe Ahrens and Karsyn Leeling. In many ways the finishes from all of the Red Raider athletes were pretty much as predicted prior to the competition. But that is what makes what happened last Wednesday and Thursday in Omaha so special; for things to pan out the way they did for the Red Raider qualifiers, everything had to go right. And in a twist of luck, it did.

For the girls, the qualifiers were Chloe Ahrens, Karsyn Leeling, Gabrielle Fortner, Talissa Tanquary, Katie Dowse and Payton Schrotberger. Ahrens and Leeling were heavy favorites in the 100 and 300 Meter Hurdles, and High Jump and Triple Jump, respectively. Fortner and Tanquary both qualified and the 400 Meters, and had outside chances for top-10 finishes, but neither was able to get out of the preliminary heat. Tanquary also qualified for the 800 Meters, and needed to run her best race for a shot at a top-10 finish. She did just that, running a season best 2:24.02a to grab 10th place. Fortner and Schrotberger joined Ahrens and Leeling in the 4x100 Meter Relay, and again a strong effort would be needed for a top-10 finish in the competitive Class B event. Sidney's time of 50.29 was good enough for ninth place. Ahrens, Fortner, Dowse and Tanquary also qualified for the 4x400 Meter Relay, and were a long shot to break the top ten. They ended up with a time of 4:14.52, placing 15th out of 16 teams.

Despite competing in relatively few events, the Lady Raiders were able to score a sixth place finish as a team, due to four first-place finishes by Ahrens and Leeling. For Ahrens, she was the favorite in the 100 Meter Hurdles, and followed her pre-race routine and was able to focus on the event. She qualified through the preliminary with the best time in the field, a very fast 14.82 seconds, besting second-place qualifier Kelsey Miller of Seward's 14.90 and rival Paige Horne of Scottsbluff's 14.96 third-place time. But in the finals Ahrens found another gear in the stretch and finished with a blazing 14.78 time, beating Miller's 15.00 and Horne's 15.06 to take the Gold Medal. The 300 Meter Hurdles were also another event which Ahrens was the favorite, but perhaps by not as much as in the 100 Meter Hurdles. Ahrens gave it her all in the preliminaries, ending with a personal-best time of 45.07, the fastest time in the field. Ahrens then nearly matched that time in the finals, ending the race with a 45.13 time, the runner-up, Kaitlyn Mousel of Adams Central, crossed the line with a 45.38 time.

Karsyn Leeling was heavily favored in High Jump and Triple Jump, and was also expected to finish in the top five in Long Jump. She was able to manage the pressure and focus on her technique in all of her events. In High Jump, she was easily able to breeze over the competition, winning the event by clearing 5' 8" while runner-up Emma Anibal of Bennington's 5' 5" leap was her personal-best. In Triple Jump, some of Leeling's competitors kept it close through the first few rounds of jumps, but her fourth jump of 37' 2.50" was nearly nine inches further than runner-up Maria Connealy of Omaha Gross Catholic's 36' 6.25" distance. Leeling earned two Gold Medals on the second day of competition, after winning the Silver Medal in Long jump on Wednesday. She could not top Norris' Taylor Bredthauer's 18' 8.50" leap, but Leeling's 17' 5.25 distance was impressive. No other competitor was able to cross 17 feet.

For the boys, senior Jacob Dowse started off with a fifth place finish in High Jump, clearing 6' 2", while freshman Keian Kaiser placed ninth by clearing 6'. Senior Isak Doty qualified for the 100 Meter finals with a quick 11.17 time to qualify in fifth place, then he turned on the jets in the finals and clocked a 10.99, earning him fourth place. Doty also qualified for the finals in the 200 Meters with another fast time of 22.38, earning him the sixth fastest time, then topped that in the finals with a 22.27 time, earning him fourth place overall. Doty then qualified for the 800 Meter finals with a time of 5.44, earning him eight fastest time, then ran a 50.65 in the finals, earning him seventh place. Doty and Dowse along with freshman Lance Holly and sophomore Landon Riddle qualified in the 4x100 Meter Relay, and placed fifth with a time of 42.97. Riddle was able to get off a clean 20' 10.75" leap in Long Jump to earn him seventh place, while senior Cam Leeling's 20' 3.75 jump earned him 16th place overall in the event.

It was an outstanding two days of competition for the Red Raiders, and the four Gold Medals won will live in Sidney school history for many years to come. All of the athletes performed extremely well, and many outperformed expectations. But for the two that were favorites and were able to do their jobs and take home their gold medals, their preparation, their expert coaching and their ability to focus in the moment earned them four State Championships that they will cherish for their lifetimes.


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