Seemingly nothing can slow down the Newton girls track team. While the Class 5A regional meet in Emporia was moved up a day due to the threat of severe weather, that obstacle barely even registered as the Railers captured another team title — just another step towards their attempt at back-to-back state championships.
"I think we see these past few meets as kind of a practice for the state meet and we're just trying to get as prepared as we can for that," said sprinter Taylor Antonowich. "We know it's going to be really close this year. We kind of ran away with it last year, but it's going to be really close this year, so we're just both physically and mentally preparing for what it's going to take to get the title."
Antonowich was one of eight individual champions for the Railers, taking first in the 400-meter dash. While she knew the race would be intense, she was prepared, just like the rest of her teammates. Maggie Remsberg took a trio of titles in the long jump, 100 and 300 hurdles, while Kallie Anderson and Savannah Simmons looked up the top spots in the 100 and 200 dashes and Brooke Lachenmayr won the shot put.
The girls 4x400-meter relay team also took first, while the boys and girls swept titles in the 4x100 relay. Individuals claiming regional titles for the boys included Kade Remsberg (in both the 100 and 200 dashes), Jackson Forest in the shot put and Jirak Ochoa in the 300 hurdles. Those performances helped pace the boys to a runner-up finish.
Ochoa had two of the more dramatic finishes of the day. After missing out on a title in the 110 hurdle race by two-hundredths of a second, admittedly his stronger race, he would not be denied in the 300 finals — setting a personal best by two seconds in the event.
"I just wanted to prove to my coach and all my teammates that I can run a 300, too. I can do both," Ochoa said. "I can't wait for state to see if I can do even better."
Josh Jantzi added another wild finish in the pole vault, clearing 13 feet and winning a jump-off to punch his ticket to the state meet — one of 23 Railers in total to qualify.
Throwers earning a spot in the final competition of the season included Amanda Dorrell (shot put and discus), Jackson Forrest (shot put), Nathan Ahrens (discus), Ethan Entz (discus) and Nicole Engelken (javelin).
In the jumping events, along with Jantzi and Remsberg, Kailey Harris (triple jump and high jump), Landon Moore (triple jump) and Alex Krogmeier (high jump) all qualified, while distance runners Alaina Stucky and Garret Mick also punched their tickets to state. Mick and Stucky both qualified in the 800 run, while the latter will also be going in the 1600 run, 3200 run and as part of the girls 4x800 relay.
Workmanlike in their effort once again, NHS coach Tad Remsberg said the girls team in particular seems to relish the spotlight and the pressure that comes with it — given that many of those athletes are used to competing at a high level through AAU track in the summer.
"I think the big difference this year is on our girls side; you're defending champs so you have a target on your back, but I think they kind of enjoy that actually," Remsberg said. "I think they like being in that role. They're a competitive group and want to try to do the best that they can to try to hang onto that title."
For the boys, there is some added motivation as well. They finished just outside of trophy contention last spring and while they don't have a lot of depth, Remsberg noted with as many qualifiers as they have amidst the numerous teams at state, anything can happen.
"Our guys definitely won't be favorites going into that, but they're going to battle and try to score every possible point that they can," Remsberg said. "They're going to go compete and we'll see what happens."