By CONOR NICHOLL
Ellis High School, particularly with girls’ sports and the boy duo of Mason Younger and Rex Johnson, completed a milestone-filed year at the 2A state track and field meet last weekend. EHS won three gold medals.
Ellis took fifth in 2A girls’ track with 37 points. It marked the sixth top-10 showing in the last seven state track meets for the EHS girls. The Railroaders also won the Stanton County regional over host SC and Chesney Peterson, one of Kansas’ legendary distance runners. Peterson, a Tennessee commit, collected three individual distance golds at the state meet.
Ellis girls captured a pair of gold medals, with 6-foot sophomore Natalee North in the discus, and the 3,200 relay.
In an extremely close 2A javelin competition, Johnson won with a throw of 181-5. The top-five throwers, three whom were first team all-state football players, hit 177-6 or better. Johnson was eighth and third at state javelin the last two seasons. Johnson is the first Ellis boy to win a state track event since Jared Pfeifer captured the long jump in ’14, per KSHSAA archives.
While Ellis has struggled in football and boys’ basketball, all the girls’ teams sports (volleyball, basketball, softball) finished well over .600. Wrestling and track produced five state champions, three girls and two boys.
Younger took third in the pole vault with a personal best 12 foot, 6 clearance. That added to his state wrestling title in the winter. He was second team all-league receiver last fall. Younger was sixth at state track in the ’22 pole vault. Younger and Riley Hunsicker are the lone EHS boys to place at least twice in the pole vault since 1990.
Entering state, Ellis girls were ranked second in the 3,200 relay, less than two seconds behind Ell-Saline. The Railers’ quartet was: seniors Makenna Kohl and Madi Russell, and freshman Sienna Schmidt and Avery Boydston. Ellis posted a 10:23.98 at regional.
The 3,200 relay won in 10:07.86, less than a second ahead of Salina Sacred Heart. EHS trailed Sacred Heart by more than 13 seconds and was in eighth place after 1,200 meters. However, a blistering 2:24 final 800 helped move EHS to the title. Ellis trailed by nearly five seconds entering the final lap. It marked the first time the Railers had won a girls’ relay at state in more than 30 years.
Russell was seventh in the 3,200-meter run, a race that Peterson obliterated the 2A state meet mark. Russell is headed to Division I University of Missouri-Kansas City for distance running.
North was ranked second in the discus at 37-4, though nearly two feet behind Rawlins County junior Abby Micek. She was ranked fifth in a closely packed discus field with a throw of 120 feet. The top-eight were all within 10 feet of each other.
In discus, North won with a 125-11, a top-25 all-classes mark, per MileSplit. North wore an ankle brace and had hurt her ankle.
North was third in the shot put at 36-3.75. Isabella Eck was sixth in the high jump with a five-foot clearance. Boydston finished fourth in the 1,600 at 5:30.01. Peterson set the all-classes record in 4:50.13.
Russell collected four individual medals at the last two state track meets, two apiece in the 1,600 and 3,200. Ellis girls took seventh as a team in 2021, fifth in ’19 and sixth in ’18, ninth in ’17 and fifth in ’16.
It marked the first time EHS won any state track title since Alexcia Deutscher won the 2A javelin in ’16. Deutscher eventually enjoyed a strong career as a Fort Hays javelin thrower. Before then, Ashley Mattheyer was first in the 2A high jump in ’14.
Those are the only Ellis girls’ track crowns since ’09, when the Railers won the lone girls’ state title.
In cross country, Boydston finished fourth in 2A. With Peterson graduating, Wabaunsee’s Payton Wurtz, Sterling’s Julia Kilgore and Boydston will be the top returning 2A runners.
In volleyball, Ellis finished 24-11 and was in the WaKeeney-Trego sub-state, widely regarded as 2A’s hardest postseason bracket. Ellis lost in two sets to Ellinwood, which was considered a state contender. Ellinwood fell in three sets to Smith Center in the sub-state title game. SC is second, first and second in state volleyball the last three falls. Two years ago, Ellis went 25-12.
Before then, the Railers had at least five seasons of limited victories, including 5-28 and 6-27 records. Kaleigh Soneson, an Ellis alum, did an admirable job turning around the volleyball program. Soneson, a Rule 10 coach, recently had to resign her coaching position because her work schedule changing. North, Emily Eck and Kaydawn Haag were the team’s top hitters, while Kylee Pfeifer exceeded 1,000 career assists. Eck was second team all-league as a senior, while Haag collected third team.
For girls’ basketball, Ellis finished 14-8. Of the eight losses, five defeats came by three, double overtime, one, one and in overtime. Emily Eck was second team all-league. North and Isabella Eck were honorable mention picks. EHS had a four-win improvement. The Railers tied their most wins since 13-14.
In softball, Ellis also finished 14-8 and lost a wild 14-13 back-and-forth game to rival Thomas More Prep-Marian in the regional semifinals. Hannah Schiel, a returning all-state catcher, set season records with 39 hits and 48 RBI. Myah McCoy broke the school season mark with 16 doubles. Haag set three marks with homers (eight), runs scored (54) and walks (28),
Haag holds career EHS marks with 12 homers and 121 runs scored, along with 26 wins and 225 strikeouts. Schiel and Haag are tied for the Railroader all-time mark with 84 RBI. Haag has committed to Fort Hays softball. Coach Casey McCoy has made Ellis softball into a strong 2-1A team in the past couple springs.
In wrestling, Haag collected her third state medal in as many years, wrestled for her second championship and won her first title. She collected the 140-pound title in 4-1A. Haag became the first Ellis girl state champion with a 29-3 record. She was 31-7 and fifth as a sophomore at 143.
On the boys’ side, Younger continued his remarkable wrestling career with his first state title. Younger qualified for state as a freshman, though could not wrestle because of injury. He was second as a sophomore. This winter, Younger finished 40-1 and won the 3-2-1A title at 126. He was Ellis’ first wrestling champion in 11 years. Before then, EHS hadn’t produced a state wrestling titlist since 2003, per KSHSAA archives.
Additionally, Tegan Cain, a former SIK 2-1A Pitcher of the Year, was second team all-Jayhawk League West as a Barton County CC starting pitcher. He went 8-3 with a 3.82 ERA in 15 starts. Cain struck out 93 batters, fifth-most in BCCC history. Cain has recently committed to University of Kansas baseball.