Wells garners fifth state track medal

Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Through the first two laps of the 3,200-meter run, Lady Owls senior Katie Wells (420) was tucked right behind the leaders: Hannibal's Emma Burditt (210), who would win the race, and Festus senior Sadie Darnell. (Chris Allen/Democrat-News)

JEFFERSON CITY -- Katie Wells was so exhausted after crossing the final finish line of her high school career Friday that she was unaware that she had captured her fifth state medal.

The Marshall senior made up a spot in the last 800 of the 3,200-meter run for eighth place in the MSHSAA Class 3 Track and Field Championships at Jefferson City. After coming in fourth and third in the two prior races at state, to go along with two medals in the 1,600, Wells wasn't disappointed.

"That's all right with me," she said. "Eighth wasn't what I was looking for, but it's a medal."

The cool, cloudy conditions would seem to be good for times, although the winning mark fell considerably short of a state record. Still, with a 2:35 pace over the first 800 meters, Wells thought "it went really fast."

Wells started on the outside of the first lane, next to Clinton freshman Nicole Lee, and quickly fell in behind the leaders. During the first two laps, Festus senior Sadie Darnell -- the No. 1 seed -- set the pace, with Hannibal senior Emma Burditt on her right shoulder and Wells at her heels.

"I had the biggest fear I was going to be stuck on the inside, like when I was a sophomore," admitted Wells, recalling her fourth-place showing in 2009.

However, the top three -- Darnell, Burditt and Arcadia Valley sophomore Saga Barzowski -- broke away from the pack and Wells dropped back to 10th place. Halfway through, Wells had moved up to ninth, but was still there with a half-mile to go -- 10 yards behind St. Clair freshman Lyndsay Hardin for the final medal spot.

Hardin began to fade and Wells maintained her pace, passing her on back-side curve on the seventh circuit and then pulling away to come in eighth in a comfortable fashion at 11:47.96 -- 11.22 seconds behind Warrensburg senior Amber Priest in seventh and 3.91 seconds ahead of Fulton sophomore Jenny McCarty in ninth.

"I started getting loose in the second half," Wells said. "The last two laps were what propelled me to eighth."

Burditt (10:59.42) won the race by 4.29 seconds over Darnell, but missed the chance of the distance runner trifecta -- starting with the cross country title in the fall -- when she was eighth Saturday in the 1,600. A year ago, Wells beat Burditt for the 1,600 and 3,200 gold medals in the NCMC Championships.

Wells came close to collapsing at the end, her heart racing -- by unofficial estimate -- at 190 beats per minute before slowing down. Ten minutes later, Wells looked as though she could go again, but was done for the meet -- not having qualified for the 1,600 this year.

That was kind of how the season went for Wells, who set the Lady Owls' record in the 3,200 the previous year at state with a mark of 11:15.46.

"It was a bit slower than last year," admitted Wells, who won three races this season following seven victories as a junior. "Usually my finish is better, and I did finish well compared to cross country state."

Nonetheless, it has been an excellent career for Wells, who also garnered three state cross country medals.

Wells plans to keep competing, considering both Missouri Valley College and Central Methodist University. She hopes she has made her mark on the Marshall program, because it has left an imprint on her.

"Running with my teammates was the best part," Wells said. "They not only pushed me, but I pushed them.

"I have absolutely no regrets," she remarked. "I wouldn't change a thing."

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