Faces in KS: Sabetha Girls 4x800 Relay Team

Sabetha 4x800 relay all returns for 2019. (photo: Sean Boston)
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Apr 29, 2019

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Many track and field athletes may tell you they like the sport so much because it is an individual sport where it all depends on just them against the other person. That can be true in some regard, but not 100% true for everyone. It can also be pretty individualized with at team concept.. However there are also three events at every state track and field meet in Kansas that take four people, plus some alternates in some cases, running in the race, the 4x100, 4x400 and the 4x800. All of them are equally are exciting because it takes four people that you have to depend on to win the race. When an athlete knows someone is counting on them, it can be an entire different kind of motivation and trust. That's what we find out to the many relay teams we talk to at state track and the Sabetha High School 4x800 relay of Hattie Lukert (sophomore),Hunter Lowdermilk (senior), Nikoke Kuenzi (junior) and Skylar McAfee (senior) is no different.

Last May of 2018 at Cessna Stadium, the group of four captured the 3A 4x800 meter state title in Wichita. It was a great moment for Sabetha girls sports last year as most of the fame had went to that of the football team winning the 2017 3A title (they would also win the 2018 3A title), a state boys golf title, a 285-pound wrestling title from Elliott Strahm and a 3A state baseball championship just in the second year of the program.

"Our relay just has extra motiviation to it. We all want to do the same thing and that helps us works together and push each other. We don't have one person who doesnt want to return to the state meet. We all go out and run our hardest and don't do it for our individual selves. We work hard for one another."  Lowdermilk said. 

The team would win the 3A meet with a time of 9:56.03. What was even more impressive is that they edged out Cimarron by .15 seconds in the state final. Cimarron entered with the top regional time by almost 10 seconds better than that of Sabetha.

"The state meet is truly amazing. The atmosphere is hard to put into wards of Cessna Stadium. I've gone since I've been a baby and knew what to expect but always thought about how nervous I would be as a competitor. Last year as a freshman I got to compete in my first state meet and was blown away by the realization of just being there. Then to win state, climb up on the podium, have your name announced was surreal and very emotional." Lukert said. 

Sabetha is a sports town that takes a lot of pride in all of their sports and students around town. Competing in this small town is something that comes natural and is expected. 

"The past few years our school has been blessed with a winning culture to be a part of. However, we never feel pressure from our community and they always support us. They alwasy come together to support the kids and encourage us to be the best we can be. There's a lot of hard work and dedication from many put in by many for all of this recent success to be possible." McAfee said.

More success should follow the 4x800 team this fall as they will look to repeat in Class 3A this season but have had to battle some injuries to Kuenzi. Cimarron, last years runner-up, currently has a 10:08.8 as the fastest time in the state this year in 3A, according to our Track in Kansas/Sports in Kansas statewide leaderboards compiled by the one and only Carol Swenson. Sabetha has goals of getting back and repeating but knows it won't be easy.

"Right now I am out with an injury. These three girls work very hard and will accomplish big things this year with or without me. We will do whatever we have to do to accomplish our goals. The mental toughness and grit of my teammates amazes me. When you have a group like this, you know each girl will do what they have to do to get the job done." Kuenzi said.

Not only do these four get the job done on the track but they are also all 4.0 GPA students and role models for all Sabetha kids growing up. What an oustanding group that we not only got to talk to at the state track and field meet on the Cox (YurView) Broadcast last year but also on the latest Q&A edition of Faces in Kansas below.

We caught up with the team below in the latest Q&A edition of Faces in Kansas. 

This feature is presented by Lukert Chiropractic and Wellness proud to support the Sabetha Bluejays. Find us online at http://www.lukertchiropractic.com/

This feature is presented by Keim TS Trucking. Proud supporter of the Sabetha Bluejays. Congrats on your state title last season. We are proud of you! 

Rainbow Communications is a proud supporter of Northeast Kansas Sports Coverage with Sports in Kansas, be sure to nominate the Rainbow Communications Athlete of the Month. 

How did you four get involved in track and field?

Hattie: I have been running since 6th grade. I began training that year and continued on to compete in middle school and high school track and field. I soon found that I had ability to run successfully and learned to love it. It’s one of my favorite things to do and my dad really encouraged me in it. That’s what drives me to success- the love for competing through running.

Hunter: I started track in 7th grade. I began primarily as a thrower. However, our coach stuck me in the 4x200m relay and the 4x400m relay, and I ended up loving the running part of track. I started to fall in love with the adrenaline that you get when you’re competing.

Nikole: I started track in 7th grade where I jumped and ran the 800, and 4x400.

Skylar: I first volunteered to run the 800 in the seventh grade since no one was signed up. Eventually I figured out how to run an 800 and have ran it ever since!

What are your goals this season?

Hattie: I have several goals this season. This year, I will be primarily focusing on both my relays and the open 800 M. My goal for the open 800 is to improve my time from 2:23, to 2:17. This would break our school record and possibly open up the opportunity to win state. As for our 4x800 team, we want to improve our time and strategy in any way we can so we can peak at the right time and defend our title. Knowing that we have the capability is what is driving us this season. I would love to qualify in the 4x400 as well, and overall improve times in each event.

Hunter: My main goal is to return to the state meet with our relay. We all have such a strong work ethic to make it happen. We just want to defend our title.

Nikole: Unfortunately I am out with an injury to my achilles so my main goal would be to return to track as quickly as possible despite the odds not being in my favor, but if I am unable to return, then my goal is to be the best teammate I can be.

Skylar: My main focus this season is to just get better every single day and come back faster and stronger than last year.

Do you guys have a shot to do big things this year?

Hattie: I think that we will always have a shot to do big things, it’s just how we handle pressure and motivation when competing. We have to work harder than anybody else and want it so bad that we will do anything to regain the title. Ultimately all it takes is all you got.

Hunter: I think the four of us have a great shot at doing big things. Many don’t realize it, but our league and regionals are insanely tough. Competing with this type of competition all year, pushes us to be our best. We all have the work ethic and determination to make it happen as well. We just work so well as a team- big things will come our way if we give it all we got.

Nikole: These 3 girls are very hard workers who will do whatever it takes to accomplish a goal so there is no doubt in my mind that they will do big things with or without me.

Skylar: Winning big in life isn’t the medal that we might receive on the podium, but giving it everything we have. As long as we do this, we can accomplish big things.

What makes you such a force as a relay team?

Hattie: The chemistry and individual mental preparation that we have is the biggest force factor as a team. If you’re not mentally in it, you can’t expect to improve. We work well as a team and everybody knows what their personal role is in their leg of the race. You have to do your part and lay it all out there and trust your teammates to give everything they have as well.

Hunter: Our relay just has that extra motivation to it. We all want the same thing and that helps us work together and push each other. We don’t have one person who doesn’t want to return to the state meet. We all go out and run our hardest. But we don’t just do it for our individual selves. We all want to work hard for the others on our team.

Nikole: All 3 of these girls give every ounce of energy and effort they have into this relay no matter how tired they are l their grit and mental toughness never fails to amaze me. When you have a relay like this you ultimately know that each girl will do what they need to do to get the job done.

Skylar: What sets our relay team apart from other teams is the pure confidence we have in one another. Each time we go out and race I know that my teammates are also giving 100%. The trust our team shares in one another is one of our strongest attributes.

What’s the atmosphere like to play sports for your school and town, seems like it’s an exciting time in Sabetha?

Hattie: The Sabetha community atmosphere has never failed to provide constant support, encouragement, and acknowledgement to all athletes here. Through successes and failures, parents, coaches, and teammates are so uplifting to us. Sabetha success has become widely known the past couple years and throughout our High School history. Everyone works so hard to represent our town well- that’s really important to all athletes in Sabetha.

Hunter: Sabetha is such a great community, and I’m so grateful that it’s the small town I call home. The community is always supporting every individual in everything you do. They show support in sports, the arts, academics, and so much more. There’s always someone in the community wondering how the season is going or what your planning to do after school. And I think that’s what makes Sabetha so special and successful. We all are so close. All the encouragement and support make a huge positive impact on the athletes and students.

Nikole: Over the past couple years Sabetha has won many championships ,but that’s not what makes this town so special. It’s the communities ability to come together and support everyone in time of triumph and sorrow that really says it all about this town I call home. Even though many couldn’t make it to the state meet last year I know they were still cheering for us.

Skylar: The past couple years our school has been blessed with a winning culture and it has been amazing to be apart of athletic programs that encourage hard work ethic and determination. Although throughout all of our successes, I have never felt pressure from our community to succeed. The community of Sabetha truly comes together to support their kids and encourage them to be the best they can be.

For anyone that hasn’t seen you or your team compete, why come and support?

Hattie: We are so locked in when it’s time to compete. We know the preparation has paid off, we are mentally prepared, and we know each leg will run their best. It’s so fun to unleash everything you’ve been saving up and just go. Coming to watch and support us means a lot and we know that whoever watches will see nothing less than our best. That alone should be worth your time. We run for not only each other but the glory of God. He’s the provider of our abilities and is in control of every outcome. Before every relay race, we have a team prayer with the boys relay too. It brings us together in thanksgiving to God for giving us the opportunity to run and praise Him.

Hunter: I feel like people should come and watch us for more than just the relay. Yes we’re a strong force, but we’re more than just a relay team. When you watch us you see determination to be the best we can be. You see all the hard work our coaches have put into us at practice. You can see all the time and support from our family and friends in the stands. We run for more than ourselves, and that’s what makes us fun to watch.

Nikole: My teammates never give up. And that’s a rare trait for anyone to see. Therefore I believe people should come and support them because it’s truly amazing to see the feats they can accomplish when they set their minds to it.

Skylar: I have been told that the best part about watching us race is the determination to never give up and never give in. We will always run with everything that we have while being good teammates to one another and demonstrating good sportsmanship. Weather we are in the lead, or coming back from behind, our race will hopefully be one that everyone enjoys to watch!

What are your strengths and weaknesses as competitors?

Hattie: Every team has their ups and downs, so obviously we have our strengths and weaknesses too. I think our strengths include encouraging each other, knowing what we each are capable of, humility during successes, classiness when there’s not, finishing strong, and not only setting goals, but reaching them. As for weaknesses, it can be hard to stay motivated and mentally tough when there are hard or long practices. We really have to dig deep and find that extra push to finish. It’s the hard days that make us better.

Hunter: i think our team shows multiple strengths and weaknesses. Our major strength is our faith in each other. We all know what each one of us is capable of, and we push each other to reach those limits. We also have great work ethics. We all don’t complain about our workouts; we just go out there and work our hardest. I think our weaknesses include mental toughness.  For anyone who has ran an 800, they know how tough that race is. It’s more of a sprint than you think. And running that race takes a lot of mental toughness. And sometimes we may let that get the best of us. But it’s our strong work ethic that pushes us through.

Nikole: My team's strengths are their mental toughness, and their faith in each other. Our weakness is keeping a positive attitude in all situations because it could always be worse. But for me it’s don’t take things for granted because you never know when life will throw you a curveball and take away your ability to compete.

Skylar: My greatest weakness is when I have to line up and run off the starting gun. I think I double clutch every time! But on a serious note, I’d probably say my greatest strength is mental toughness. My teammates can always count on me to encourage them and never give up till I cross the finish line.

How does track and field help you in all sports, if you play multiple sports?

Hattie: Running is definitely the ideal base for getting into shape for every sport that you play. Track helps with athleticism, quickness, your mentality, and it shows what it looks like to work hard. I am a dual sport athlete in the spring and participate in both track and softball. Every day, I go to softball practice right from track. I feel so much faster and stronger in softball just by the conditioning alone that we get from track practice. My dad tells me all the benefits that track contributed to all your other sports. It’s so worth it.

Hunter: Track is one sport that helps every other sport you do. All the running keeps you in great shape. With me only competing in running sports, it just helps build your muscle, strengthen your form, and keeps you in great running shape.

Nikole: Running helps me stay in shape for swimming in the summer, as well as the conditioning we have in volleyball. But most of all running gives me a , mental toughness that helps me be a better athlete and a stronger person all together.

Skylar: Running track helps me in many different ways. With it being in the spring, all the conditioning helps me to get back into running shape and ready for basketball during the summer. Learning how to be able to breathe and gain stamina through running helps me to be able to play basketball at a quick pace and for longer periods at a time without being fatigued.

Who are other key athletes on your team we need to look for?

Hattie: There are several other key athletes on our track team this year. A few are Morgan and Kinley Schuette, Mason Engelken, Andrew Frazee, Braden Cox, Micah Romines, Henry Glynn, Kaden Dillon, Michael Gugelman, and Jadyn Dorn. They work so hard and are some of the best athletes on our team. They deserve a lot of credit.

Hunter: i have to give a lot of credit to the rest of our teammates, both boys and girls. On the girls side, Morgan and Kinley Schuette have really grown in this sport over their 3 years, and are fun to watch. Jadyn Dorn is one good freshmen coming in. She was great in XC and is ready to compete on the track. The boys side is good too. We have Mason Engelken and Andrew Frazee running hurdles. Both have a great work ethic and love the race. Both of the boys 4x400 and 4x800 have a shot to do big things this year. They consist of Henry Glynn, Kaden Dillon, Braeden Cox, Micah Romines and Mason Engelken. All of these boys are wanting a title, so they’re working their hardest. I think Sabetha is full of other great athletes than just these mentioned. All have a shot of something great.

Favorite thing about track and field?

Hattie: Competing has to be my favorite part about track. Even though there are a LOT of nervousness and jitters it’s all so worth it. The new and old friends you get to connect with are so fun. I love being able to give my best and at the end of the day on the bus ride home, be satisfied and content with how my events went that day. After experiencing being on top at state, you realize it’s a feeling that will never leave and it inspires you to go and get it again. It’s the best feeling you can have.

Hunter: My favorite part about track are the meets. I love the atmosphere. You can always meet one new person whether it’s right before the gun goes off, or stretching on the infield. It’s definitely a sport like none other, and it’s all because of the atmosphere of the meets.

Nikole: My favorite part would be the support I get from my parents and friends in all situations win or lose. They are my rocks and I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.

Skylar: The atmosphere probably has to be the best part about track. My favorite part is when the field events have just finished and all of your teammates are on the infield and lined up on the side of the track. I can hear them cheering me on and encouraging me throughout the whole race, and vice versa, I love cheering on my teammates in a tough race. It’s the best feeling.

How cool is the state track and field experience in Wichita and then winning it?

Hattie: It’s hard to put into words the experience of Cessna stadium at the state meet. I’ve gone to the state meet to spectate every year since I was a baby, so I knew how it all went ahead of time. I used to imagine how nervous I would be if I made it there to compete one day. I couldn’t even wrap my head around what that feeling must be like. Then last year, I made it to state as an athlete, and was blown away by the realization of just being there. I was so calm that weekend, which made it so great. Winning state, then climbing to the top of the podium as we heard our names announced was surreal and very emotional. (Hence my face in certain pictures) It was truly amazing. There is nothing like it.

Hunter: the state meet is one experience in itself. I remember when I first went my sophomore year. I was walking around the track just taking it all in. The day of the meet is unreal. The stands are packed and there’s so much going on. It’s something you just have to see in person. But winning at that meet is something even greater. It’s an unforgettable experience.

Nikole: Honestly I’m not gonna lie, state track terrifies me because you have so many people watching you, but at the same time it’s a great experience because it forces you to take your athletic abilities higher if you want to win.

Skylar: The atmosphere of Cessna stadium is nothing short of

Do you play any other sports, tell us about that, what other positions do you play?

Hattie: Yes! I run cross country in the fall, I did basketball in the winter as a freshman, and then I play softball and run track in the spring. I’m on the varsity softball team as a lead off hitter and play second base. I love both softball and track and am so thankful for my coaches for allowing me to do both and making it work. I work really hard to be my best wherever I am, and have success in all of these sports so far. Making it to state in XC 2 years in a row has given me so many great memories and I hope to make it back to that meet and the state track meets again too.

Hunter: I’ve done many sports over the years. I’ve competed in volleyball, basketball, track and cross country. My senior year I just competed in XC and track. I’ve really started enjoying the running as well as the family atmosphere you get in both sports. I just love how close our team is and it makes the sport so much more fun.

Nikole: I am involved in Volleyball and swim team as well. I play volleyball all year round where I am a varsity outside hitter. Volleyball is my sport no matter how I’m feeling the ability to pick up a ball and play never ceases to make me feel better. I owe most of my accomplishments in volleyball to track for keeping me in shape and developing the mental toughness I need to succeed. I also compete in swimming in the summer. I swim the butterfly, IM, freestyle and both relays. Running track has helped me immensely when it comes to the butterfly and IM. If your not a swimmer I can tell you that those two races are by far the most grueling and tiring.

Skylar: I am also involved in Cross Country and Basketball. The past two years I have had the opportunity to learn how to love running. My favorite part of this experience is the close knit family atmosphere and getting in great shape. Basketball has always been my favorite sport and I love the adrenaline and rush of a fast paced game.

What is it like to compete for your coach?

Hattie: Our running coach pushes us really hard and confirms our goals with us pre-competition, which is so helpful and encouraging. Although practices are hard, it makes the meets so much fun. I’m so thankful for the potential she sees in us and how hard she pushes us. It truly makes the difference.

Hunter: our coaches are some of the best around. They all care so much about how we compete. They are so supportive of our goals and aspirations. Our practices may be super tough, but it’s all because they want us to be the best we can be.

Nikole: For me some of my best coaches are parents or the coaches of other sports who come to every or almost every meet. They give us goals that seem crazy but at the end of they day those goals are what help us strive to work harder and achieve greatness.

What did you and the team do in the off-season to become better?

Hattie: We don’t really do a whole lot with all 4 of us training-wise in the off season. We each ran before the season started and here and there on our our own. I attended a running camp last summer in Colorado that was really eye-opening to new ways of thinking, form, nutrition, and correctly warming up. I now apply everything I learned there to my everyday workouts. Cross country has helped too and has made me so much better in the endurance part of training.

Hunter: during the off season we all tend to just run on our own and do our own workouts. Skylar plays basketball, so that keeps her busy. The rest of us had work and other activities to keep us busy so we all found our own time to run.

Nikole: Off season I run and play volleyball to stay in shape.

Skylar: Throughout the summer and off season I stay busy and in shape by playing with my traveling basketball team. Running Cross Country has also helped me tremendously in preparing for this season.

What interest are you seeing at the next level and what are your plans?

Hattie: I’m only a sophomore, but as of right now, I really want to run in college wherever that might be. I am just going to continue to be the best I can be and let God determine the plan he has for me.

Nikole: After high school I would like to attend UMKC after high school and get my doctorate degree. After that I hope to go to a hospital where I can become a surgical intern and specialize in trauma or cardiothoracics

Skylar: I will be attending Bethel College next year to play basketball and pursue a degree in Psychology in hopes of one day becoming a Child Life Specialist.

Favorite thing to do when you aren’t playing sports?

Hattie: I love doing anything with friends. Whether that’s watching movies, cruising, sleepovers, weekend trips, camp outs, adventures, eating out, or haunted houses, I love it all. I’m all for spending quality time with friends. I also love being actively involved in my youth group by attending youth group weekly, and going to church camp. It’s always a good time and very rich.

Hunter: I’m you’re typical farm girl. I love showing cows, sheep, and pigs through 4-H. I also love singing. I’ve been singing throughout school, church, and even got the opportunity to sing the National Anthem at the Kansas State Class 3-2-1 A Wrestling Tournament in Hays this year. That was such a fun experience that I will never forget. I also love spending time with my family and friends.

Nikole: When I’m not playing sports I love to play with my dog and help people in need. As well as hang out with my friends ,and further my relationship with Christ through youth groups and devotions.

Skylar: Family has always been super important to me. I love taking road trips, watching my siblings compete, and family movie nights. When I am not enjoying time with my family I am hanging out with friends or getting involved with my youth group.

 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Hattie:

Hunter:  in 10 years, I’m hoping to be done with vet school and working in a clinic. I also hope to have started a family by this point. I plan on coming back home to watch my two youngest brothers play football and wrestle as well.

Nikole: In 10 years I plan to be starting my surgical internship wherever that may be.

Skylar: Within the next ten years I hope to have graduated college with my Psychology degree and Child Life Specialist Certification. With this certification I hope to have a permanent job at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for seriously ill children and their families. There I will spread love and joy to children who have known nothing but hospitals and medication their entire lives.

 

Favorite subject in school, what type of student are you, GPA?

Hattie: I like Biology the best, only because our teacher is fun! ;) I am a straight A+ student and I have a consistent 4.0.

Hunter: my favorite subject is math. I love working with numbers (once I figure it out of course). And we have great math teachers in Sabetha that make the class fun! I’m a hands on learner and have a cumulative GPA of 4.0. I am also ranked 4th in my class of 59 students.

Nikole: My favorite subject would have to be anything science. Ever since I was a little girl I knew I wanted to do something in the science department whether that was dolphin training or becoming a doctor of some kind. I am also a 4.0 student and very involved in high school activities.

Skylar: Literature and Writing has always been a subject that I have enjoyed, especially reading and watching plays. Throughout my high school career I have managed a 4.0 grade point average.

Who is your role model?

Hunter: my role models would have to be my parents. Both of them are such hardworking people to support us four kids. They are always there for me when I need them and I’m so grateful for that.

Nikole: My role model would have to be Coach Michael. No matter what he always brings his best for anyone in need in the school and community. I also look up to my older sister Grace. Everyday she teaches me that if you work hard and truly believe you can accomplish something you can do anything.

Skylar: Jesus:)

Best place to eat in your town or the surrounding area?

Hunter: Six - Mile cafe, north of Dawson, NE. it’s a little bit of a drive from Sabetha, but it is totally worth it! They have amazing onion rings and lots of other good food.

Nikole: Buzz cafe, the food is amazing and the workers are kind and always put your needs before their own.

Skylar: Downtown Coffee Company! They have just about anything, but definitely the best pizza in town!

One thing the average person wouldn’t know about you?

Hunter: I am also on the 2018 Kansas FFA all class state champion rituals team!

Nikole: I am a quad. This means I was born with 3other people. Yes we fight but at the end of the day we love each other it’s basically like my own relay team at home. :) They are some of my biggest supporters and my love for them is like no other.

Skylar: I love to cook and bake for family and friends!