Ballock completes career sweep of hurdle race at state meet
There was a lot more riding on Saturday's class 4A 300-meter hurdles race than just a state title.
For Eudora senior Emily Ballock, the race was a chance to fulfill four years of promise by completing a career sweep of the race at state. In the stadium she'll soon call home, the Wichita State-bound Ballock blew away the competition, winning by over a second with a time of 44.83 seconds.
"I felt really good during the race, my legs felt ready to go," Ballock said. "I just came out, started out real relaxed, let the wind push me on the backstretch and then fought into it at the end and tried to finish strong."
Ballock finished the preliminary race in second place at 45.58, .01 seconds behind freshman Jill Kurtz of Chapman. The idea that she may not be able to pull off the four-peat did occur to Ballock.
"Every time the thought crept up I was like, 'oh, no,' and just pushed it out of my mind," Ballock said. "It was different, not having the fastest time coming into the finals, but I just let that be my motivator and I came out and wanted it more, showed my strength and ran well."
The prelim certainly wasn't Ballock's first setback in the 300 hurdles this season. At the Kansas Relays, the meet coach Phil Katzenmeier said she was looking forward to even more than state, Ballock finished in fourth place.
"I was really disappointed with that race and just bummed about it," Ballock said after the Relays. Ballock added that she hoped she could use the disappointment to improve in the remainder of the season.
Apparently she knows how to turn a setback into success as she cruised past her competition in the remaining meets of the season en route to the state crown.
Ballock has never been an athlete who competed in just one event, and the 2008 state meet was no different as she accounted for 15 of the Cardinals 16 points.
In addition to her victory, Ballock led the 3,200-relay team to a fifth place finish in a time of 10:11.82, finished sixth in the 100 hurdles at 15.48 and also helped the 1,600-relay finish 10th, just two spots out of the finals.
Still, all the focus was on the 300 hurdles victory and the feelings that came with it.
"There was a lot of relief," Katzenmeier said. "I know I felt it and I think she did, too. History will tell how great of an accomplishment that was. It's hard to realize what you're doing at the time, but this is pretty rare and for Eudora. It's never been done before.
"There was just this feeling of, 'She did it!' The expectations were there and you put in the time but you still have to get it done. Give her a lot of credit because it didn't just happen."
Ballock has had a lot of emotional moments at Cessna Stadium in the past four years, but it's not difficult for her to pinpoint what she'll miss most about competing there in high school.
"Definitely the atmosphere, I mean look around," she said. "It's amazing the fans, the people, the coaches, just everything. Next year I'll be here practicing every day and it will be weird to see it empty because I've never ran here with it empty."
Standing in her familiar place atop the podium after Saturday's victory, Ballock received a gold medal that means a lot to everyone who receives one. However, when she goes home and looks at it with her other three state gold medals, it may mean a little more. That's because this one signifies the successful completion of a highly anticipated and widely discussed quest that began four years ago.
"After my freshman year when I won the first time, they started saying, 'four in a row, four in a row,'" Ballock said, "but every year I came out and kept working towards that goal every step and this is definitely icing on the cake."