Garden Plain sprinter caps freshman season with multiple championships
Heading into her sophomore year at Garden Plain High School, Brooke Hammond has already made quite an impression on high school track in the state.
Records have fallen and state gold medals are already at three. She’s been named to the Wichita Eagle’s All-Metro Girls Track Team and was invited to the Topeka Capital-Journal’s Best of Kansas Preps awards banquet.
Considering her work ethic and ambition, more marks will certainly fall and more honors will come her way in the next three years.
“I thought there was a decent chance of having a good year,” said the confident but humble Garden Plain speedster just days after capturing gold in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 4x100 meters relay in Class 2A at the Kansas State Track and Field Championships.
“My coaches were always telling me you have a good chance at getting up on the podium at state, just keep working hard, be the leader of the pack at practices and all that stuff.”
Hammond, who did not lose an open event as a middle school sprinter, won the state 100 in 12.48 and 200 in a personal-best 26.05. She also anchored the Owls’ 400 relay with Claire Clark, Macy Catlin and Nikole Puetz, which claimed its state title in a school-record mark of 50.05.
Her finish in the 200 was especially satisfying as not only did it secure her a second individual crown, it locked up a sixth state girls championship for Garden Plain, its first since 2013.
“Before the 300 hurdles we were close to Bennington and after those we were at 45.5 and they were at 40,” she explained. “We got eight points from our shot putter (Brianna Pitts) and Bennington didn’t have anybody.
“So I just had to beat the Bennington girl in the 200. I got first and she got seventh and after that we knew we got this.”
Garden Plain, which used 12 athletes at the meet, finished with 71.5 points, while Bennington had 57. The Owls lose just three girls to graduation and have some talent coming up from the middle school ranks, so “I feel like we have a decent shot at going back to state and doing it again.”
The track team’s finish completed what was an amazing school year for the girls’ athletic program. The Owls went 35-10 to win the 2A volleyball title last fall and followed that up with 21-4 record and 2A basketball championship.
While Hammond has grown accustomed to being around highly successful programs, she said it didn’t help calm her nerves entering Wichita State’s Cessna Stadium, full thousands of screaming track and field fans.
Because of the numerous weather delays, she would not run in any preliminary races, so Hammond’s first visit to the starting line was for the second heat of the 100.
“I was really nervous in the 100 and when (Plainville’s Aubree Dewey) false-started that made things really nervous,” she said. “I made sure before we got in the blocks that I looked at the winning time for the first heat and it said 12.8 or something like that so I just said to myself, ‘I have to beat that time.’“
With a quick start off the gun, Hammond powered down the straightaway, easily winning her heat and glancing up at the Cessna scoreboard for her time. When the 12.48 appeared beside her name, it didn’t take her long to know she was golden.
“I got out quick and then we were done,” she said. “I crossed the finish, looked at the board and realized we’d won, so I was really happy.”
The story was reversed in the 200 as Hammond put down her 26.05 in the first heat and then had to watch the second race unfurl before being able to claim her second gold medal.
“I get told all the time that the 200 is my best race but it’s one of my least favorite races,” she said. “I like the 100 because it’s short and you can hit your full speed before you finish. The 400, that is definitely my least favorite, there is no doubt about that.”
Huey Counts is a veteran sportswriter, distance runner and youth track coach from Salina.