Ruckman’s long season ends on podium
In a track and field season filled with emotion and challenges, Douglas High senior Kindra Ruckman finished on a positive note Friday with a third-place performance in the girls discus at the NIAA State Championships in Carson City.
Ruckman, who faced with the adversity of her mother’s battle against cancer, earned her discus medal with a distance of 116-feet, 6-inches under cool and overcast conditions at Carson High’s Jim Frank Track and Field Complex.
Overall, the Douglas girls made four appearances on the medal podium and finished ninth as a team with 25.5 points during the two-day state meet. The Tigers placed third in the girls 4×200 relay as Sophia Bottino, Kyla Hinnant, Megan Veil and Madison Smalley combined to run 1:44.72, Meleeah Holmes McKown placed fourth in the shot put (36-8) and Hannah Carr tied for fourth in the high jump (5-2).
Ruckman’s throw was her best since April 10 (117-1) and approached the personal record 119-2 she set last year at the region meet, however, her progress was hindered by a midseason wrist injury.
“She had tendon damage so we rested her to make sure she was completely healed,” Douglas throws coach Kirk McKown said. “It’s not about the beginning of the season that matters. It’s where you finish.”
Ruckman was simply happy to be up on the medal podium after posting her best throw in the next-to-last round. Liberty senior Athiya Iese won the gold at 128-4.
“This is a nice way to end my senior year,” she said.
Two of Ruckman’s biggest supporters during the event were McKown and her mother, Tanya, who was on hand to watch one day after leaving a hospital for cancer treatment.
“She didn’t want to miss this,” Ruckman said.
Ruckman, who plans to attend Southern Utah University in the fall, explained how throwing helped her work through difficult times.
“Throwing helps because it’s a way to relax and to release energy,” she said. “Having a sport gives you something that you can get better at, and that’s exciting.”
Earlier on Friday, the Tigers medaled in a fast 4×200 relay that was won by Rancho in a in a stadium record 1:39.64. Smalley secured third-place (.09 ahead of Galena) with an anchor leg in which she was clocked at 25.72 seconds. The team finished just two-tenths off its school record time set one week before at the region meet.
“That 4×2 team ran beautifully,” Douglas head coach Kim Tretton said. “Kate (Berston, sprints coach) worked tirelessly on the handoffs this week. We knew the south was fast and that was an area that we could shave some time. The 4×2 is an extremely difficult race to perfect handoffs, but those four girls did it.”
Smalley returned to the track 95 minutes later to run the 400 meters and logged a season-best 1:00.48 to place seventh. Rancho senior and UNLV signee emerged as the winner in a stadium record time of 54.75.
Carr, a junior, cleared 5-2 to tie Reed senior Avery Lauf. Five jumpers were still competing for the gold medal at 5-2 and in the end, Silverado freshman Grace Cunningham won after a jump-off with her 5-4.
On Saturday, Holmes McKown threw 36-8 in the shot put to lead all Northern competitors and place fourth overall. The sophomore opened with a 32-foot first-round throw and was eighth midway through the competition, but worked her way back and unleashed her best throw in the final round.
“She learned a valuable lesson about the pressure of the ring,” coach McKown said. “I was proud of the way she came back to overcome the mental challenge of the pressure in a state meet.”
Luke Gansberg finished seventh in the 400, as the junior shaved more than one second off his personal best with a 51.40 effort. Centennial senior Tre Harley won the race in 48.16.
Douglas placed seventh in the girls 4×400 race as Serena Tomassi, Maya Smith, Bottino and Smalley ran 4:07.31. Rancho won in a fast 3:48.85 that broke the stadium record.