Warner got a jump on the outdoor track season with a championship-mark of 5 feet, 6 inches in the high jump at the Wyoming State Indoor Track Championships on Saturday in Gillette.
Warner competed for Cody’s indoor team during the winter, as did four other PHS students.
Senior Lexee Craig, junior Teo Faulkner, junior Emily Sweet and sophomore JuliaKay O’Neill each joined the Broncs girls, who finished seventh of 15 teams at state.
Cody head coach Bret Engdahl said Warner established herself among the top of her field.
“She’s one of the best jumpers that has ever been in the state. She’s something special,” Engdahl said. “Good kid, works hard. She has a gift and is putting it to work.”
Engdahl nearly didn’t need to qualify his statement with “one of.” Warner came within a sliver of clearing 5 feet, 8.25 inches, which would have set a new state record.
“I know in practice I had done that a couple times, but I was really amped up … I definitely thought I had it,” Warner said.
The three-sport athlete needed two attempts to jump 5-6, a mark she was confident would net her the title. Kaitlin Barnes of Natrona was the only other jumper to best 5 feet, 4 inches, and attempt 5-6.
With the individual championship secure, Warner was able to compete with herself for the state record. Any nerves or pressure Warner felt was eased by her coach.
“Coach Engdahl said ‘You did what you came here to do’ … so it was just for fun,” she said.
It was another instance in a long history of Engdahl finding the right words in the right moment for Warner.
“I absolutely love coach Engdahl. For me, high jump is 95 percent mental and he found a way to talk to me and talk me off my ledge when I needed it,” Warner said. “He was just always very calm, and looked you right in the eye and said, ‘Calm down, no matter what happens you’re still the same kid you were before.’”
Warner’s days competing for Engdahl are over, but with an expected four years of collegiate track in her future, his influence hasn’t expired.
“His voice will be forever stuck (in my mind),” Warner said.
Warner’s high school exploits have attracted the attention of many Division I programs, but she has yet to commit.
“I really like Montana state and Wyoming, but I’m going to go see University of Idaho and University of Utah as well,” she said.
Before she makes the leap into the NCAA, Warner will compete in a final outdoor track season for PHS. Practice began Monday, and, thanks to the indoor season, Warner is already in midseason form.
“I push myself to the limit,” she said.
Now Engdahl has to pay the price for helping Warner reach new heights.
“I couldn’t be more proud of her and the progress she made,” Engdahl said. “I’m excited to see her in outdoor even though she’ll be kicking our (Cody’s) butt.”
Warner placed fourth in the triple jump with a distance of 34 feet, 8.25 inches, which was about a foot shorter than her best outdoor mark from last season.
“I was a little disappointed with my mark, but in the indoor season we really didn’t have anywhere to practice and I focused mainly on high jump,” Warner said.
A Pack of Panthers
Four other Panthers competed in eight events in the field of more than 600 competitors in Gillette over the weekend.
Craig took ninth in both the 55-meter hurdles (9.74 seconds) and the pole vault (8 feet, 6 inches). Her final mark in pole vault was a foot below her seed height.
“She’s been jumping real strong” Engdahl said “She didn’t have a great state meet, but has been right up there with girls jumping at the state-winning height.”
Faulkner was 11th in the 3200-meter run (12:16.56) and 21st in the 1600-meter run (5:51.87). Faulkner also endured knee pain to post three personal records during the season and Cody’s fastest split in the 4x800-meter relay.
“She’s a tough kid,” Engdahl said. “You don’t hardly notice her around because she’s quiet, but she’s determined and racing well right now.”
O’Neill finished 13th in the 800-meter run (2:29.71) and 22nd in the 400-meter dash (1:05.71). The Panther cross-country runner also ran a personal best in her leg of the 4x800.
“She was kind of banged up coming out of cross country, and took some time off,” Engdahl said. “So she probably wasn’t in the shape she should have been in, but that was beyond her control. She started to look like herself this weekend.”
Sweet placed 25th in the 55-meter hurdles (10.43).
“I’ve been sure pleased with the Powell kids that have come over,” Engdahl said. “They don’t send us over any slackers.”