Switch to track paying off for Washburn Rural senior Cody Ladson

Washburn Rural’s Cody Ladson had a successful baseball season as a junior, earning second-team All-City honors and helping the Junior Blues finish third in the Class 6A state tournament.


His enjoyment of the sport was waning, however, and he knew last spring would probably be his final season on the diamond.

But Ladson, who will play football at Emporia State, is not just sitting around this spring. He’s running, and jumping, and off to a fast start for the Rural track and field team.

“It was before baseball last year that I was deciding if I should do baseball because I really wasn’t liking it,” Ladson said of his decision to switch sports. “I was just playing it because I was good at it. I didn’t have a lot of fun last year even though our team did good.

“I was done with baseball and I’m playing football next year so track’s going to help out more for that.”

Just a few weeks into track, Ladson, who will compete in this weekend’s Kansas Relays at Lawrence’s Rock Chalk Park, is sure he made the right decision.

“I love track,” he said. “In middle school I did track, but just middle school. It’s really fun and I have a lot of friends on the track team.”

Ladson is obviously a newbie to the sport but said he had an idea of what he was getting into.

“My friends, like Hunter Hiegert and Hunter Browning, have been in track and they told me exactly how it is and how fast everyone would be,” Ladson said. “I was pretty aware of how everything would be.”

Ladson, an All-City defensive pick in football, currently ranks No. 2 on the City Honor Roll in the 100-meter dash (11.1 seconds) and he is fourth in the triple jump (39 feet, 5 1/4 inches).

Ladson has also teamed with seniors Browning and Hiegert and freshman Jaylen Carter in the 400-meter relay, with Rural currently No. 4 in the city in that event (43.9).

“The relay’s the most fun, Ladson said. “Hunter Browning and Hunter Hiegert are two of my best friends and then we have Jaylen Carter, a freshman, and he’s surprised me so much at how fast he is. We’re just having a lot of fun with that this year.”

Rural’s relay earned a berth in the Relays, which will be Ladson’s first introduction to the mammoth event.

“I’ve never been to it, but my friends have told me about it and how big it is,” he said.

Although Rural’s 400 relay team is off to an impressive start, Ladson said the team knows it can get faster and is ultimately shooting for a state berth next month as well as another big goal.

“(State is) a big goal and one of our other big goals is to beat our school record, which is from the ’80s,” Ladson said.

Regardless of what happens the rest of the spring, though, Ladson said that the switch to track has been good for him.

“I feel faster because I’ve actually kind of learned how to run,” Ladson said. “I’ve had terrible running form before, but track’s helped that.”

Other city athletes to watch:

Shawnee Heights junior Michael Hoffer and Topeka High senior Richard Newman, two of the state’s premier high-jumpers, will square off in that event at 9 a.m. Friday.

Hoffer, last year’s 5A state champ, ranks No. 2 on the State Honor Roll at 6-foot-8 and has a personal-best of 6-10 3/4 while Newman has jumped 6-6 multiple times. Newman was second in the Relays as a junior.

Hoffer, Newman and Topeka High senior Stephaun Carter could all make noise in the long jump, which will be contested at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Hoffer and Newman started the week one-two in the event on the State Honor Roll, with Hoffer going 23 feet, 1 1/2 inches and Newman 22-10. Carter is just off the state’s top five, with a best of 22-5.

Topeka West senior Jordan Walker, a state qualifier as a junior, has a season-best of 49.56 seconds in the 400-meter dash, ranking second in the state, and will compete in the preliminaries of that event at 12:05 p.m. Friday.

Seaman senior Benton McCann, a 5A state placer as a junior, started the week ranked No. 4 on the State Honor Roll in the 110 hurdles at 14.61 seconds and will compete in the preliminaries of that event at 9:55 a.m. Friday.

Shawnee Heights junior Hunter Henderson, the defending 5A state champion in the 1,600, will compete in that event at 2:50 p.m. Saturday, along with Washburn Rural senior standout Pierce Flanders, a state placer as a junior. Flanders and Henderson will also compete in the 800 at 5:55 p.m. Friday.

Hayden senior Robert Schmidt, fourth in the 4A 3,200 last spring, has a season-best of 9:44 this season and will compete in that event at 1:10 p.m. Friday.



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