By RICK PETERSON
Sitting on the sidelines while his Hayden teammates competed in the Class 4A state track and field championships last spring was probably the toughest day of Tanner Newkirk's athletic career.
Coming off a monster cross country season, the 4A state champ fought through injuries off and on throughout track season, but was still able to qualify for state in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs and was poised for his first state track meet since his freshman year after the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19.
Newkirk made the trip to Wichita, but his injury tightened up and prevented him from competing in any of his events.
Not being able to run at state still hurts to this day, but Newkirk has tried to use that heartbreak as motivation for his final prep cross country season.
"I was so hungry just to come out here and get some redemption,'' said Newkirk, a three-time state medalist in cross country and a multi-time state medalist in track as a freshman.
"I've just been trying to do my best because that really hurt me. It was a hard time.''
Newkirk has been dealing with a respiratory issue in recent weeks, but has continued to excel, recording his second straight individual city title by just under 20 seconds in a five-kilometer time of 15 minutes, 22.0 seconds last Saturday at the Kanza Park Course.
"My breathing has just been really off and I've struggled to get deep breaths, but obviously I'm still able to come out and compete, which is great,'' said Newkirk, who led Hayden to a second-place team finish in the city meet.
With the end of the year grind of Centennial League, regional and state meets coming up the next three Saturdays, Newkirk remains hopeful that he's past the worst of the problem.
"I guess stuff just happens sometimes, but it's unfortunate,'' said Newkirk, who is set to compete in the Centennial League meet Saturday at Milford State Park. "I should be coming to the end because it's been about four or five weeks. Hopefuly it subsides soon.''
Plus, after what he went through last spring, Newkirk is bound and determined to make the most of each and every opportunity he has to run.
"That's the thing,'' Newkirk said. "I'm just really happy to be out here and just feeling really fresh and injury free. I'm really just happy to be racing.''