Kansas Wesleyan track and field coach Kyle Hiser wanted to have a home event to showcase his athletes and their handsome facility inside JRI Stadium and the Graves Family Sports Complex.
Garrett Young, KWU's cross country coach and assistant for the track program, had the perfect solution: the Coyote Distance Carnival.
"I can't take any credit, it was coach Young's idea when he came here (from Southwestern in June, 2022)," Hiser said Friday night following the inaugural event. "We've been wanting to host a meet; we have one of the best facilities in the (Kansas) Conference and Kansas.
"We were trying figure out what to do to get teams here and coach Young said 'let's have a distance carnival.' I said 'heck yeah, let's do it.'"
The carnival featured five men's and four women's distance races – 1,500 meters, men's 3,000-meter steeplechase, 400-meter dash, 5,000-meter run and 800-meter run. There were no sprints, throws, hurdles or jumps.
"It's fun to run under the lights at your home track," Hiser said. "Our kids said it was easy to know where you're at in the race because we train here all the time. Seeing all the kids' parents and families here means a lot because you don't get to race at home a whole lot – just once."
Tabor, McPherson, Bethel, Allen County and Cowley College competed with the Coyotes on a chilly and windy night.
KWU athletes led the way in the 400 meters. Eryk Kyser (JR/Caney, Kan.) dominated the men's race, easily winning in a personal record time of 49.02 seconds.
"He's strong in the long jump but seeing him go out there and crush the 400 is always fun," Hiser said.
Grace Pearson (FR/Cypress, Texas) won the women's 400 in thrilling fashion, edging Bethel's Mia Roman at the finish line by less than a second (1:00.76 to 1:01.00). Bailey Mann (SO/Ferris, Texas) was third (1:04.06) and Grayce Tankersley (FR/Hillsboro, Kan.) fifth (1:06.32).
Three Coyote men ran under two minutes in the 800 meters – Will Griffith placed third (1:56.22), Ty Davidson (SO/Lakin, Kan.) fourth (1:56.84) and Nicholas Martinez night (1:59.79).
"Martinez for the first time in his life, Ty Davidson had a PR and Will was really close to his PR," Hiser said. "That was really fun."
Griffith, who ran at Salina Central High School, was pleased with his effort.
"It felt really good," he said. "I've had a bad few weeks so getting back into running feels a lot better. It was kind of getting in my mind but I'm starting to get out of it, starting to get a better mindset. I feel better body-wise too."
Griffith said it was nice to run at home.
"If feels a lot better," he said. "I hate going outside of town all the time. Just being done with the meet a little bit quicker is nice."
KWU's Joni Schroeder (FR/Salina, Kan.) was seventh in the women's 800 meters (2:35.82).
Two Coyotes were runners-up in the 1,500 meters. Madisyn Ehrlich (FR/Salina, Kan.) was second in the women's race in 5:03.20, Josie Koppes (SO/Manhattan, Kan.) took third (5:06.39), Daniella Gaona (JR/Clifton, Texas) 11th (5:44.28) and Savannah Pilsner (SO/Columbus, Texas) 12th (6:15.45).
Giovanni Rios (SO/Temecula, Calif.)' second-place time in the men's race was 4:10.49. Jake Cruz (FR/Pasadena, Texas) was fifth (4:16.36), Jack Horacek (SO/Topeka. Kan.) sixth (4:18.09), Julian Avila (SO/Manhattan, Kan.) (4:19.87) and Stevie Merrill ninth (4:21.88).
Charlee Lind (FR/Wamego, Kan.) was the top KWU in the women's 5,000 placing third (20:07.16). Alayna Behrman (SO/Craig, Colo.) was fourth (21:00.21) and Regan Rhodes (SR/Mullinville, Kan.) fifth (21:07.31).
KWU didn't have an entry in the men's steeplechase.
Hiser has big plans for future distance carnivals.
"We're going to make it better, we're going to have more music and some different things to make it unique in the next few years," he said. "Hopefully it will continue to grow and become a premier event."