It seemed like it would come down to one jump.
Zach Budda was in a battle with Smoky Valley’s Nick Deterding and Andale’s Garrison LeRock for the Class 4A high jump gold medal. All three jumpers missed their first attempt at 6 feet, 8 inches. Budda had the first shot at taking the lead with his second attempt.
He trotted. He ran. He planted. He jumped.
And Budda cleared the bar.
Budda made what proved to be the winning high jump at 6’8” after the other two couldn’t match it. He then became Augusta High School’s newest state champion by claiming the title at the state track and field meet Saturday at Wichita State’s Cessna Stadium.
After LeRock’s final miss, Budda couldn’t help but crack a smile.
“It was great. Just to finish like this was great,”?Budda said. “I knew it’d be tough competition here. It definitely was. It just felt good to come out on top.”
It was a fitting ending. Budda, a senior, tied his personal best, a mark he set earlier this season in El Dorado, which also broke a 38-year-old school record. Budda, who will compete for Wichita State next year, won the title on the field where he’ll soon spend a lot of time.
“You’re a state champion, and no one can take that away from you,” coach Steve Reichardt said of Budda. “As an athlete and a student, to see him put all that work in and do the things he does in a positive way, and to have it turn out like this for him, then to be able to go to WSU?next year...it’s great.”
He earned a sixth-place medal at State last year. Kelly Graber, also a Shocker, won the 2011 title.
“Now Wichita can say they have both state high jumpers from the past two years,” Budda said.
From the beginning of the competition, Budda set the tone. He figured it was going to be a close call, so he wanted to have a clean performance.
He was as technically sound as could be. He paced his strides well, he turned at the right spot and right angle. Budda nailed the first four jumps without one scratch.
“I only missed once, and it was at 6’8” the first time. I?knew coming in, it’d come down to scratches, maybe,”?Budda said.
The championship is the first for Augusta’s track and field team since Lucas Sims won a state title May 25, 1996, his senior year. Sims won the 300-meter hurdles race with a time of 39.17 seconds, which set a school record.
For Budda, this is the final chapter of a decorated high jump career, which Budda has said he started simply to get out of running events. It didn’t take him or his coaches long to figure out he was good.
Now he’s more than good. He’s a champion.