Antonino, Dexter earn 2023 track All-State honors
Robert Galbreath photos Katyana Dexter on the podium for the Best of the Best Award in discus at State. Dexter snagged All-State honors in both the discus and shot put. Madison Antonino on the podium following the 1600-meters at State. Antonino earned All-State honors in the event and the 3200-meters, her first outdoor track awards.
CASPER – The storm clouds shrouding on Casper on Thursday afternoon began to recede as sophomore Madison Antonino stepped up to the starting line for the girls’ 3200-meter run at the 2023 State Track and Field Championships.
Antonino shook off rain and nerves as she mentally prepared for the eight-lap task. She focused on the 3A front-runner from eastern Wyoming – Rawlins’ Ryann Smith.
The starting gun sounded and 17 of the best distance runners exploded onto the wet track. Immediately hitting her stride, Antonino aggressively and skillfully positioned herself in the lead.
“My plan was just to get in the front of the pack,” Antonino said. “If someone decided they wanted to leave (the pack), I would try to match their move and stay with them.”
Antonino, a sophomore, and Smith, a senior, found themselves far ahead of the other 15 runners early in the competition. The real race commenced and Antonino remained glued to her older opponent.
“I think it’s easier to use (Smith’s) energy and feed off of her – to stick with a fast-paced runner and match every little move she makes,” said Antonino.
As the duo approached the sixth lap, Antonino turned up the pressure on Smith.
“I reminded myself to make a move with two laps left and then kick it in for the last 200 meters – really give it everything and pass her,” Antonino said.
Bearing down on the final 200 meters, Antonino pushed aside the pain and exhaustion from the previous seven laps and dug deep, overtaking Smith as the finish line, hazy with rain and smoke, came into view.
“It felt awesome to pass Smith,” said Antonino. “I kept repeating to myself, ‘Don’t let her get ahead of you!’”
Antonino burst across the finish line, nearly 2 seconds ahead of Smith at 11 minutes, 31.29 seconds, snagging both the state championship and her first 3A outdoor track All-State honors.
The girls’ 1600-meters at State also came down to a duel between Antonino and Smith for first and second place.
“My plan was to go out with Ryann at a really fast pace,” Antonino said. “I knew if I stuck with her for as long as I could, I would get a new PR. I focused on making sure I wasn’t getting passed and matching the moves Ryann made.”
Antonino mirrored Smith step for step.
The race for the final 100 meters again came down to the wire. Antonino hit the finish line at 5:05.88, a mere 2.34 seconds after Smith crossed at 5:03.54.
Antonino earned second place and picked up All-State honors in the event. She also set a new PHS school record in the mile, shattering the previous record she set at the Brigham Young University (BYU) High School Track Meet on May 5.
Going the distance
Antonino made significant strides as a distance runner over the course of her sophomore year, catching the attention of coaches and runners from across the state and region.
This fall, Antonino bagged 4A All-State honors with a second-place finish at the State Cross-Country Meet, clocking the 5-kilometer course in at 18:40.13, a blistering 6:01 per mile.
Switching seamlessly to indoor track, Antonino medaled in the 3200-meters at the prestigious 2023 Simplot Games in Pocatello, Idaho.
Antonino set the pace for outdoor track at BYU. Contending against the best runners from the region, Antonino secured bronze in the 1A-3A division, timing in with a new PHS school record of 11:05.31.
“I think BYU was a big confidence booster, being able to run a fast race with my group,” Antonino said.
Antonino gave a shoutout to her parents, coaches and friends for their support during the outdoor season.
Discus – a new week, a new record
The sun rose high in a cloudless, blue sky as sophomore Katyana Dexter prepared for the girls’ discus at State.
“I focus on getting my footwork down before we begin,” Dexter said. “I listen to music. Try not to think about the event too much – ‘It’s just another track meet,’ I tell myself.”
Stepping into the ring, Dexter went through her rotation and sent the discus flying. The discus landed 138 feet from the ring. First place seemed within reach for Dexter. Only two other throwers had so far managed to clear 120 feet.
“After the 138, I was just trying to build from there, trying to get a farther throw,” Dexter said.
Back in the ring for the finals, Dexter spun, the discus arced up and up, eventually coming to rest in the grass at 146 feet, 1 inch. The crowd erupted. Dexter captured the 3A state championship in discus by an overwhelming margin of 25 feet, 10 inches to garner All-State honors.
“I was not expecting to throw a 146 today,” she said. “But the day was perfect weather and I was able to get out here and make a perfect throw. The breeze even helped the throw a little bit.”
An unusual statement regarding the wind in Wyoming…
“Usually the wind is blowing the discus back in your face,” said Dexter. “If the weather’s not going to cooperate – it’s Wyoming. You’ve just got to adjust.”
Dexter adjusted to the state’s ever-changing moods with flying colors. The sophomore managed to hit a new personal record in the discus at nearly every meet over the course of the outdoor season. For Dexter, a new PR meant breaking her own PHS school record – week after week. State was no exception.
“For me, now, it’s not really me against everyone else,” Dexter said. “It’s me against me. I’m just trying to beat previous throws, make myself better. I’m having so much fun out here.”
New heights in the shot put
Dexter also set a new PHS school record in the shot put at State, breaking a previous record she set only weeks before. Posting a throw of 42-03 ¼ in the finals, Dexter bagged her second state championship and beat the runner-up, Adelyn Anderson, of Lander, by more than 2 feet.
“Adelyn is really good,” said Dexter. “The name of the game was to come out and compete. I knew I could beat her. So long as I handled business, I knew it would be good.”
Dexter began throwing in middle school.
“My dad wanted me to come out for track, but I didn’t want to because of all the running, so he told me to try throwing. My dad got me a cool pair of shoes for it. Then I was like, ‘Maybe I’m actually good at this.’ So I stuck with it.”
Getting to Dexter’s level involves a considerable effort. In addition to four or five grueling days of practice each week, Dexter spends many hours in the weight room.
“Discus came pretty naturally,” Dexter said. “Shot put seems to be harder, and I spend a lot of time on the footwork. It’s coming along, though. I’d really like to be throwing above 45 (feet) next year.”
Dexter thanked assistant coach Michael Gregory for devoting time, even after practice, to helping the throwers improve. She also expressed gratitude to her parents for their support.