Mill Valley senior Delaney Kemp remember the emphasis her senior teammates put on the conference track meet when she was a freshman runner. It was the first meet of the postseason, and the stakes were higher.
Beyond that, there was The Streak to consider: The Jaguars girls track team had won every conference meet since the high school’s inception.
That was three years, one head coach and one conference ago. So Kemp and her teammates made sure to savor the moment when Mill Valley recently won its 19th straight consecutive conference title, and third straight in the rough-and-tumble Eastern Kansas League, or EKL.
“I remember how much the seniors emphasized that, because they had experienced it three years prior. I wanted to carry on the tradition, and I think that importance has carried on year after year,” Kemp said.
Chris McAfee is in his fourth year at Mill Valley and just completed his second season as the girls track coach. His coaching career began at DeSoto, where he was hired by former Mill Valley coach Mark Peck.
McAfee took over the girls program when Peck departed for Olathe East and credits him for the foundation he inherited.
“Mark is a super humble guy, and he has a great eye for where kids can be successful,” McAfee said. “He always put the team as a priority, and he had a great relationship with kids. He invested a lot of time to make it successful.”
Talent — and a continued commitment to versatility — are two reasons why Mill Valley can claim a generation’s worth of consecutive track titles.
“We have eight coaches, and six are just track coaches — that’s what they do,” McAfee said. “They’re looking for kids in the halls.”
It’s not uncommon for athletes to give different events a shot, just to squeeze out extra points. Versatile ones like senior Lydia McDaniel, who competes in sprints, sprint relays and jumps, do all they can.
Mill Valley joined the EKL three years ago, taking a step up in competition as the school has continued to grow.
“I personally was really nervous about it. Nobody knew what to expect,” McDaniel said. “We were going against bigger, better schools. I’m not sure if anybody knew that would be a possibility.”
The Jaguars were good enough to win and remain the class of the EKL.
Nothing is taken for granted, however.
“We’ve had such great leaders, and a then new wave comes through,” McAfee said. “We try not to talk about it, but it’s known, it’s a goal and the kids are very aware of it.”
In fact, Mill Valley is undefeated this season and would love to cap off a perfect campaign at this weekend’s Class 6A state track and field meet at Cessna Stadium in Wichita.
Kemp will compete at Kansas State next year and hopes to end her high school career with a flourish.
“We’re going to test ourselves and stack ourselves up against the best teams and hoping to continue and see if we can take away a team title,” Kemp said. “I’ve learned that if I compete my tail end off and put myself out there, the times will come.”
McDaniel didn’t dream of a college track career when she got to Mill Valley. Next year she’ll compete in the long jump and triple jump at UMKC.
“It’s been my favorite part of high school. I love the people and coaches, and being able to continue my career in college, I never would’ve expected that,” McDaniel said. “It’s been an amazing experience, and I’m really going to miss it.”
The experience isn’t over yet.