Sanford football's Kelton Gartrell flourishes by simply doing his job

Sedgwick County Sanford football

(Lance Wendt/

Sometimes, the most amazing feats can results in just a few simple actions. That's how Sanford's Kelton Gartrell explains the staggering numbers he put up in 2020.

Gartrell averaged over 165 rushing yards per game, but more impressively he averaged 10.4 yards per carry. If he touched the ball, there was a good chance that Sanford was getting a first down.

At season's end, Gartrell was voted the 8-man player of the year. He and his teammates advanced to the state championship game before losing to Sedgwick County. But Gartell shined in his time at the Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl.

He ran for 207 yards and four touchdowns and did so by trusting his teammates just as they trusted him.

"It's easy for for me to play hard for them," Gartrell said. "I've been playing football with them for a long time. They're my teammates and my best friends. If they can just block that one person, I'll do the rest. If they can do their part, I can do mine."

Gartrell ran for more than 200 yards three times in 2020. He got everyone's attention in the state championship game by breaking a pair of long touchdown runs that gave Sanford an early edge over Sedgwick County, a team that has been nothing short of dominant for the last six seasons.

"Sedgwick County has a bunch of athletes that are big, strong and fast," Sanford coach Joe Cary said. "That just went to prove what kind of athlete Kelton is, that he can break loose and get over 200 yards on a team like that. It speaks levels of what he's capable of doing."

Sedgwick County Sanford football

(Dan Mohrmann/

The jump from Gartrell's sophomore season to his junior season in numbers came in big part thanks to his work ethic in the offseason. He made sure to hit a solid weightlifting program and took advantage of every opportunity to get better.

The results showed once the season started in early October and Gartrell was able to perform his role on the field.

"I worked really hard this offseason, pumping iron there at the start of the summer," Gartrell said. "The difference between my sophomore and junior years was insane. I'm hoping to stick with the same program and see the same benefit from this year to next year."

And it didn't take long for next year to enter into his mind. When the all-state teams were announced last week, Cary lobbed Gartrell a phone call to congratulate him on player of the year honors, but reminded him that there is still work to be done for 2021. Gartrell was way ahead of his coach.

"I said don't be content with what you've done this year because you have to work twice as hard to be as good next year," Cary said. "He said 'Coach, you know I will.' The mindset the kid has about being better and not being content with what he's done is unreal."

What makes him all the better is when Gartrell eyes his goals for next year and they're not focused on individual accolades.

The taste of getting to the state title game was so good that Gartrell is aiming to get his team right back there and come away with a much better result than this year.

"I still need a ring," he said. "The ring is what I'm chasing next year. Hopefully I can be the player of the year again, but if I don't and I get a ring, I'm good with that. Winning a state championship is the goal now."

To accomplish that goal, he'll focus on doing his job while allowing his teammates to do theirs.

Sedgwick County Sanford football

(Ismael Gomez)