The Rolla High School track team is not sending a huge group to the Missouri Class 4 Track and Field Championships this weekend. However, the Bulldogs will have an interesting mix of experience and first-time qualifiers at Dwight Reed Stadium on the campus of Lincoln University in Jefferson City.
RHS will send six athletes in four events to the Class 4 State Meet, to be held today (Friday) and Saturday.
Rolla state qualifiers are senior Alex McCormack in the boys' 300-meter hurdles; junior Aaron Froehlich in the boys' triple jump; junior Shannon McCaul in the girls' 800-meter run, and the girls' 4x800-meter relay team of junior Madison Collier, junior Jade DeShurley, senior Katie Brow and McCaul.
Those Bulldogs got to state by placing in the top four of their respective events last week at the Section 3 Meet at Ozark High School.
McCormack and Froehlich are returning state qualifiers from 2012 in the same events. McCaul advanced to the Class 4 Championships as a freshman in the 1,600-meter run and as part of the 4x400-meter relay squad two years ago. And it's the first trip to state for Brow, Collier and DeShurley.
"We've got three kids with experience – who have been there before – and three there for the first time," said veteran RHS assistant track coach Aaron Bartle, who has headed up the Bulldog staff much of this season while head coach Don Knapp continues recovery from shoulder surgery as well as complications from that procedure. "It's a perfect combination of excitement."
Froehlich is scheduled to compete in the triple jump at 11 a.m. today. The girls' Class 4 4x800-meter relay final is slated for noon today. McCormack is to run in the 300 hurdle prelims at 4:10 p.m. today, with the 300 finals set for 2:35 p.m. Saturday. McCaul is to run the 800-meter prelims at 4:25 p.m. today, with the 800 finals set for 2:45 p.m. Saturday.
McCormack will be attempting to earn all-state honors in the 300 hurdles for the second straight season. He finished seventh in the 2012 event at state, the first season he competed the 300 hurdles. The top eight finishers in each event earn all-state recognition.
He was hoping to be a double-state qualifier this time. He had the top time in the preliminaries at the district meet a couple weeks ago in the 110-meter hurdles, however in the finals he stumbled and pushed the last hurdle, being DQed.
As far as the 300 hurdles, he has been right on pace with last year until last week. "Actually I was ahead of my marks from last year up to sectionals," McCormack said.
He set the RHS school record in both the sectional meet then the state meet (:39.27) last year. His PR this season is :39.4. After winning the district finals two weeks ago, at sectionals last week he ran a :39.76 to finish third at :39.73.
Page 2 of 4 - "I wish I could have had more meets this year (that were not rained out)," said McCormack, who is also fighting a sinus infection this week. "I really don't have anything to go off of; just the times from last year."
"He's had a really good year," Bartle said of McCormack's 300 hurdles. "His third-place finish at sectional was his worse all year finish-wise. But seniors this time of year are pressing a little; hopefully he'll have consistency in his race and he'll be fine.
"I think he's got much better technique. Last year he just got over the hurdles and ran as fast as he could in between. That experience makes a huge difference; just the number of races gives him confidence in what he does."
This weekend likely ends McCormack's track career. He plans to play football at Central Methodist and major in athletic training there. With the time that major requires, it's probably unlikely he'll be a two-sport performer.
"I'd like to better my personal record," he said of this weekend. "I'd like to run a 38 and get all-state."
Froehlich put up his personal-best distance in the triple jump during his fourth-place finish at the sectional meet last week at 45-5 3/4. That, plus his state experience last year, has him confident going in. In last season's state meet Froehlich placed 11th in the triple jump at 43-5.
"I think (last year's experience) helps a lot," said Froehlich, who was an all-state player for the quarterfinal-qualifying RHS boys' soccer team (totaling the second-most individual goal total in the state for 2012) and also started for the RHS boys' basketball team this past season. "Knowing what to expect; to keep on working and get better at it.
"And I think just focusing on triple jump now, that helps a lot."
Bartle says the triple jump has so many variables, with the experience, the heat, the moisture... and mostly the wind...all playing huge roles. He says anything can happen for Froehlich.
"He has the ability to get off one great jump," Bartle said. "Or he could have four that are not as good. It's a crap shoot. He's increased his runway a little bit. And it's still kind of new to him. He just started (competing in the triple jump) at the end of last year."
Froehlich wants to make this year's track state appearance into an all-state performance in a second sport.
"I'd like to get on the podium," he said. "I'd like to get the school record, which is 46-3 1/2. I've jumped it several times, I've just scratched on them."
Bartle says Froehlich could very well be right in the middle of an all-state hunt today.
"There are two kids who are head and shoulders ahead of everybody else," Bartle said. "But everybody else is within six inches of each other."
Page 3 of 4 - McCaul Returns
After failing to get there last year, McCaul returns to the state meet in a pair of events, albeit a different open event and a different relay.
And it's McCaul's versatility has made her one of the most unique runners in Lady Bulldog history. She has qualified for the Missouri Class 4 Cross Country Championships two of the last three years. And now has advanced to the Class 4 Track Meet in the 1,600-meter run, the 800-meter run as as part of the 4x400 and 4x800 relays.
"We are taking advantage of her strength, speed and endurance," Bartle said of McCaul. "This (the 800) may be her nitch."
McCaul placed second at sectionals in the 800 with a time of 2:23.09 but failed to get out of district in the race that used to be her speciality, the 1,600.
"I was pretty disappointed," she said of the district's 1,600-meter race. "I was fourth until the very end; I was not happy about that race. The 800 really did (become my best event) this year; Coach Knapp thought it was last year, too.
"I feel like I can have the speed and kick at the end if I need it. But because I run the 1,600 and cross country I have the endurance as well."
The 2:23 is her PR in the race and she feels something in that area will put her in contention for a state medal.
"From fifth to 16th there is a four-second gap," she said. "It will really be up in the air for the top eight."
"A 2:20 or 2:19 (time) would really be nice," Bartle said. "If she gets down there, with the excitement of the day, I think she has a good chance for five through eight (place). She's going to have to be mentally tough (in today's prelims), to attack the race. And I think she has the experience to do that."
The Lady Bulldog 4x800-meter relay squad pulled off a stunner to get to Jefferson City.
Rolla blew away its previous PR time for a fourth-place position at sectionals in 9:58.10.
"That was the shock of the day (last) Saturday," Bartle said. "A team that stepped up and took 28 seconds off their best time. They finished fourth in district then go out and knock off a couple other teams in sectional.
"They gave it to (anchor leg) Shannon with a chance and she brought it home."
To medal this weekend the squad is going to have to shave off a few more seconds.
"To get on the podium they're going to have to be in the low 9:50s," Bartle said. "It's very doable, especially if they make the improvements they need to make."
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