The Rolla and St. James track teams shared a site for their Sectional meets on Saturday, May 20. Rolla's Class 4 Sectional 3 and St. James' Class 3 Sectional 3 meets were both at Eldon with both teams sending several competitors to the State meet next weekend. It was a day of almosts for Rolla, as they had seven fifth place finishes when the top four competitors advance to State in each event. St. James, meanwhile, had two Sectional Championships and several more on their way to State.
The St. James boys were impressive yet again on Saturday, as both of the school's Sectional Championships were on the boys side of things. Trey Marshall was the only Tiger to advance in a field event, but he did so in style. He claimed the first trip to State early in the morning with a first place leap of 41' 8" in the triple jump, winning the event by almost a foot.
The second championship for the Tigers came in the relays, which have been one of their specialties all season long. Grant Conway decided not to high jump and elected to focus on the relays, helping the Tigers advance in both the 4X100 and 4X400. St. James ended the day like they started it, with a Sectional Championship. The 4X400 was the final event and the Tigers took home the gold with a time of 3:31.26, beating Springfield Catholic by more than a full second. They also took home the fourth and final stop in the 4X100 with a time of 44.15.
Conway's main events, the 110m and 300m hurdles also saw three more State berths. Conway has dominated both hurdles events all season, but he wasn't able to take home first in either highly competitive race. Conway took second in the 300m hurdles with a time of 39.79, .33 seconds behind Reed Spring's Rason Allphin. He was also right in front of his teammate, Theon Hope, in the event. Hope finished with a time of 40.66 to qualify, as well. The 110m hurdles was as tight as they come, with the top three spots finishing within .12 seconds of each other. Allphin took home first yet again with a time of 14.95 and Owensville's Sean Irwin finished second with a time of 15 seconds. Irwin and Conway traded wins in the Four Rivers Conference Meet and Districts. Conway was in third to qualify for State with a time of 15.07.
The final Tiger to qualify was Dawson Lynch, who used a second place finish in the 400m dash to qualify individually after successfully qualifying as a member of both St. James relay teams. He finished with a time of 51.15.
St. James will also be sending two Lady Tigers to State in Heather Pankey and Kasey Strong.
Pankey qualified in the 400m dash, snagging the fourth and final qualifying spot int he race with a time of 1:00.22. She also raced in the 200m dash, but missed out on qualifying by one second with a seventh place finish in the tight race.
Kasey Strong continued a stellar junior season pole vaulting, earning a berth at the State Tournament with a fourth place finish. She cleared 8' 6" to qualify. That jump made all the difference, as two vaulters were just six inches behind her.
Rolla's ladies had a strong showing on Saturday, as three of Rolla's four qualifiers were girls.
The Lady Bulldogs started things off on the track, where they qualified in the 400m dash and 800m run. Sophomore Olivia Holmes earned a spot in the State meet in the 400m dash with a second place finish and a time of 1:00.39 seconds. She was just over a second away from a championship in the event. Emma Puetz was right behind her. After qualifying for the State Cross Country meet in the fall, the freshman qualified in the 800m run with a time of 2:23.42 to claim the fourth and final spot.
The other Lady Bulldog to qualify came in the pole vault. Taylor Stevens was able to take third in the event by clearing 10 feet to advance to the State meet. The senior possibly could've added to her height, but she suffered a bit of whiplash when landing hard on the mat after clearing a jump. She also had a tough battle with the wind, as the breeze pushed her pole into the bar several times to require her to clear the bar again.
The final qualifier may be the most impressive. Nick Janke suffered a hamstring injury prior to Districts last Saturday, but still managed to qualify for Sectionals in both the high jump and triple jump. He normally takes part in relays, but had to bow out due to his hamstring. After narrowly missing out on a State bid in the triple jump, where he placed fifth with a jump of 42' 8", the junior managed to gut things out on a still tender hamstring to qualify in the high jump. The triple jump does a number on your hamstrings and Janke unfortunately had to triple jump before high jumping. After cruising through the first few heights, Janke had some stumbling blocks at 6' 2". He managed to clear the jump in the highly competitive field and make it to 6' 4", but he needed to clear the jump if he wanted to go to State. He did just that on his final attempt, matching his personal best. He and the other two competitors who cleared the height elected to stop jumping after qualifying, putting Janke in third on the tiebreaker.
"He had a great day and he responded very well to the challenge," said Rolla head track coach Don Knapp afterwards. "There's going to be a lot of challenges at a meet like this and he responded well. Most of our kids responded well. It's always going to tough at Sectionals."
Rolla nearly had several more join those four at State, but they missed out on a couple of events. Janke placed fifth in the triple jump and Xaviar Douglas did the same in the long jump, placing fifth with a jump of 19' 11". It was not an easy day for jumpers as the wind blew hard all afternoon. It really hurt both Courtney Colench and Kassandra Hayes in the high jump. With wind blowing against them, they couldn't clear five feet. Five feet was all it took to qualify in the event, as two of the qualifiers hit 5' 1" and the other two hit five feet. Colench had cleared 5' 5" at Districts just a week earlier. Other close calls also included Lauren Moersch placing fifth in the javelin with a throw of 103' 10", which was just over four feet out of fourth, and Colton Moore missing out on the fourth and final qualifying spot in the 300m relays by .51 seconds with a time of 42.09 to finish fifth.
One of the biggest heartbreaks came in the 4X400. After Rolla fell behind early in the relay, Addy Brow nearly pulled off a phenomenal comeback as the relay's anchor, despite a broken wrist forcing her to switch hands on the baton transfer. Unfortunately, the senior needed to shave off a little more than another second off her time to steal fourth away from Helias. The team was in seventh before Brow took the baton. Coach Knapp couldn't have asked for more out of a senior that has given so much to Rolla athletics over her four years.
"Addy Brow is one of those rare athletes that comes along once in a great while. (She participated in) four sports, a varsity performer in all of them, State level performer (in all four years)," said Knapp."She had her fastest split in the 4X8 relay of the year, she had her fastest split on the 4X4 of the year. You can't ask for more than that. She had a great day...she went beyond what we asked."
Despite the number of almosts, Knapp is proud of his team's performance.
"We are very young. We had 23 kids on the bus and seven were seniors, so that's 16 coming back," said coach Knapp. "We're sending four kids to the State meet and yeah we had a lot of fifth place finishes today, but they did well at Conference, they did well at Rolla, they did well at Districts, they're running at this meet which is the State Semi-Final, the Sectional, those are honors all in themselves. They've had a great year."
The Class 3, 4 and 5 Missouri State Track and Field Meet will take place at Jefferson City High School on Friday and Saturday, May 26-27.