The St. James track team took part in the Class 3 State Track and Field Championships at Mizzou on Saturday.
It's a thought that's been on Grant Conway's mind for about a year now. Last season, the St. James runner clipped a hurdle during the 110m hurdles at Sectionals and failed to qualify in his best event. The year before, the same thing happened at State and he missed out on a chance at gold. Not this year.
Conway has been an absolute terminator in the 110m hurdles all season long for St. James and that didn't stop when he and his teammates traveled to Columbia for the Class 3 State Championships. The tournament was formatted a little bit differently after all the storms that crushed large portions of Jefferson City, but that didn't slow down Conway during the 110m hurdles. Just like he has all season, Conway crushed the competition. During prelims, he was the only person to run a sub 15 second race with a 13.93. He then cranked it up a notch in the finals, cruising to a first place finish with a time of 13.65. He was the only hurdler in the State to clock a time under 14 seconds. The next best finisher in the race was Thomas Sonntag from Trinity Catholic a full second behind with a time of 14.72.
"This is my second time I've gotten to run (the 110H) at State. Last year I fell at Sectionals and didn't get to make it. Sophomore year, I tripped over the last couple of hurdles and wound up in fourth or fifth. To come back my senior year and get that State title just feels really good," said Conway. "It means a lot."
But the 110H wasn't Conway's only event. He also ran the 300H, as well as both the 100m and 200m dashes. While Conway ran in two hurdles events, his biggest hurdle was prelims at the end of the day. Conway had preliminary races in both of his dashes, as well as the 110m hurdles, so by the time he was running the 300m hurdles at the end of the day, he had already run five races. That volume of races was because of the last minute shift of the State schedule after the storms in Jeff City. State is normally a two day event, which was pushed into one day as the different Classes were split across the state.
To Conway's credit, it didn't slow him down much. The Tiger senior took second place in the 100m dash by just .06 seconds, crossing the line with a time of 10.77. He narrowly missed out on medalling in the 200m dash, as he finished with a time of 22.79 in the prelim to finish in ninth. One spot and .06 seconds away from the finals. The difference between Conway and the first place finisher in the prelim was just .76 seconds in a packed race.
After all of the races earlier in the day, Conway ran out of a bit of gas before he ran his longest and final race of the day. The Tiger senior came in as the favorite in the 300H, but ended up finishing in third with a time of 39.40.
"I think (the schedule change hurt) a little bit," said Conway at the end of a busy State meet. "Especially with the 300 hurdles, I'd run six times today before I did that, so I think having three prelims in the morning and then having to run all of those events again before the 300 hurdles effected me a little bit, but I'm still pleased with my outcome.
For the second straight year, Conway comes away from State with a trio of top three finishes. This time that came with first, second and third place finishes to bring his career total to nine. The St. James senior was thrilled to end his career as a Tiger on a high note, before taking his talents to Iowa next year.
"It was just awesome," said Conway looking back on his four years at St. James. "I'm glad I got to leave my mark and walking away with nine State medals is awesome. It's just been great. I love the coaches and the whole community has been supporting us. It was awesome to be able to run for St. James."
Conway wasn't the only Tiger to run on the day. The boys 4x100 came so close to earning a spot on the medal stand, but fell a fraction of a second short. The unit of Mason Parker, Nick Halbrook, Tyler Recker and Austin Ridenhour finished in ninth with a time of 44.5, just .11 seconds out of eighth place. The top eight finishers in each event medal. Hunter Pitts and Connor Gorrell also ran for St. James. Pitts ran the 100m dash, but fell short of the finals with a 15th place finish and a time of 13.43. Gorrell ran the 110H with Conway, placing 13th in the prelim with a time of 16.06.