Platte County track team a second — or an inch — short at state meet

ROSS MARTINSpecial to The Citizen

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — All weekend, Platte County seemed agonizingly close to a better finish in the Class 3 Missouri State Track and Field Championships. “Obviously, we wanted to medal in every event. That’s tough to do, but that’s our goal,” Platte County coach Gabe Middleton said. Platte County brought nine events to the state meet but medaled in only three. The Pirates finished tied for 20th in the final boys team standings. Kevin Schultz factored into two of the top-eight finishes. A senior and converted baseball player, he anchored the 1,600-meter relay team to a school-record finish of 3-minutes, 23.95- seconds in Friday’s preliminaries, third in the first heat and the fourth-best time overall. The efforts shattered the previous Platte County High School record of 3:25.80. The quartet of Schultz, senior Mateo Tanis and juniors Aaron Brown and Aliek Reed nearly took down the 13-year-old record of the previous week at the Sectional 4 meet with a 3:25.86 clocking. In Saturday’s finals, Platte County ended up sixth in 3:25.73. “That school record that we got (Friday) was the goal. Get the school record and that would take care of the placing,” said Schultz, signed to compete in the decathlon starting next year at Northwest Missouri State. “Last night, once we knew we were for sure getting a medal, that was so sweet.” Shortly after the final track race, Schultz also collected his second straight medal in the high jump. He cleared 6-feet, 4-inches – 3 inches off of his season best – and wound up fifth, taking the top spot in a four-way tie at that height. Last year, Schultz cleared only 6-2 and tied for fifth. “I came out feeling great, feeling springy,” he said. “Just timing and my form was a little off, and I got flustered.” Fellow senior Jordan Branson experienced another disappointing finish to a season. A surprise qualifier in the triple jump after a personal record at sectionals, Branson fouled on his first two attempts in the event Friday and posted a 42-5 – good enough for 10th and inches away from a spot in the finals, where he would have earned three more chances to move into the top eight and earn a medal. Branson came back in the long jump Saturday and posted a first jump of 19-4 1/4 but then fouled on the final two tries, winding up 13th and out of the finals in a performance very similar to his 2013 state showing in the event. Shelley Laures – a junior and the Pirates’ lone girls qualifier – came out 12th in Friday’s long jump prelims and then tied her PR of 5-2 in Saturday’s high jump, needing one more inch to have a shot at a spot in the top eight. In addition, Platte County’s 3,200 relay team of Hunter Long, Christian McCoy, Nathan Straubel and Schultz were 13th in Friday’s opening relay at 8:26.60 – more than 10 seconds off their sectional qualifying time. “We’ve just got to be ready to go and have people step up,” Middleton said. “We stepped up in some areas, and we didn’t in others. We have to be ready to do that all the time.” A junior, Straubel accounted for Platte County’s final medal. He ran a solid race in Friday’s 3,200 and set a personal best of 9:47.87, smashing his 9:56.69 showing at sectionals and placing sixth in a competitive field. Straubel admittedly felt the effects of his initial all-state performance in Saturday’s 1,600, an event he set a PR in two weeks earlier at the District 8 meet. He came in just more than a second off his qualifying time but faded back late to 13th, a fine margin indicative of Platte County’s state weekend not lost on the first-time state qualifier. “You really have to bring your ‘A game,’ and you can’t falter at all in a race,” Straubel said. “I was super happy with getting all-state. The mile? I wish I’d done better, but I did my best. That’s all I can ask for.”