LIBERTY, Mo. — With spring break the week before, Park Hill’s coaches decided not to enter the sprint relays in the Ron Ives Invitational held Friday, March 27 at Liberty High School. The limited time to practice handoffs and determine the optimum lineups left the Trojans runners with fewer chances to earn valuable team points.
The girls finished fifth and the boys eighth in the 16-team fields.
“This meet we tried to just get a lot of different times in,” Park Hill boys coach Rob Self said. “Just set our baseline for the rest of the year. We were right where I thought we needed to be this meet. I didn’t come in expecting that we were going to win it by any means. Overall, I think we did well in some places I didn’t think we would do as well in.”
Park Hill junior Chris Nilsen led the boys scoring with 18 of the Trojans’ 53½ points, claiming fist in the pole vault (13 feet, 6 inches) and second in the high jump (6-2).
A mix up before the team left led Nilsen, a Class 4 Sectional 4 qualifier last year at 12-3, to borrow a pole from off-season training mate Blue Springs South’s Zach Kudlinski, who finished second (13-0) using the same pole.
“That was incredible,” Nilsen said. “That was probably the best swing up of my pole vault career no doubt. It’s never a dull moment. No jump is exactly the same. I learned to bring the correct poles next time. That and listen to my coach and put forward a 100 percent positive attitude the whole time.”
Papay Glaywulu, a sophomore and eighth place finisher last year in the triple jump in the Class 4 Missouri State Track and Field Championships, also recorded a win. He topped the triple jump field with a 43-10½ effort, less than a foot off of his state qualifying effort last spring.
Kyle Pudenz rounded out the Trojans podium finishers, finishing second in the 800-meter run. The recent University of Missouri verbal commit finished in 2 minutes, 0.61 seconds just over a second behind winner Rockhurst’s Carson Bode (1:58.87).
“It was a good start to the season,” said Pudenz, a state qualifier last year in the 1,600. “It’s early but definitely good to get some good speed work in. Getting the shorter distances in there’s more recovery time but it’s still pretty difficult with it being so early (in the season).”
Mercedes Robinson — a Missouri State commit — led the way for Park Hill on the girls side with a second-place finish in the 3,200. She also ran the anchor leg of the 4x800 relay with Gianna Tutorino, Madison King and Jillian Roepe, a group that came in second after Blue Springs South caught and passed Robinson on the final lap.
Robinson atoned with a flurry on the final stretch of the 3,200, overtaking Raymore-Peculiar’s Jamie Wharton on the final straightaway for the runner-up spot. The pair came in well behind event winner Kiley Deain, also of Ray-Pec.
“It was great especially after I got passed in the 4x8 on the finish lap,” Robnison said. “I had to make up for what I did. It felt great I was like, ‘I got her.’ The last lap is a gut check. I was like, ‘OK. Go.’ I knew I had one girl between me and second so I just had to go. The last hundred, I had one thought in my head to push me, and I went for it.”
Jasmine Chappell, a junior, also finished as runner-up in the triple jump (32-1½). The mark was a career best but ultimately more than 2 feet short of the mark set by winner Jamee Weaver of North Kansas City.
Ariet King, a sophomore, finished third in the 300 hurdles (51.99), running the event for the first time in her career. She came in just more than 2 seconds behind winner Kaley Breault of Oak Park (49.98).