Record-setting runners Darrien Case and Kyle Pudenz will continue their careers in the NCAA’s highest level after both recently committed to schools in the University of Missouri system. Case, a senior at Park Hill South, will go to UMKC next year to run track, while Pudenz, a Park Hill senior, plans to run for the Tigers in Columbia.
The Kangaroos recruited Case for his ability in the 800-meter run. He currently holds the fastest time in the state of Missouri at 1 minute, 53.65 seconds, also a Park Hill South school record set in a victory at the prestigious University of Kansas Relays on April 17.
Case also holds the school records in the 1,600 (4:21.85) and 3,200 (9:45.80).
“Now, I’m looking for a state championship in the 8,” said Case, who qualified for the Class 4 Missouri State Track and Field Championships last season as a member of the 4x400 and 4x800 (fourth place) relay teams. “If I can do that at state, I can definitely come away with it.”
Pudenz, who recently set two school records that had stood for more than three decades — will run track and cross country at the University of Missouri. He set the 1,600 record on Thursday, April 23 at the Gary Parker Invitational in Blue Springs, Mo. at 4:16.32, which at the time was the fastest in the state, and he also holds the 3,200 meter record (9:28.05) after finishing 11th in the Kansas Relays on April 17.
“I felt a great deal of pressure for a while,” Pudenz said. “It was pretty stressful getting that choice narrowed down. Now that I have that figured out, it’s a weight lifted off of my shoulders.”
Park Hill also will send Mercedes Robinson to Missouri State to run track and cross country. She holds the school record for the 3,200 (11:45.83) and has a part in the Trojans’ 4x800 relay record (9:33.65), set last year at the Class 4 Sectional 4 meet with Jillian Roepe, Brooke Bischof and Tessa Mussman.
“There were three big factors when I was looking at schools: the team, the coach and the education,” said Robinson, a state qualifier with the 4x800 team that finished ninth in 2014. “Those all had to fit for me. I found a school that worked with me, and I liked the coach and the girls and everything. I didn’t figure it out until February where I wanted to go.
“It was really difficult, and I wish I would have started on it sooner.”
Two other Park Hill athletes will also continue their careers at the Division I level: Madison Heydinger at Georgia Southern for swimming and Nick Hibbeler at Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Hibbeler was recently named one of two Kansas City Sports Commission’s Community Champions during the organization’s annual banquet. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2013 and continued to play for the Trojans through his treatment. He was named a finalist in the USA Today’s Inspirational High School Athlete Contest but eventually gave up his slot for a terminally ill boy in Washington.
Heydinger was a four-time qualifier for the Missouri State Swimming and Diving Championships. The senior freestyle specialist earned medals as part of the 400 and 200 freestyle relay teams this past season and placed 15th in the 500 freestyle as an individual.
In past state meets, Heydinger scored team points in the 200 freestyle (12th) and 400 relay (13th) in 2014 and the 500 freestyle (13th) and 200 relay (eighth) in 2013.
Barry Chang will also swim collegiality after signing with Truman State. The Park Hill senior qualified all four years for the Missouri State Swimming and Diving Championships and was a member of the 8/8 club — qualifying in every individual event this past season. He helped the Trojans finish second in 2014 — the first swimming trophy in school history — with third-place finishes in the 200 IM and 100 butterfly and on the second-place 400 freestyle relay team. Chang also swam a leg on the state championship 200 freestyle relay team and recorded top-16 finishes in all four of his state events in 2013. He was also on the 10th place 200 medley relay state team as a sophomore.
Park Hill South senior forward Allen Hyatt also committed recently to play basketball at the Division II level. After helping the Panthers reach the Class 5 state championship game this season, he plans to continued his career at Drury University it Springfield, Mo. Those Panthers were the Great Lakes Valley Conference champions this past season and have made the NCAA Tournament the past three years, including winning a national title in 2013.
Hyatt earned first team All-Suburban Conference Red Division postseason honors. He averaged 11.7 points per game — third for Park Hill South this season.
Park Hill’s Deionte Wilson also committed to play basketball at the Division II level but will be in the MIAA. The dual-threat guard penned his commitment to play at Lincoln University (Jefferson City, Mo.) after averaging 13.5 points per game and shooting 36 percent on 3-point tries as a senior.
Also joining ranks in the MIAA are Jordan Hammond and Shelly Laures — both signed to Northwest Missouri State.
Hammond, a hurdler and sprint specialist for Park Hill South, will join the Northwest next season after penning her letter on April 8. She qualified for state in the 400 last year, coming in 15th in preliminaries.
Laures verbally committed to the Division II program and will sign at Platte County’s signing ceremony which will honor all athlete committing to play at the next level on Wednesday, May 6. She qualified for state in Class 3 last year, coming in 12th in both the high jump and long jump.
West Platte has had two seniors sign to play at the next level.
Conner Salmons will continue his football career at Truman State. He made the Missouri Football Coaches Association all-state second team as a tight end with team-highs 35 catches, 733 yards and eight touchdowns despite an injury to quarterback Cody Guthrie late in the season.
The Bluejays went 8-4 and narrowly missed a second straight Class 1 playoff berth.
Clay Lambrecht will play baseball at St. Mary in Leavenworth, Kan. after the completion of his final season. He has helped the Bluejays to back-to-back appearances in the Class 2 Missouri State Baseball Championships playoffs, including a runner-up finish in 2013.
In the state championship loss to Hartsville that season, Lambrecht started at designated hitter as a sophomore.