HIGGINSVILLE, Mo. — North Platte freshman McKenna Fulton took the handoff for the anchor leg of the 4x400-meter relay, carrying not just a baton but history with her.
The Panthers needed at least a fourth-place finish in the final event Saturday, May 9 at the Class 2 District 7 meet. Already in second, Fulton burst past Lafayette County’s Emily Watson to claim two wins at Lafayette County High School.
North Platte finished with 136 points, enough to best the host’s total of 128 1/3, and claim the first district championship in program history.
“Coach said, ‘We can do this,’” said North Platte senior Regan Nash, who finished with three district championships (100, 200 and on the 4x100 relay). “We have the talent. We have the opportunity to bring home the banner. We just wanted to do it as a team. We wanted get as many people through as we can. We did that very well.
“We’re pretty proud of ourselves. Everyone should be. We all did really well today.”
In all, North Platte qualified 15 events for this week’s Class 2 Sectional 4 meet, scheduled for Saturday, May 16 in Albany, Mo. Nash was the lone champion, displaying the depth of the championship performance.
All four relays produced top-four finishes with wins in the 4x100 (Abby Fisher, Emmie Lee, Callie Pataluna and Nash) and 4x400 (Roach, Baylie Wilson, Emmie Lee and Fulton) to go with a third place finish in the 4x800 (Fulton, Maddie Lee, Katie Parkhurst and Shelby Fisher), and fourth in the 4x200 (Abby Fisher, Brittney Gerling, Emmie Lee and Gracie Roach).
The rest of North Platte’s girls qualifiers include: Pataluna in the long jump and triple jump (second and fourth), Wilson in the triple jump and 100 hurdles (third and second), Mackenzie Daniel in discus (third), Roach in the 400 (third), Emmie Lee in the 300 hurdles (third) and Parkhurst, 3,200 (second).
Nash ran a season-best 12.41 in the 100, while the 4x100 posted a 52.03 to beat University Academy by just more than a second. That was a season-best for that quartet, as was the 4:27.37 for the 4x400 team.
“It’s very encouraging,” North Platte coach Derek Coburn said. “I think it give them a vote on confidence. It says a lot about where our program is going. Hopefully, the underclassmen, it gives them a vote of confidence going in to the years coming. Building a program, you want to see the benefits of your hard work. I think they are getting to reap the benefits and see the success of their hard work.”
West Platte finished fifth on the girls side with 62 team points, and sophomore Sydney Oberdiek qualified in two events, finishing second in the discus (102 feet, 5 inches) and third in the shot put (32-3).
West Platte will send two relays through to the sectional meet. The 4x800 team (Rachel Heili, Lauren Moose, Sikoya Richard and Makayla Wardlow) grabbed the final qualifying slot in 11:13.56, and the 4x400 team (Ciara Davies, Harper Euwer, Heili and Moose) finished third (4:33.59).
Emily Norman, a freshman, took fourth in the 100 hurdles, while Heili and Wardlow finished three-four in the 1,600 to round out the Bluejays’ qualifiers.
On the boys side, North Platte finished fifth with 69½ points with West Platte in eighth at 40 points. Carrolton took home the team title with 116 points.
North Platte qualified its first relay for sectionals since the 4x100 team in 2011 early in the day. In the 4x800, Blake Romaker took the exchange from teammate Caleb Crumley with a 20-meter deficit on West Platte’s Andrew Cicha, who held the fourth and final qualifying slot.
Romaker made up the distance and passed the freshman on the back trip to earn his first ever trip to sectionals, along with Eric Brown, Dylan Stockman and Crumley.
“I was really nervous,” Romaker said. “I was pretty confident that I could get him, but he didn’t make it easy. He put on a real hard kick for me to pass him. I tried to make the last lap as strong as I could so he didn’t have a chance to get me of the final kick.”
In the final event, North Platte added a second relay. The 4x400 of Jerry Copenhaver, Van French, William Morse and Romaker placed fourth to take the final spot. French and Morse are both freshmen alongside two seniors.
The North Platte boys also saw another drought end.
Gentry Scrivner won the shot put with a heave of 40-10 — the first individual champion in coach Brendan Cary’s tenure and the only win since 2008, the earliest online records available. Scrivner will be joined by Brown in the pole vault (second), Elijah Bledsoe in the discus (fourth) and Copenhaver in the 110 and 300 hurdles (second and fourth).
Daniel Cicha will make a return to sectionals in the 1,600 (third) and 3,200 (fourth). In the 1,600, he sat in fifth when a call of encouragement rang out from a competitor’s parent, which led him to overtake two runners in the final 200 meters.
“I was just focus on finishing there,” Daniel Cicha said. “I was set on crossing the finish line and moving on. It’s awesome I know I made it to sectionals last year, but I’m more excited this year because I know I have a chance to make it to state.”
Gavin Raney (fourth, triple jump) and Cameron Johnson (second, shot put), who lost on a tiebreaker to Scrivener for the title, round out the qualifiers for West Platte.