KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the second week in a row, Chris Nilsen forced officials to scramble and find a way to accommodate his prodigious pole vaulting ability.The Park Hill junior cleared 16 feet in competition again during the Class 5 Sectional 4 meet Saturday, May 23 at North Kansas City District Activities Complex. And just like at District 8 the week before, the standards wouldn’t go any higher until they modified the equipment.
Nilsen missed on three straight tries at 16-3 with another new school record in mind, garnering plenty of attention with each try after locking up the individual title.
“For me, I work OK under stress, and I guess all those people watching you and the bar up high and needing to make it to state, that kind of causes some stress,” Nilsen said, “It’s a complete honor to actually qualify for state. This is a big step forward for me in my life, and I’m really grateful for it.”
Nilsen went on to claim the high jump crown as well, clearing 6-4 to better his qualifying mark, but pole vault continued to be his featured event.
Continually upping the school record from 15-3 to 15-7 to the current mark, Nilsen placed eighth in last year’s sectional and will compete in the Missouri State Track and Field Championships for the first time. He’s set sights on the state meet record of 16-9, and the height might be more important to him than winning the title.
Should Nilsen go 16-0 or higher, the championship will likely take care of itself.
“Right now, I’m just worried about getting the bar up there,” he said.
Park Hill placed fifth in the final sectional team standings and qualified four individuals and a relay for state.
Papay Glaywulu, a sophomore, again waited until late in the triple jump competition to ensure advancement. An eighth-place finisher at state as a freshman, Glaywulu again needed a final attempt to break into the top four, and for the second straight week, he claimed the title on his sixth jump. He leapt 45-7 to top Raytown’s Montell Lee by 6½ inches.
Enoch Koudou also needed a late burst to reach state.
A senior in his first year competing for the Trojans, Koudou couldn’t overcome a right calf ailment in the 100-meter dash, finishing fifth in 11.33 to miss by .01 of a second. He was way off his normal sub-11-second times in his best event.
However, Koudou came back and posted a 22.63 in the 200 to place fourth and grab the final state spot.
“I feel I had to kick it for my team and be there at state with my little sister because she made it,” said Koudou, who saw his freshman sister Sephora Koudou qualify as part of the Trojans’ third-place 4x100 relay earlier in the meet. “I feel like I’m her motivation so I had to make it happen. I had my family watching, and the first 100 that was tough.
“I still kicked it, but I didn’t place so I had to for the 200.”
Enoch Koudou also nearly helped Park Hill close the meet with a second state-qualifying relay. He took the baton in first place for the anchor leg of the 4x400 but ran out of gas in the final 100, and the Trojans ended up disqualified anyway.
Park Hill South’s Darrien Case couldn’t run down the top two teams but anchored the Panthers’ quartet, which also included Mitch Henderson, Tanner Alderson and Nylo Clarke, to a third-place showing.
Case finished with three medals, winning the 800 in 1:55.67 with Henderson in third at 1:57.81 — just off his season-best of 1:57.79 set the previous week at districts — after a late charge down the outside. That duo manned the second and anchor legs of the 4x800 team that also includes Alex Lee and Eli Guzman. The Panthers were second in that race (8:02.86) with Case slowing up late rather than making a last-ditch charge to overtake Rockhurst.
Henderson and Case will run in individual events for the first time in addition to the two relays.
“We’re really happy just to get to go in the 4x8,” said Henderson, who, along with Case, ran on the fourth place 4x800 team that set a school record at state last year. “Those young guys, they’re learning; it’s a learning process for them so hopefully when we get to state they’re ready and me and Darrien will be ready. Hopefully, we can make something happen.”
Park Hill’s 4x800 team of Noah Barajas, Christian Fisher, Hanok Tekle and Andrew Rich finished just more than 7 seconds behind rival Park Hill South and took third — the lone Trojans’ relay to qualify for state with the other three DQ’d at sectionals. Grant Downes rounded out the qualifiers for Park Hill, placing fourth in the 110 hurdles.
Park Hill South’s Grant Hudson, a sophomore, continued his late season push and finished second in the 300 hurdles (41.61) to easily earn his first state berth.
Jordan Hammond won the girls 300 hurdles race for a second week, and the Park Hill South senior came in just off her personal best set the previous week in districts.
After dropping the 400 late in the season gave her a needed respite during the typical meet schedule, Hammond dropped nearly 3 seconds in her district victory and went 45.25 in sectionals to win by more than a second and a half. She will go to state in three events, running a leg on the fourth-place 4x200 (Hammond, Izzy Pieper, Emily Day and Maryn Burns) and 4x400 teams (Hammond, Burns, Emily Day and Emma Roth).
Hammond qualified for state in the 400 last year but was 15th out of 16 in prelims.
Park Hill senior Mercedes Robinson was the Trojans’ lone individual qualifier, holding on for fourth in a tightly bunched 3,200 race. She ran on the 4x800 team at state last season but will compete in her first solo event.
Sephora Koudou, Alexis Stephens, Amanda Alexander and Jena Hahlbeck combined for the third-place finish in the 4x100 (50.16), more than a second faster than the Trojans’ district time. Park Hill placed 13th in the final team standings.