HIGGINSVILLE, Mo. — The realization kicked in for Daniel Cicha with about 75 meters to go.
Turned out to be plenty of distance for the West Platte senior to change the end of the 1,600-meter run Saturday, May 7 into a sprint for the finish. Cicha moved from fifth to second in the Class 2 District 7 race at Sam Duncan Field, nearly outracing the field to the finish line.
At the time, Cicha needed the charge to assure continuing his season with the 3,200 scheduled for later in the day. He reached sectionals in both events last year but missed the Class 2 Missouri State Track and Field Championships cut, making every race important right now.
“It’s just that senior instinct,” said Cicha, who ended up qualifying for this week’s Class 2 Sectional 4 meet in three events. “I made it probably to the 50-meter mark and just said a little prayer. Every thing went out (of my head), and I just started to move.”
Needing a top-four finish, Cicha first picked off freshman teammate Max Davies and then set about catching a pair of runners from Summit Christian Academy. Cicha caught both to finish in 4 minutes, 52.90 seconds — about a second and a half behind winner Corbin Bell from Lafayette County.
Cicha beat Summit Christian’s Micah Ruiz Esparza by just 0.16 of a second with Davies surviving with a third straight season best time in the event. He also advanced to sectionals in 4:53.23 — just .04 of a second in front of Summit Christian’s Patrick Schneeberger in a wild 2-3-4-5 photo finish.
“It’s always great to have another guy move on to the next level. I’m just so excited to run with (Davies) again at sectionals,” said Cicha, who ran most of the final two laps with bleeding spike marks down his left leg — an injury suffered during the race when a competitor’s shoe clipped his thigh.
West Platte ended up with a solid day in the long-distance events, helping the Bluejays finish fifth as a team with 63 points.
Cicha returned to the track in the 3,200 and placed third to easily make the sectional field in that event, finishing a little more than 8 seconds behind sophomore brother Andrew Cicha. The Cichas plus Davies and Dylan Lock opened the running finals with a season-best 8:49.15 in the 4x800 relay to place second.
Cameron Johnson, a junior, ended up West Platte’s only sectional qualifier outside of long distance. He placed third in the shot put at 43 feet, 4 inches — a season-best by more than a foot.
North Platte finished seventh in the 12-team field with 47 points and advanced one individual and one relay to sectionals.
Eric Brown, a senior, recorded a career best 40-6 in the triple jump to place second, while also clearing 10-0 in the pole vault to finish third. He will compete along with the 4x400 relay team of Caleb Crumely, Van French, William Morse and Corbin Green. The quartet of sophomores held its No. 3 seed and posted a season-best time of 3:44.34 to edge Mid-Buchanan for third by less than a tenth of a second.
North Platte’s girls, the defending district champions, excelled in all four relays.
With a recent switch to the 4x400 lineup, the Panthers continued to improve their time in the final event. Maddie Lee, McKenna Fulton, Gracie Roach and Erin Manville posted a 4:17.38 to win the event and lower their best time this season by more than a second and a half.
The 4x100 (Abby Fisher, Emmie Lee, Brittney Gerling and Callie Pataluna) and the 4x200 (Roach, Emmie Lee, Gerling and Manville) both came in second for North Platte, while the 4x800 (Fulton, Lauren Payne, Maddie Lee and Manville) came in a comfortable third to advance. Three of the Panthers individual qualifiers for sectionals were also in the relays.
Roach came in third in the 400 while also placing fourth in the high jump despite an off day. Pataluna, a Class 2 state medalist in the long jump last year, placed third in the triple jump and fourth in the long jump to also go in two events.
Fulton came in third in the 300 hurdles in addition to her two relays.
North Platte senior Mackenze Daniel rounded out the quartet after placing third in the shot put. She posted a 32-4 effort to place in between second-place Sydney Oberdiek and fourth-place Jessica Lintner — both of West Platte — to return to sectionals looking for her first state berth.
Recently committed to Fontbonne University, Daniel remains close with her rival duo from West Platte and knows that staying close to Oberdiek in distance could help achieve the final goal of earning a state medal.
“We just help each other out, and making competition is fun,” said Daniel, who hurt her hip at last week’s KCI Conference Meet and sat out a week of practice ahead of districts. “I feel like if I can keep improving and we both stay close, I can end up just where (Oberdiek) was last year, too.”
Oberdiek finished second with a 34-5, 3 inches back of winner Taylor Golden of Lafayette County. She then went on to win the discus 104-3, beating Lafayette County’s Sydney Haynes by 2 feet.
Coupled with Lintner’s fourth-place showing, Oberdiek’s big day helped West Platte score 107 points, which put the Bluejays just three off of a district title. Summit Christian won with 110.
Ciara Davies, Rachel Heili, Sikoya Richard and Lindsay Goodwin also advanced in multiple events for West Platte. Davies won the 400, cruising to victory in her heat with a time of 1:03.12, while also placing fourth in the 200 (28.40).
Richard, a sophomore, set a season-best in the 800 at 2:35.19, shaving 6 seconds off her previous top effort, to beat Heili to the line (third, 2:37.47).
Davies, Richard, Heili and Goodwin were second in the 4x400 behind North Platte with a 4:22.72 — nearly 9 seconds faster than the Bluejays’ seed time. That came after the 4x800 team of Lea Moose, Richard, Heili and Goodwin won the 4x800 in an even more impressive effort.
Running together in the event for the first time this year, the West Platte group of underclassmen posted a 10:25.47 to win the event by more than 12 seconds and shave off nearly 23 seconds from the previous best for the Bluejays this year. They led the majority of the race by a healthy margin but kept pushing for time with encouragement from coach Brad Basel said.
“This was better than we thought. We thought we’d only drop like 13 seconds,” Richard said.
West Platte’s final two sectional qualifiers were Emily Norman in the 100 hurdles (third) and Moose in the 3,200.