ODESSA, Mo. — The verbal alarms went off with the 800-meter race set to commence.
Seven competing runners and multiple officials were trying to find Platte County junior Keegan Cordova, who hadn’t shown up at the starting line. A miscalculation on the Class 4 Sectional 4 race time left him scrambling, but he eventually showed up and prepared in a rush.
Disaster and disqualification averted, Cordova went to the front in the two-lap race, cruising to a comfortable win Saturday, May 19 at Odessa High School. He just missed topping his own school record despite the awkward start.
“Honestly, my head was still going a lot,” said Cordova, who has twice set the school record this season — most recently at 1 minute, 57.56 seconds in a win the previous week at the Class 4 District 8 meet. “Usually before my races, I do a good job of calming myself down, clearing my head. I didn’t have a chance to do that this race.
“I ran over bare foot, throwing my spikes on — barely remembered to take my watch off.”
Cordova ended up qualifying for this week’s Class 4 Missouri State Track and Field Championships in three events, while senior John Watts will go in four for a second straight season to lead Platte County, which finished third in the Sectional 4 team standings. The Pirates will be chasing the second state trophy in program history this week — first since 2012 — after placing eighth in the 2017 team standings.
Relays paced last year’s top-10 state finish, and Platte County reloaded in that area this year.
After a brief weather delay for wind and lightning, the Pirates’ 4x800 team of Cordova, sophomore Evan McPhatter and seniors Devin Richardson and Nick Bjustrom opened the running events with a comfortable victory. The quartet finished in 8:03.03 to top second-place Kearney by more than 10 seconds.
Cordova and Richardson both return from last year’s third-place state team, which placed third and set a school record (7:58.43) as the first in program history to break 8 minutes.
“It’s special,” said Cordova, who missed out on individual events in last year’s postseason due to attending his brother’s wedding the week of districts. “I missed a big opportunity last year, and I feel like I’m making the most of it this year.”
Watts went to state in four events last year and medaled in all four. He will go for the repeat after qualifying in two individual events and two relays.
Watts set a personal-best in the long jump at 22 feet, 8¾ inches on his final attempt but ended up second to Grandview’s Tre Manning by just a quarter of an inch. Watts came in third in a fast 400 race despite running 49.85.
Raytown South’s Vontrae Booker won in 48.19, while Manning was second at 48.81. Watts, who finished second at state last year one place in front of Booker, eased up after he completed a crowded afternoon schedule with events pushed back due to the weather delay.
“It was really difficult,” Watts said. “I didn’t care about winning. I just wanted to place top four, do what I had to do to qualify for state in the same four as I did last year. This year, I want a state championship.”
Cordova ended up with Platte County’s only other sectional title.
In the 800 race, Cordova led after the first lap and then ceded the top spot briefly before running away from Warrensburg senior Austin Bunt over the final 300 meters. Cordova finished in 1:57.87 — about 0.3 of a second off his school record and about 2 seconds in front of Bunt.
“I felt better than I thought I would,” Cordova said. “Not too upset. Obviously, I lost track of time and missed half of warmup, but I was able to get into (the race) and get going.”
Prior to his two individual events, Watts anchored Platte County’s 4x200 team to a comeback effort to earn repeat qualification in the event after placing sixth at state a year ago. The Pirates’ team of Watts, seniors Dakota Schmidt and Matthew Phillips junior Blake Reynolds sat in sixth entering the final leg.
Watts then ran down two competitors to give Platte County fourth place in 1:30.37 and barely in front of Raytown South for the final state spot. The Pirates were reconfigured with Schmidt joining the group for this meet to earn a state spot despite just missing qualification in javelin, an event he finishes his career with the school record despite finishing fifth at Sectional 4.
Platte County’s 4x400 of Phillips, Richardson, Cordova and Watts posted a season-best to close the running portion of the meet but just missed a title. Cordova gave the baton to Richardson in second, and the Pirates were still there for Watts’ final 400.
Watts closed the gap on Kearney, but he didn’t have quite enough for the win. Platte County came in at 3:25.75, about a half second behind.
“I tried hard to go catch him, but he just got lucky today,” said Watts, who ran with Phillips on last year’s state 4x400 team that finished second and missed the school record by hundredths of a second.
Platte County’s Will Hay rounded out Platte County’s individual qualifiers in running events.
Learning behind standouts Okwar Jale and Kevin Neal a year ago, Hay continued his breakout sophomore season with two more personal records in the hurdle events at Class 4 Sectional 4. He qualified for state in the 300 hurdles with a second-place finish (40.94) to continue the legacy left behind the pair of state qualifying seniors who graduated last spring.
Hay has cut more than 2 seconds off his 110 time and nearly 7 full seconds off his 300 time between his freshman and sophomore season.
“I never thought starting off this year I’d be coming here and qualifying for state,” said Hay, who ran 16.48 in the 110 hurdles but finished sixth. “I’m just really happy to be here. At the beginning of the year, my goal was just to make varsity.
Platte County’s final two of nine events qualified for state came in field events.
Jacob Laures, a junior, set a personal best in the pole vault and followed up his District 8 title with a runner-up finish at sectional 4. He cleared 14-0 for the first time in his career, bettering the mark he posted as a sophomore.
Kirksville senior Ian Richmond finished first at 14-6, while Laures was alone in second in a competitive field.
Laures is now just 10 inches off 2017 graduate Bryce Bearden’s school record of 14-10 set in his senior season. The pair both medaled at state a year ago, including a seventh-place showing for Laures in his first trip to state.
Platte County senior Michael Smith will make his state debut in the shot put. A sectional qualifier a year ago, he posted a distance of 48-2 on his final attempt Saturday and finished comfortably in fourth place and just an inch and a half off of Pleasant Hill senior Jared Clapp’s third-place put of 48-3½.
Smith won the District 8 title with a personal-best of 48-10 the week before.