Park Hill claimed six district titles and advanced 11 events out of the Class 5 District 8 meet held on Saturday, May 11 on Zaxby’s Field at Liberty North High School.
The Trojans finished third in the team standings, while the Park Hill South Panthers took sixth place and will have six events competing on Saturday, May 18 at William Chrisman High School in Independence.
Park Hill won two relay titles, while Caleia Johnson and LaShunda Tapp each won two events.
Johnson, a sophomore, took the 200- and 400-meter crowns. She won the prelims in both and then took the titles in both later in the day. She finished the 200-meter dash in 25.26 seconds, while her win in the 400 was a little more improbable. She made a late kick to pass Staley’s Chloe Saenz, winning in 58.97, while Saenz crossed 58.98.
Manuela Ngo Tonye Nyemeck took third in the 400 for Park Hill, while Park Hill South’s Brenna Colpitts took fifth — the first spot to not advance to sectionals.
Tapp won the shot put (41 feet, 9 inches) and then discus (116-4), sweeping the titles just like she did in the conference meet the previous week.
Park Hill won the 4x100- and 4x400-meter relays with three runners competing on both teams.
The 4x100 team of Jordan Birmingham, Kristen Birmingham, Johnson and Teresa Thomas won in 48.53 seconds. Thomas, Kristen Birmingham and Johnson joined Ngo Tonye Nyemeck on the 4x400 champion team that finished in 4:05.49 and avoided a late charge from Staley.
The Trojans have won the state championship in the 4x400 the past two seasons, but didn’t run the event at the Suburban Gold meet the previous week as a precaution after Thomas was injured during the meet.
“It hasn’t been the best few weeks for us physically because we haven’t ran since the KU Relays, but it feels really good to be back,” said Ngo Tonye Nyemeck, a Missouri State signee “I’m ready to move onto these track playoffs with my squad.”
Park Hill South took fourth in the 4x400 and will advance the team of Laura Distefano, Colpitts, Maya Sullivan and Melody Sasser. The team dropped eight seconds from the time posted at the Suburban Conference Red Division meet on May 1.
Sullivan, a freshman, had a big day for the Panthers. She broke the school record in the pole vault again with a leap of 10-6, six inches higher than her best height going into the event.
“Starting pole vault this year has been a new experience for me, but with the help of my family and my coaches, I have been able to see results from the hours of practice,” said Sullivan, who broke the previous mark of 10 feet she set earlier this season. “I couldn’t have done it without my Just Vault (Club in Excelsior Springs) teammates and amazing coaches. Being the school record holder motivates me to keep trying and not settle where I’m at.”
She attempted 10-9 but missed three tries to further pull away from the previous school best mark of 9-9 set in 2015 by Amanda Tillman.
“It is really rewarding to qualify for sectionals in the pole vault and for the 4x400,” Sullivan said. “With the help of our coaches, we were able to push each other in practice to improve. It was really fun to contribute to such a hard-working team.”
That was one of two champions for Park Hill South.
Senior Alecia Westbrook won the 300-meter hurdles in a season-best 49.41, while teammate Alex Hammond was behind her in second place (50.16). Park Hill’s Akunna Nwasoria missed advancing by .03 of a second and took fifth.
Hammond will move on in the 100-meter hurdles, where she took third place.
Thomas had a pair of runner-up finishes for the Trojans. She lost to Liberty North’s Talia Emerson by an inch in the long jump. In the 100-meter dash, she finished in 12.55, just behind Staley’s Jazmen Newberry, who ran 12.50. In that same race, Kristen Birmingham took third to advance.
Kristen Birmingham advanced in the high jump by taking third, while teammate Simone Smith was third in the triple jump.
Park Hill’s Sabrina Lane was third in the javelin and Park Hill South’s Grace Dieleman got the final sectional berth on her final throw and took fourth.
Park Hill South’s Paige Snider was fourth in the 800-meter run and then took third in the 1,600-meter run, a spot ahead of teammate Skyelar Nelson. Later in the day, Nelson took fifth in the 3,200-meter to come up short in her quest to move on in two events.
“It was really fantastic, we have been training together all through the winter and the spring and it was amazing to be next to her in the race and get through together,” Snider said of moving on with Nelson. “It is nerve-racking. Everyone is on the same track, these times aren’t just a bad day, you have to come out and really perform. The last week and this week, things have came together for really, fun and special meets.”
Ngo Tonye Nyemeck, Ellie Simpson, Anisha Vondenkamp and Rierra Sanders took fourth in the 4x200 for another qualifier for Park Hill.
Two other relay teams had close calls but came up short of keeping the season alive. The Park Hill 4x800 and the Park Hill South 4x100 both took fifth.