Kevin Neal and Okwar Jale have spent their entire careers practicing together but competing against each other.
Now seniors, the Platte County duo received a pair of unique opportunities to team up during the past week. The Pirates’ top two hurdlers twice competed in the 4x110-meter hurdle shuttle relay, including during the newly established Pirate Relays on Monday, April 3 at Pirate Stadium.
The unique relay-only setup allows for non-traditional events, including the shuttle hurdles.
In the race, teammates alternate 110 hurdle runs, going opposite directions. The first and third hurdlers travel the same direction with the second and fourth going the opposite way on the track.
“Coming out and finally getting to use our skills together, instead of going against each other, is pretty dope,” Neal said.
Jale and Neal ran the first two legs for Platte County on Monday and gave the Pirates a big lead. However, Kearney came back for the victory with Platte County’s Will Hay and Mason Claire unable to hold off the charge.
Having come in second at the Falcon Relays three days earlier in the same event, Neal wanted a win but still enjoyed the experience. He and Jale want to make their Class 4 Missouri State Track and Field Championships debuts this season after standout careers, and these relay experiences only strengthen their bond.
So far this season, Jale and Neal have swept the top two spots in every individual 110 and 300 hurdle race they’ve entered.
“It was cool for a little bit — take the pressure off, ease us into the season,” Neal said. “We got our legs back and now it’s back to competing. We push each other to be the best because we know how good each one of us can be.”
Platte County’s boys won the five-team meet with 45 points, topping Kearney by 12 and Liberty North by 15. Overall, the Pirates posted five victories split between traditional and non-traditional relays.
Platte County’s 4x800 team returned three from last year’s state qualifying run, and Keegan Cordova, Jared Maksudian and JD Crawford helped post an impressive early season time of 8:36.95, including a 2:02 split for Cordova on the lead leg.
Dakota Simmons rounded out the team at the Pirate Relays.
In addition, Platte County’s sprint teams showed off some potential behind talented returners and a few new faces. The 4x100 of Austin Durbin, Ethan Salzman, Cade McNicholas and Tree Reece posted a victory, and the Pirates swept the unique sprint medley relays.
In the first medley, Guillory and Holt ran the opening 100s before Matthew Phillips and Jonathan Anguiano finished out the 200 and 400, while Dakota Schmidt, Neal, Phillips and Devin Richardson were victorious in the 200-200-400-800.
Richardson ran the 800, given a large lead and coasting home to hold off Kearney by about 30 meters.
While Guillory boasts significant relay experience, Holt currently has a solid hold on spots in the 4x100 and 4x200 for his senior year. He took the baton from Guillory for the second leg of the shorter sprint medley and ran a solid anchor of the winning 4x200 behind Guillory, Schmidt and Try Phan.
“I’m trying to be prepared, have handoffs good and fresh,” Holt said of waiting his turn to earn a spot in the relays. “I’m trying to take advantage of my opportunity and do everything I can.”
Platte County’s girls came in second to Liberty North in the five-team standings, but the Pirates posted two convincing victories.
In the meet’s opening race, Lexi Elmore, Rebekah Geddes, Erin Straubel and Jessica Clark dominated the 4x1,600 race, finishing in 22:46.83. Liberty North came in second, more than 30 seconds behind.
Platte County also loaded up its 200-200-400-800 sprint medley, offering a unique opportunity for two sisters. Lily Harrison and Tori Farr — a junior and senior, respectively — gave the Pirates a good lead after the two 200s with freshman Isabelle Geddes taking the baton for the 400.
At the end of her 62-second lap, Isabelle Geddes handed off to her sister, junior Rebekah Geddes.
Long ago established as the best long-distance runner in Platte County history, Rebekah Geddes ran a 2:27 split in a 19-second victory. Rebekah Geddes plans to graduate early after this season, and Isabelle Geddes looks to have strong potential in multiple events (hurdles, jumps, sprints), meaning they likely won’t be paired together much.
The traditional 4x400 will be their best chance to team up in their one season together.
“It’s fun running with Izzy because we’re best friends,” said Rebekah Geddes, school record holder in cross country, the 1,600 and 3,200. “Any time we run together is fun. Any time watching each other is tons of fun, too. Even if we’re not on the same relay, we’ll be cheering for each other.”
The 4x400 was run as a co-ed event, and Platte County placed second, third and fourth. The race offered another unique family moment with Okwar Jale taking the baton for the second leg from his sister, sophomore Keji Jale, for one of the Pirates’ three teams.