Maddie O’Neill became only the second runner in North Platte history with a state championship to her credit.
The sophomore claimed the Class 2 400-meter dash finals on Saturday, May 18 at the MSHSAA State Track and Field Championships in Jefferson City.
O’Neill took the title in 59.04 seconds, easily ahead of Adrian’s Madison Minnick, who was second at 59.95. In that same race, freshman Haley Sampson was sixth for North Platte.
That accounted for 13 of the team’s 34 points. The Panthers were just outside of the top four as they edged fellow KCI school Plattsburg by a point and were five back of Summit Christian Academy for the final trophy. West Platte won with 50 points, followed by Jefferson (Festus) with 43 and Adrian with 41.
O’Neill played a part in the rest of the points for North Platte.
“Maddie O’Neill showed that she is a tough competitor and answered the call, facing prelims in all four of her events on Friday in near-90 degree heat, and following that up with outstanding performances in the finals on Saturday on short rest,” North Platte coach Brendan Cary said. “To bring home four state medals, including two golds, is a feat to be incredibly proud of.”
In winning the 400, she became only the second runner to win a title for North Platte, following Regan Nash winning two 100-meter dash in 2013 and 2014 before going on to playing softball at Missouri.
O’Neill ran the first leg on the 4x400-meter relay that took first place in the final race of the day on Saturday, May 18. The favorite going into the finals, the Panthers beat Adrian by a second, while fellow KCI school Mid-Buchanan took third.
Sophomore Trinity Wrightfield, freshman Gracie Ramsey and Sampson were also on the team that is the first North Platte relay to win a title since the 4x800-meter relay team won in 1986.
In the 200-meter dash, O’Neill was third in 25.75.
North Platte was fourth in the 4x200-meter relay, coming in third among KCI Conference schools. West Platte won in 1:46.62, while Lathrop was third at 1:47.75.
North’s team of Sampson, junior Madi Debord, O’Neill and Wrightfield took fourth place in 1:48.11.
The fifth-place showing is now tied for second best in school history with the 2015 team. The best finish was a fourth-place showing in 1987.
“What we achieved on Saturday was the result of the hard work of all the athletes,” Cary said. “We had a sense at the end of last season what might be possible this year, but only if everyone bought into the work and drive it would take to get there. They have been focused from the outset on doing the things that would give them the opportunity to reach the medal stand this year, after falling short in our attempts as a team since 2016 — girls 4x4 was 5th that year.
“They have been a great group to work with and with all of our state qualifiers returning, we look for even brighter things ahead. As well, much of the credit for our success at state goes to Coach Matt Keraus. He works with our sprint group and he has pushed them to not only be at the top physically, but has given them the mental edge to compete at the highest level. I appreciate the time, effort, and expertise he brings to the table.”