BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. — Sephora Koudou saw an opening and took advantage.
With junior teammate Taiya Shelby scratched from the 200-meter final, Park Hill’s junior sprinting specialist used the opportunity to turn in a season-best time of 26.43 seconds and finish fourth in the Class 5 Sectional 4 meet Saturday, May 20 at Blue Springs South High School. Koudou ended up advancing to the Class 5 Missouri State Track and Field Championships in all four of her events, including two individual berths.
Koudou also placed second in the 100 at 12.78.
“I’m so tired, and I’m going to be tired at state, too. But I’ll try my best,” Koudou said.
Shelby opted out of her second individual event while not feeling well.
The top returner for Park Hill, Shelby ran the second leg of the winning 4x200 relay and finished second in a career-best 55.87 in the 400 before scratching in the 200. She then came back to anchor the 4x400 team to victory.
Shelby bettered her 400 time from a week ago by thousandths of a second, but Liberty junior Kaitlyn Lewis won the race in another head-to-head battle between the two. Park Hill sophomore Manuela N’go Tonye Nyemeck came in fourth in a career-best 58.56 to claim the fourth and final state spot in the event, giving the Trojans two qualifiers for this week.
Park Hill again showed strength in numbers.
The 4x200 team of Shelby, Koudou, junior Jena Hahlbeck and freshman Teresa Thomas won in 1:42.79, holding off Blue Springs for the title. The Trojans were just off their season-best and still close to the school record of 1:42.05 set in 1988.
The 4x100 team of Koudou, senior Gigi Hopkins, junior Iyanla Roberts and sophomore Jordan Birmingham did set a season-best to finish third and advance to state.
After a dropped baton scare in a 4x400 win at Sectional 4, the team of Shelby, Thomas, Hahlbeck and Nyemeck were flawless, running a 3:56.98 to get back close to the school record the Trojans set two weeks earlier in the Suburban Conference Gold Division Championships.
“A lot felt different,” Hahlbeck said. “We felt a lot of pressure. With our times, we felt like we had a shot (to win a state title). That really stressed us out last week. We practiced a lot more because we hadn’t really practices our 4x4 handoffs, but I think we definitely pulled through.”
All four of Park Hill South’s relays set season-bests, but only the 4x800 advanced on to state.
The Panthers’ team of seniors Jasmine Crawford and Lexi Maddox and juniors Emma Roth and Justine Aiello were clear winners in the race at 9:30.44 with Blue Springs South 4½ seconds back.
In addition, Park Hill South sends two of the relay members to state in the open 800.
Crawford sprinted away to the finish, coming in with a personal record 2:17.65 to claim the victory. Roth, who led, early in the second lap wound up third with her decision to forego the 1,600 in the postseason paying off.
Three times this season Roth set a school record in the mile, but looking at postseason numbers, Park Hill South decided to shift her to the 800.
“I definitely think I made the right choice,” Roth said. “It was nice to have (Crawford) there for the first lap and 300 meters. Then she always has an amazing kick so I just expect it. Seeing her ahead of me helps me finish.”
Crawford, Maddox and Roth were all on Park Hill South’s state qualifying 4x800 a year ago, but Aiello, who runs the second leg behind Crawford, took the spot junior Marti Heit vacated.
Heit earned a return state trip in the 3,200 after qualifying and finishing 16th a year ago. She came in third in Saturday’s sectional race at 11:21.42, shattering the school record marks in the 11:35s that Maddox and then Heit set earlier in the season.
Park Hill South sophomore Jasmine Case will make her state debut in two events after posting season-best times at sectionals. She came in second in the 100 hurdles at (15.25) to grab her first state berth, while junior teammate Dymeria Guillory was third in 15.42.
Guillory medaled fifth in state a year ago but battled hamstring issues before sneaking into the sectional field and then then nearing her career-best of 15.25 to keep her season alive.
“It was a great relief. I had to chill down a bit and get back healthy,” Guillory said. “Coming out here and qualifying for state is a real accomplishment.”
Case also finished second in the 300 hurdles 46.58, while Park Hill senior Ariet King came in fourth to make this week’s state field. Coming off a career-best time in a Sectional 4 victory, King held on to the final spot at 48.09 seconds.
In her third event, Case came in fifth in the high jump at 4 feet, 10 inches, but Park Hill South sophomore teammate Alecia Westbrook ended up third in a tiebreaker at 5-0 to advance to state for the first time. Park Hill senior Tessa Mussman ended up in a four-way tie for fourth in the pole vault at 9-6, but she came up fifth in the tiebreakers, just missing a state spot.