By Jason Lawrence
Special to The Citizen
In arguably the toughest conference in the state, the Park Hill track team has its eye set on some loft goals coming into the 2018 season.
A year after sending seven individuals and four relay teams to the Missouri Class 5 State Track and Field Championships, Trojans coach Rob Self said he hope to send 40 athletes to the state meet across his boys and girls squads.
Despite losing Ariet King, a state qualifier in the 300-meter hurdles and triple jump, the girls squad returns four state individual state qualifiers and all but one member of three state qualifying relays, including the entire state champion 4x400-meter relay team of sophomore Teresa Thomas, junior Manuela Ngo Tonye Nyemeck and seniors Taiya Shelby and Jena Hahlbeck. The girls finished 16th at state last year after taking third at the Class 5 District 8 meet and third in the Suburban Conference Gold Division.
Shelby also earned all-state honors in the 400-meter dash, finishing fifth, and as part of the 4x200-meter relay that that finished sixth, teaming with Thomas, Hahlbeck and fellow senior Sephora Koudou, who also qualified for state in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and as part of the 4x100-meter relay team. Ngo Tonye Nyemeck (400-meter dash) also qualified individually, while junior Jordan Birmingham and senior Iyanla Roberts also return from the 4x100-meter relay team. Giavonni Hopkins is the lone member of the 4x100-meter relay team who graduated.
Self also anticipates contributions from seniors Grace Fink and Lexi Reneua, junior Sabrina Lane and sophomores Kali Day and Lashunda Tapp, among others.
On the boys side, Self will be replacing two of his three individual state qualifiers — state champion triple jumper Papay Glaywulu and Grant Downes, who took fourth in the 300-meter hurdles and sixth in the 110-meter hurdles to earn a pair of all-state honors and also qualified in pole vault. Junior Kolby Heinerikson returns after an all-state, fifth-place finish in javelin. Junior Payton Stanfield is the lone returning member of the 4x100-meter relay team that won the Class 5 District 8 championship and qualified for state; Self also expects him to compete in the hurdles events this season.
Other boys returners expected to contribute this season include senior Mike Baker (relays) and sophomore Javion Gathrite (hurdles and relays), while senior Jhalen Turner, juniors Seth Garrison, Cole Gonier, Parker Canfield and Joe Webb, and sophomores Jameel Burns, Keran Fane, Nik Koudou, Isaiah Phillips and Evan Samborski are among those Self thinks will also make an impact at the varsity level this year after Park Hill finished ninth at state, fourth at districts and sixth in the conference a season ago.
In addition to qualifying 40 for state, Self hopes to win conference and districts, but expects to finish no lower than third in the Suburban Conference Gold Division and place well at the highly competitive KU Relays April 20-21.