JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — With disappointment squarely in the past, Papay Glaywulu covered the necessary distance in his career.
Park Hill’s senior triple jump prodigy came away from the Class 5 Missouri State Track and Field Championships with the individual title he coveted, posting a winning effort of 47 feet, 4 inches in a reformatted competition Saturday, May 27 at Adkins Stadium. He didn’t approach his school record of 50-2½ set earlier this season at the Kansas Relays, but his gold medal was the first medal of any kind since placing eighth in the event as a freshman.
In between, there were disappointments and missed opportunities, but Glaywulul stood tall and proud at the top of the podium in the dark of night to finish off his career as a state champion.
“I thought it would be a long time before I experienced this,” said Glaywulu, going to Oklahoma University on a track scholarship. “The last track meet, I thought would never come. I still remember me the first time triple jumping, hating it. Now, I’m going to college for something I hated in the past.
“My journey is done for high school. That page in my life is covered. I’m going on to my next page, and we’ll see what happens there.”
Glaywulu went to state all four years at Park Hill but almost inconceivably ends his career with just the two medals.
More relaxed in the postseason as a senior, Glaywulu was always going to be the favorite, even after finishing second last week in Sectional 4 competition. Saturday’s competition ended up being pushed back by a five-hour weather delay, leading officials to scrap the preliminaries plus finals format and give all 16 competitors four jumps.
Glaywulu went 47-4 on his second attempt for the winning jump and then hit 47-3½ on his final try. Still searching for another big effort like the nationally ranked 50-foot-plus jump at the KU Relays, he remained satisfied with finally making good on the potential he so long ago showed.
“State champion,” Glaywulu said. “Coaches have been hounding me about that state champion stuff. Finally, I could get it for them, shut them up. I’m happy. This is good.”
Park Hill ended up with four medals total, and with a big push from Glaywulu’s state title, the Trojans were tied for ninth in the final Class 5 team standings with 22 points.
Grant Downes, another senior, walked away from his final meet with two medals — the first of a very accomplished career. Twice before a qualifier in the 110 hurdles, he came back for a third try in that event and made it through Friday’s preliminaries without much trouble.
Downes then also made the top eight in prelims for the 300 hurdles after qualifying in that event for the first time, guaranteeing him two medals as long as he finished both races Saturday.
“It was a good feeling,” Downes said. “It didn’t hit me at the moment, but I’m sure after this meet, after my high school career is over, it will mean a lot to me.”
In the morning 110 hurdles, Downes finished sixth in 15.08 seconds to hold his preliminary seed. In the 300s, he moved up to fourth on the podium, coming in at 40.68.
Throughout his career, Downes always excelled more in the 110s, but he leaves after posting top times of sub-15 in the 110s and sub-40 in the 300s and happy to have the medals, no matter the order.
“I think I owe it to my coaches at Park Hill,” said Downes, signed to be a decathlete at Wichita State. “Every single one of them has helped me to get to this point. Every day in training, every meet, every day in school, they push me to be my best, and I really appreciate that.”
Downes also qualified in the pole vault but ended up with no height after missing his first three attempts. He also ran with Glaywulu, junior DJ Johnson and freshman Payton Stanfield in the 4x100, although the group finished well off its season best and didn’t advance out of prelims.
Park Hill’s final medal ended up being the second in two tries for sophomore Kolby Heinerikson.
A qualifier in the javelin exhibition before placing seventh as a freshman, Heinerikson
continued to up his school record throughout this season and wound up with a fourth-place finish at state in the Friday competition.
Heinerikson threw 162-9 on his first try for his best of six throws while also setting a new school record. Unlike last year, his placement counted in the team standings and further showed his potential in the developing event.
“There was a lot more adrenaline. It meant a lot more,” Heinerikson said. “I just want to keep improving the next two years and keep getting better.”
Park Hill South ended up with 14 team points (21st in the standings) with three events finishing in the top eight.
Nylo Clarke, a senior, helped a pair of Panthers’ relays medal in what wound up the final races of his career. He also grabbed state medals in the 4x400 as a sophomore and the 400 a year ago, and he still holds the school records in the 400 and 200.
However, Clarke didn’t qualify for state in any individual events this year, limited to mostly relay duty due to a lingering knee injury during the season.
“It’s still satisfying,” Clarke said. “Obviously, I’d like to be in one of the open events, but this was all I could do. I have to be happy with it.”
In Friday’s preliminaries, the 4x100 and 4x200 advanced to the finals, while the 4x400 had an off day and missed the top eight.
The 4x100 of Clarke, senior Dillon Thomas, junior MJ Walker and freshman Chris Dupree nearly set a school record in preliminaries, posting the fourth best time but ended up sixth in the finals. The same team in the 4x200 also placed sixth.
In addition to Clarke’s knee injury, Thomas came back for track season despite suffering a torn ACL in September, while Dupree battled through a right ankle injury to return for the postseason.
“Everyone’s mind was set to come here so they did whatever they could to get healthy,” Clarke said. “We knew we had the talent to be here. We just had to do it.”
Dupree earned a third medal in the open 400.
Coming off a runner-up showing at Sectional 4, the freshman phenom posted a 49.53 in preliminaries to earn the No. 4 seed for Saturday’s final. He improved slightly in his final run of the season but again appeared to tire at the end, still working on conditioning after his time out due to injury.
Dupree led for much of the race, but Lee’s Summit North junior Todd Pinkowski nipped him at the line by just 0.03 of a second — 49.36 to 49.39. Dupree’s season-best was a 48.82 a week earlier, 0.82 away from Clarke’s school record set with a runner-up finish at state in 2016.