Heading into the final race of the Class 4 District 8 meet, the final team standings were already decided.
Platte County’s 4x400-meter team of seniors Blake Reynolds and Keegan Cordova and juniors Walker Grimes and Will Hay took the track in brand new speedsuits and put an exclamation point on a memorable day at Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium. The Pirates won the final race in 3 minutes, 30.76 seconds to beat rival Kearney by 3 seconds.
For the second time in three years, Platte County claimed the District 8 team title. This one came as a bit more of a surprise behind a consistently developing roster that has kept the program on a championship track.
Reynolds embodies that improvement, having gone from a relay contributor to standout senior who put the Pirates in position to reclaim the top spot over Kearney.
“It really shows how hard we work in practice to get better every day. We’ll just keep continuing into next week and try to keep getting better,” Reynolds said.
Kearney took an early lead in field events, but Platte County chipped away throughout the day, advancing all four relays and two individuals in three different events for sectionals. In the end, the Pirates came up with 174 points — 20 more than the defending district champions.
In addition to qualifying in the 4x400, Reynolds made it back to Sectional 4 in the 200, but this time he did so with a district championship. He finished in 22.83 after being the top qualifier out of prelims.
Carter Utt, another senior, finished fourth in the 200 to claim the final sectional spot.
While Reynolds placed a disappointing fifth in the 400, Platte County now has options on its sprint relays. The 4x200 team of Utt, Grimes and sophomores Colby Rollins and Spencer Cupp finished second (1:34.47), while the 4x100 of Utt, Cupp, Rollins and senior Cade McNicholas came in third to easily advance to sectionals.
“My times have just gotten better for running,” Rollins said. “I’m helping out. I started out only doing jumps on varsity, got moved up for sprints and it’s been going really good.
“I run with a lot of great people, a lot of amazing friends. Our connection, our community, everything about our 4x1, 4x2 groups is amazing.”
Platte County’s 4x800 — the defending state champion — claimed another district title with a strong showing in the first race of the day.
Both the 4x800 and 4x400 teams only returned one member from a year ago, but both look to continue their state-medal-winning form with revamped quartets. Cordova teamed with newcomers Donny MacCuish, Matthew Sullivan and Blake Bjustrom to win the 4x800 on Saturday in 8:25.51, a time that importantly topped Kearney by 1½ seconds.
Cordova — the star returned in both the 4x400 and 4x800 — also won the 800 individual title in what was essentially a tie. He crossed the line side by side with Kearney senior Mason Marshall, who appeared to just hold on to what was a lead of a few steps after the first lap of the race.
Instead, the two both finished in 1:59.37, but Cordova was determined to be the winner by thousandths of a second.
Hay — the new lead leg of the 4x400 — also qualified in his two individual events. He was a solid second in the 110 hurdles but then repeated as the 300 hurdles district champion with a season-best 40.69. He just held off Lincoln Prep junior Mylin McDaniel’s late charge in the longer race, while Platte County freshman George Steinmeier was third in a career-best 41.58.
The final individual sectional qualifier for Platte County in track events was senior Dakota Simmons, who placed second in the 1,600 (4:45.02).
In the field, Platte County claimed two more district championships.
Jacob Laures, a senior, won the five-man pole vault competition at 14-0 for the Pirates. He then moved the bar up to 15-3, looking to better the school record of 15-0 he set earlier in the year. He made three good attempts at the height, even knocking the bar off with his chest on the way down on the third and final try.
Platte County senior Xavier Keith won the shot put with a 54-4½ effort. His three measured tries were all longer than any other throw from the rest of the field but still just off his school record of 56-0 from earlier in the season.
Laures is a two-time state medalist, while Keith placed top eight as a sophomore but was not on the team a year ago.
In the shot put, Platte County will have two sectional qualifiers for a second straight year. Kevin Fagan, junior, placed fourth — incidentally with an identical 45-2 distance that put him fourth in District 8 in 2018.
“I was happy to get through this year,” Fagan said. “Last year, I kind of peaked at the right time. This year, I kind of had expectations to get through to sectionals.”
Rollins ended up the only athlete for Platte County to advance out of districts in four events — pretty good for a sophomore with no prior experience.
Continually improving down the stretch of the season, Rollins added to his Suburban Conference Blue Division title in the long jump by placing third in both jumping events. He finished his leg of the 4x200 before returning to the long jump pit and hitting 21-1 on his final attempt to go from fifth to third and just missing his career-best of 21-1¾.
That followed a season-best of 42-0¾ in the triple jump from the morning. While qualifying for state will be difficult in a loaded sectional field this week, Rollins remains optimistic and has enjoyed being a part of this special Platte County team.
“Mostly, it’s the other people. It’s the community I’m around. I’m around a lot of good people who are pushing me,” Rollins said. “My times and my jumps have gotten phenomenally better. This is my first year ever doing track. I’ve never done it before. I wanted to do it eighth grade, ended up getting hurt; didn’t do it freshman year because I was too lazy.
“I never imagined I’d be doing this.”
Platte County junior Garret Watson rounded out the sectional qualifiers. He again set a career-best in the javelin with a throw of 147-5 — 5½ feet further than his previous best.