JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Entering the final race, Platte County knew the hopes of a team trophy were shot.
That didn’t stop seniors TJ Guillory and Deandre Rollins and juniors John Watts and Matthew Phillips from putting on one last show. The Pirates’ top quartet nearly broke the school record in the 4x400-meter relay while closing the Class 4 Missouri State Track and Field Championships with a runner-up finish Saturday, May 27 at Adkins Stadium.
Platte County ended up with eight events posting a top-eight finish and scored 37 points to finish eighth in the final team standings — just six out off of the desired top-four showing.
“Knowing that we put in all this work that season and we pull out this many medals? I don’t think many people expected us to get this many, but we did,” Rollins said.
Three top-eight relays and four field event medals propelled Platte County to its best finish since placing in the top four in 2012 for the only state trophy in program history.
The Pirates were in the hunt all weekend, and the 4x800’s school-record showing to open competition Saturday provided the first big boost. The quartet of seniors JD Crawford and Jared Maksudian, junior Devin Richardson and sophomore Keegan Cordova all put up splits of 2 minutes, 1 second or less to become the first 3,200 relay in school history to break 8 minutes.
Crawford ran the lead leg with Richardson, out for track for the first time after being cut from the baseball team, putting Platte County into second, and Maksudian’s sub-2 minute split put the Pirates right behind Kearney for the final leg. Cordova, the top 800 runner on the team this year, split a 1:56, and the Pirates finished third in 7:58.43.
Platte County’s 4x800 ran at state for a second straight year, shaving nearly 24 seconds off a 13th-place time from a year ago.
“I was just excited we were in second place and trying to keep that,” Crawford said. “We wanted to get somewhere in the top three and that’s what we did, so we’re just very happy about it.”
Guillory, Watts, Phillips and senior Ahmaad Holt also collected medals in the 4x200 for Platte County, grabbing the final qualifying spot from preliminaries. Despite running slower in Saturday’s final, the Pirates benefited from one disqualification and placed sixth in 1:30.77.
Phillips, a Sectional 4 qualifier in the open 400, earned his first two state medals through the relays.
“I love just being a part of this team. It’s really a blessing,” he said.
Watts, who finished with four medals, bested a persistent rival for the first time for his second individual medal of the meet.
After qualifying with the No. 3 preliminary time, the lanky speedster earned a runner-up showing in the open 400. He ran out of lane three and leaned at the line to beat Raytown South junior Vontrae Booker for the first time this season.
Watts came in at 49.74 and just missed his personal best from a runner-up finish to Booker the previous week at Sectional 4. Washington senior Adam Gauzy claimed the title out of lane five in 49.18, but Watts took satisfaction in finishing ahead of Booker.
“I got the chance to beat him today,” Watts said with a smile.
Already with seven medals heading to the 4x400, Platte County couldn’t catch the top four in the team standings, but the Pirates still made a move.
Watts couldn’t quite keep up with Rockwood Summit’s Rayvon Allen on the anchor leg, and Platte County finished in 1:23.98 — just .03 of a second off the school record the 2014 team set in the state preliminaries. Watts took the baton in first and clipped off a 49.58 leg, better than either of his open 400 races at state, but came up about a second behind the Falcons’ senior anchor.
“After the 400, I was dead,” Watts said. “I got second place in that, but I prepared, warmed up and knew I had to bring home another medal for the 4x4.”
Platte County’s quartet — the fourth straight to reach state — featured only one returner, while Guillory ran on the 2015 team. His season ended last year at districts with a leg injury, but he came up with his second and third career state medals and nearly grabbed the coveted school record in his favorite event.
“It felt great. We knew we were going to make it to the finals,” Guillory said. “Honestly, to us, I think the medal was kind of a side achievement. We really wanted that school record, wanted to leave a little bit of a legacy. But I felt like we ran great and almost made it happen so I’m still happy with it.”
Platte County’s field events provided the first push for the Pirates in the team standings.
In the Friday competitions, Watts placed seventh in the long jump, needing his final attempt to jump 21 feet, 5½ inches and move from ninth to the podium for Platte County. There ended up being three seventh-place finishes out of three events on the day.
Mac Leet, a senior making his long-awaited state debut, cleared 6-4 for the second straight week in the high jump to tie his career best set in his sophomore season. A sectional qualifier each of the past two years, he suffered through an injury-plagued 2016 that forced him to change his plant leg midway through the season.
In his favorite event, Leet cleared 5-10, 6-0, 6-2 and 6-3 on his first attempts, which proved important after eight competitors cleared 6-4. He hit 6-4 on his third and final attempt and ended up in a six-way tie for third at that height, placing seventh on tiebreakers to earn a state medal in his first try.
“I kind of imagined I’d jump higher at the end of the season because I felt great,” said Leet, who also qualified for state in the triple jump but didn’t reach the finals in that competition Saturday night. “Each time I was at a higher height, I felt like I could clear it. Sometimes things don’t work out, and I’m happy with the medal.”
Xavier Keith, a hulking sophomore, made his second straight state appearance in the shot put for Platte County.
Coming off personal-best performances three weeks ago in the Suburban Conference Blue Division Championships and two weeks ago in a runner-up finish at District 8, Keith topped 50 feet on each of his first four attempts Friday morning. His placement put of 51-6½ came on his fourth try, and he fouled on his final two efforts.
Keith wanted to place to earn the team points, even if it just ended up being two.
“I came out here not expecting to medal at all, and I wanted to really bad and I did that. I love to bleed black and orange,” said Keith, who plans to add a full spin to his approach in the offseason in an effort to increase his distances for next year.
Platte County’s final six points came in the same event Saturday night, providing a final glimmer of hope of a top-four finish.
Bryce Bearden, a senior, cleared 14-0 in the pole vault but ended up 10 inches off the final school record he set this season for the Pirates. He upped the mark from its original spot of 13-6 to 13-7, 14-0, 14-9 and finally 14-10 but couldn’t return to those last heights in the final two weeks of the postseason.
Tied for third, Bearden ended up fifth on tiebreakers but expressed more disappointment in the end of his high school career than the podium spot for his first state medal.
Jacob Laures, a sophomore, again cleared 13-6 and tied for sixth but took seventh on tiebreakers. He set a personal-best of 13-9 earlier in the season — a mark better than Mike Wade’s school record of 13-6 that had stood since 2002 before Bearden bettered that height early this season.