Gabe Middleton believes he has the numbers — both overall and in returning talent.
Nearly all of Platte County’s qualifiers for the Class 4 Missouri State Track and Field Championships will be back this year. With another tier that came up just short right behind, the Pirates have reasons to believe the girls and boys can compete to bring home more medals this season.
Platte County will have perhaps the largest team in program history with more than 100 athletes out and plenty of potential state qualifiers in the fold.
“We’ve got a lot of talent back,” Middleton said. “I think depth-wise, we’re going to be fine. Most of the kids know what they are and know what they need to do, but there’s a few that we have to decide, as coaches, where they’ll score the most points for us.”
Platte County junior Rebekah Geddes leads the way after earning three medals and running in four events at state a year ago.
Long ago established as the best long distance runner in program history, Geddes placed third in the 1,600-meters and fifth in the 3,200 while running the anchor leg of the sixth-place 4x800 relay team. She also ran on the 4x400 team.
The 4x800 team, which set the school record last year, only returns two members in Geddes and developing sophomore Jessica Clark. The 4x400 state team also only has two members back — Geddes and Sage McGehe.
Jaycie Stubbs, a sophomore, was Platte County’s only other individual qualifier back after going in javelin, a state competition for the first time in 2016.
The boys have even more state competitors back, including sophomores Jackson Letcher and Xavier Keith. Letcher continued to shine in long distance, advancing out of sectionals in the 3,200, while Keith jumped into the spotlight late in the season with a Suburban Conference Blue Division championship in the shot put. He reached state in the same event later in the season.
Platte County also sent two relays to state, but only John Watts, a junior, comes back from the seventh-place 4x400 team. However, senior TJ Guillory ran in the event for the Pirates until a leg injury in districts cut his season short.
David Fulk ran on both the 4x400 and 4x800, but Jared Maksudian, JD Crawford and Keegan Cordova will be back on the longer distance team with plenty of others in competition for the four spots.
If not for one departure and one injury, Platte County would really have a lot intact. Tianna Daniel-Dalton neared the school record in the high jump last year and then placed fifth at state but moved out of the district in the offseason. Ava White, a senior, suffered a knee injury late in basketball and will not be back after running on the 4x400 and 4x800 at state in addition to qualifying for sectionals in the 400.
However, Platte County senior Tori Farr was right behind Dalton in the high jump and could push to qualify in multiple events if she continues to develop in the long jump. Middleton also expects Haylie Jerome to help in the distance events, while freshman Isabelle Geddes will contribute in the sprints and hurdles.
Watts will likely slot into the 4x400 again and will also have potential to compete in multiple jumping events and possibly the 400. Derek Kohler, a senior, will combine with Keith to give the Pirates a pair of capable throwers, while seniors Okwar Jale and Kevin Neal were both sectional qualifiers in hurdles last year that will hope to make a state debut.
The Blue Division will again be one of the best conferences in the area, and with the top teams also in Platte County’s district and sectional, the goals will again be linked to the postseason.
“We never really preach conference championships,” Middleton said. “We preach that everything we do is getting ready for districts — peaking then, then peaking again and then peaking at state.”