KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When the baton reached Nylo Clarke’s hand, no one knew how much he would have left for his final 400 meters.
Park Hill South needed to finish ahead of Liberty in the 4x400 race to close the Class 5 District 8 meet Saturday, May 13 at Park Hill District Stadium. The Panthers senior superstar brought home an easy win, bringing an end to a grueling day for him.
The victory with Liberty in second place wrapped up a somewhat unexpected team title for Park Hill South, which entered with two big question marks.
“We did not have a clue that we’d be anywhere close to first coming into this,” Clarke said. “We’ve had so many guys injured that we’re just trying to whatever we can to get back.”
Clarke (knee) and freshman phenom Chris Dupree (ankle) returned to full action after lengthy layoffs due to injuries.
Both delivered gutty performances to provide a big boost for Park Hill South, which finished fifth just one week earlier in the Suburban Conference Red Division Championships. Dupree finished second in the 400 (50.11) despite obvious discomfort in his taped right ankle before running in the 4x400.
Clarke gave up individual spots in the 100 and 400 to focus on three relays while entering the 200 — the only sprint event he didn’t run in last year’s postseason. The 4x100 (second), 4x200 (first) and 4x400 (first) all looked solid with him running the anchor leg.
The school record holder in the 200 and 400, Clarke now looks to get back into shape in time to be closer to his best in this week’s Class 5 Sectional 4 meet Saturday, May 20 in Blue Springs, Mo. and then the Class 5 Missouri State Track and Field Championships.
“We’re not there yet. We have to keep working,” said Clarke, an all-state finisher in the 400 as a junior. “I had to see what I can do. Whatever I (run), I’m OK with.”
Park Hill South ended up with 142 points and edged Liberty by eight. Liberty North (115) and Park Hill (113) were safely back in third and fourth in the eight-team standings.
The distance events were steady for Park Hill South, starting with a win for the 4x800 team of Brendan Briody, Christian Ludtke, Eli Guzman and Jake Prososki. The quartet also combined for two individual berths with Prososki (2:02.00) and Briody (2:02.38) finishing back-to-back in second and third of the 800.
Park Hill South juniors Ewan Frick (second) and David Rouse (fourth) were sectional qualifiers in the 3,200. In addition, the Panthers received a solid boost in some more unexpected spots with senior Dillon Thomas — coming off of a torn ACL in September — finishing third in the 100 and Addison Snowball grabbing fourth in the discus.
Tavin Severino — a senior — made the sectional cut in the high jump (fourth, 6 feet, 2 inches) and long jump (third, 20-2½).
The long jump standings didn’t look like what many anticipated. Park Hill senior Papay Glaywulu wound up fifth, ending his career in that event. His junior teammate DJ Johnson finished 1¼ inches back of Severino in fourth, beating Glaywulu by a half an inch.
Glaywulu did dominate his best event, jumping 49-5½ in the triple jump to win by nearly 7 feet. Park Hill South’s Michael Garrison (42-8) and Benjamin Owere (42-0½) were second and third.
Park Hill’s 4x100 of Glaywulu, Johnson, Grant Downes and Payton Stanfield turned in a solid but easy 43.19 to win with Downes holding off Clarke’s final charge on the anchor leg on a Park Hill South team that also included Thomas, Garrison and MJ Walker. Clarke anchored the same team to a comfortable victory in the 4x200 with Park Hill’s quartet Stanfield, Johnson, Michael Baker and Javion Gathrite in third.
In the end, Park Hill also qualified four relays, thanks to sticking Johnson into the 4x400.
The Trojans surprised with Johnson, Baker, Stanfield and Al-ameen Agunbiade turning in a season-best 3:28.32 to finish third behind Liberty. The result almost vaulted them in the team standings ahead of Liberty North, which came in fifth and did not advance.
Park Hill South’s team of Connor McCauley, Dupree, Garrison and Clarke won in 3:26.44.
Downes turned in a great individual day for Park Hill, qualifying for sectionals in four events. He started early in the morning, finishing second in the pole vault at 12-6 despite not entering the event previously this season. Park Hill South’s Brandon Nardi also advanced with a fourth place finish.
Signed to be a decathlete at Wichita State, Downes missed his first vault but went on to a solid performance, earning valuable team points.
In addition to his 4x100 relay duties, Downes also cruised to victory in his best events. He ran away from the field in the 110 hurdles (15.32) with teammate Gathrite (16.06) in second with a personal-best time and Park Hill South’s Grant Hudson in third.
Downes again outraced the field in the 300s with Hudson second and teammate Agunbiade third. Despite having a solid lead, Downes pushed to the finish line and lunged across and ended up running his first sub-40 time of his career, coming in at 39.76.
“I know every time that I’m running, every time this season I’ve been around 40. Everything counts as you come down that back straight. I had to lean because I felt like I was close,” said Downes, a Class 5 state qualifier in the 110s each of the past two seasons still looking for his first berth in the 300s. “Can’t think about stuff in the past. Do what you do in the present because it’s called the present because it’s a gift. I’m definitely focused on what I’ve got going now.”
Park Hill sophomore Kolby Heinerikson will also have a shot at a state return after placing third in the javelin.
Now an event counted in the team standings, Heinerikson posted a throw of 158-8 but will face a tough field this weekend, needing a top four finish to advance. Last season, throwers in the javelin advanced to the state exhibition through their top distance posted during the season.
Heinerikson’s season-best right now is a school-record 161-10.