Rain continually fell onto Norman James Field and the surrounding track.
Not ideal conditions as the Class 5 Sectional 4 meet wrapped up on Monday, May 20 at William Chrisman High School. The meet started on Saturday, May 18, but weather forced the postponement on that day and sheets of rain pelted for two hours before the games committee pushed the meet back.
When it resumed on Monday, there was only four races left and the Trojans picked up wins in the 200-meter run and the 4x400-meter relay.
Park Hill will send seven events to the MSHSAA Track and Field Championships, which starts on Friday, May 24 at Adkins Stadium at Jefferson City High School.
Sophomore Caleia Johnson played a role in two of the wins on Monday. In the second race of the day, Johnson ran the 200-meter dash in 25.16 seconds to take home the championship.
In the final girls race of the day, the 4x400-meter team of Johnson, Manuel Ngo Tonye Nyemeck, Kristen Birmingham and Teresa Thomas won in a photo finish — literally.
The officials had to view the results in slow motion to see who won between Park Hill — the defending Class 5 champions — and Staley. The Trojans won with a time of 4:05.3444, while the Falcons had a time of 4:05.3449.
“At first I couldn’t tell,” Park Hill coach Rob Self said when asked if he knew who won that race. “We were standing there and we couldn’t tell. We were looking at the video screen. We battled pretty hard and did enough on that day.
“A couple of sectionals in St. Louis had 4 minute times but they ran the 4x400 when it was beautiful on Saturday and we ran 4:05 in pouring rain and cold. I feel pretty comfortable right now.”
Johnson picked the first of her three sectional crowns by winning the 400-meter dash on Saturday. She ran 57.34 to win it, while Ngo Tonye Nyemeck was fourth to move onto state.
Thomas will go to state in two other events to go along with the 4x400. She was the champion in the 100-meter in 12.09 seconds and took fourth in the long jump.
Kristen Birmingham was a runner-up in the high jump with a 5-4 leap, tying for first with Lee’s Summit West’s Jessica Haney but losing on a tiebreaker. Haney has won the last three state champions.
LaShunda Tapp will return to state in the shot put a year after making the finals but not medaling. She took third in sectionals.
The only other state qualifier is Kolby Heinerikson, the lone Trojan qualifier. He will go back to state in a quest for his fourth straight all-state medal in the javelin.
The Trojans had a few close calls and a heartbreak on Saturday.
Sabrina Lane took fifth in the javelin, coming in one inch shy of the final qualifying spot. Likewise, Simone Smith took fifth in the triple jump.
The Park Hill girls 4x100-meter relay team had a false start and was DQ’d. The Trojans had the fastest time at the sectional.
Park Hill South
The Panthers set a new school record in the 4x800-meter relay, the highlight of the two-day sectional event.
The quartet of Quentin Worley, Max Goertzen, Ethan Mick and Christian Ludtke finished in 7:53.02 on Saturday. Heading into the state meet, the Panthers have the fastest time in the state. St. Louis University High is the second fastest at 7:53.20 based on its sectional time.
On Monday, Ludtke finished as the runner-up and Mick was fourth in the 800, the first of the abbreviated racing schedule. Worley came in fifth in the 3,200-meter run to miss the cut.
“The sectional meet was really rough on the athletes this year,” Park Hill South boys coach Clay Lenhert said. “Hours and hours of rain and delays on Saturday followed up by a couple of hours of rain and cold on Monday. I’m so impressed with the athletes in Class 5 Section 4 to be able to put up the marks and times they did with the circumstances surrounding the meet. It was a great test of mental toughness but at the same time it was a shame that the system put some of the best athletes in Kansas City in a situation like that. Flexibility to adjust, move and alter the meet for the well-being of the athletes should be, and is, a priority for any competition we attend throughout the season. I don’t think it should be any different for a meet of this caliber.”
The only other going-to-state result for Park Hill South on Monday came when Addison Snowball finished fourth in the discus. That came after missing the cut in the shot put with a fifth-place showing.
Benjamin Owere was in a similar spot as Snowball, moving on in one event and missing the cut in the second.
The Central Missouri commit won the triple jump in 44-7, but was fifth in the long jump.
The only other Panther to move onto state is Connor McCauley, who took third in the 400-meter run. The favorite to win that race was Chris DuPree, who won a district championship in the race the previous week but was a scratch for this event.
On the girls’ side, Park Hill South will have two competing at state.
Maya Sullivan was the runner-up in the pole vault with a jump of 10 feet.
Alex Hammond will compete in the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles at state after taking third and fourth, respectively, at sectional.
“It went about as I thought,” said Park Hill South girls coach Chris Leibrand. “I qualified the girls that I expected to. One surprise was Ally Hammond in the 300 hurdles. She was on the outside looking in and ran a big personal record to gain the fourth place spot and qualify in both hurdles.”