JEFFERSON CITY – While he and his girls waited to ascend the podium and claim their second-place trophy, Lee’s Summit West track coach Jesse Griffin marveled at the efficiency of his team.
Lee’s Summit West had girls entered in seven of the 18 events in the Class 4 state meet May 30-31 at Lincoln University’s Dwight T. Reed Stadium, a good number but usually not enough to vie for a team title. Unless every girl performs at peak level.
Which is essentially what the Titans did.
West’s girls scored 52 team points, bested only by a loaded McCluer North squad from St. Louis that had 65. Lee’s Summit North placed fifth with 38.
West had one champion in Jamie Newsome in the 400 meters and three second-place finishes, including a dazzling battle with Lee’s Summit North and McCluer North in the 1,600-meter relay. That kind of efficiency helped make up for a lack of manpower.
“We qualified in seven events, so the very most we could’ve got was 70 points,” Griffin said. “And we got 52 points in seven events, which is unheard of. Being able to maximize performances every single time very rarely happens.”
Newsome had a hand in most of those points. She placed second in the triple jump on the first day of the meet and won the 400-meter run the next day in 56.11 seconds. Finishing behind her were her two season long rivals – Lee’s Summit North’s Rhema Taylor and Aliyah Hakim in third and fourth place.
“I felt Rhema coming up behind me and I was like, ‘Oh wow,’” Newsome said. “I had to give it all I had.”
Newsome gave it all she had in the 1,600 relay, which featured the state’s three fastest teams in McCluer North, the Titans and the Broncos. She ran her anchor leg in a blazing 54.61 seconds, almost closing the gap after McCluer North took a big lead early. Hakim, the Broncos’ anchor, was also there at the finish line.
“What a great race,” Lee’s Summit North coach Ed Brill said. “It was just like NASCAR – all three of them were right on the line.”
McCluer North won it in 3 minutes, 48.82 seconds, but the Titans’ Erin Sermons, Elizabeth Nolke, Nicole Kallenberger and Newsome were right behind in a school-record 3:53.48. North’s foursome of Kala Taylor, Rhema Taylor, Jenny Krause and Hakim was third in 3:54.14.
“We ran into a very, very good McCluer North team,” Griffin said. “It was us two (West and North) really scrapping for second and third place.”
The Titans also ran into a very good Eureka team in the 3,200 relay. When Annika Sisson started the final 800 leg with a comfortable lead, West appeared to have the race won.
That lead evaporated quickly when Eureka’s Hannah Long made up a 7-second gap with a blistering 2:09 split. Long – who also won the girls 800, 1,600 and 3,200 – sent Eureka to a winning time of 9:11.20 that came close to the state record. West finished in 9:12.31, breaking the school record by 7 seconds.
“I was fine with second because it was a great race,” Newsome said. “I felt proud of my team.”
Kallenberger was also fine with her second-place finish in the pole vault. Her 12-foot mark tied her personal best and only defending state champion Sierra Maddox of Jackson was better at 12-6.
“I think I started off with too big of a pole,” said Kallenberger, who struggled in her first attempts at 10 feet. “On my third attempt I went down a pole, and it was easier to bend and get over the bar.”
Sisson also placed third in the 800 and Nolke took fifth in the 1,600, which meant that every Titan on the team contributed to the point total.
“I’m extremely pleased, proud of my girls; they gave me everything they had,” Griffin said. “We just didn’t have enough events qualified to challenge a great, great McCluer North team.”
Brill was equally proud of his team. Along with the strong showing in the 400 and the 1,600 relay, the Broncos also had Imani Johnson place third in the shot put and seventh in the discus, Kelsey Lewis take third in the 200 and Brielle Magee fourth in the 300 hurdles.
North’s only disappointment was in the 800 relay, where a bad exchange led to an eighth-place finish. The Broncos also placed eighth in the 3,200 relay.
“I can’t ask for anything more,” said Brill, who is retiring after 29 years of coaching. “They ran hard, they competed, they didn’t quit no matter how far back or how far ahead they were.”
West had another champion in Avery Carter, who won the boys shot put. Carter won with a 59-4.75 toss, a step up from his 55-11 winning mark in sectionals.
“I’m satisfied with it,” Carter said. “It’s not my (personal record) but definitely better than what I’ve been throwing lately.”
Titans teammate Evan Martin was fourth in the shot at 54-11.5. West also got sixth-place finishes from Andrew Palmer in the 100 meters and in the 1,600 relay. That helped the Titans finished tied for 10th in the team standings with 21 points.
“It was a very good season and a nice finish at the state meet,” West boys coach Bob Klausing said. “We had a great group of seniors and they came through at the state meet.”
North’s Jalen Ford took second in the boys high jump on a distracting day. Ford, who won the district meet with a 6-10 jump, reached 6-8 at state and barely missed three tries at 6-9. His height matched winner Bryant Boyd of Kirkwood, but Boyd had fewer misses.
Ford takes a long approach to the bar, which was closer to the track than it is at most other venues. With his starting point four lanes into the track, he often had to wait for races to pass by before he could jump.
“It wasn’t really a distraction at first until the last jump,” Ford said. “I was on my last little step to get ready to run on my approach and (a meet official) yells, ‘Stop! They’re coming!’ It will mess with you mentally and take you out of your focus for a second, but you have to be able to come back.”
North also had Matt Scaletty take fifth in the 300 hurdles.
Lee’s Summit’s Davian Hawkins took fifth in the triple jump. The Tigers’ boys 1,600 relay squad took eighth.