Tyler Blair is competing like there is no tomorrow – so is his Blue Springs South High School teammate Grace Klausen.
Yet the two Jaguar standouts have different reasons for wanting to blow away the competition at Saturday’s Class 4 District 7 competition at Lee’s Summit High School.
For Blair, his track career is winding down, because he will not compete in college.
Klausen, who burst on the scene last year the sophomore winner of the Golden Spike Award, which is given to the top point producer at the Suburban Big Six Championships meet, is coming off a three-win conference appearance and she is eager to establish herself as one of the best distance runners in the history of Eastern Jackson County and South.
“I can’t wait for district,” said Blair, who won the 110- and 300-meter hurdles last Friday at Lee’s Summit North. “This is it. I’m not running in college – and some of the guys on the team are a little bit mad at me – but that’s my decision.
“And I think district sectional and hopefully state will be even more important to me because I know this is it.”
Blair is a man on a mission, and he believes his pre-meet routine puts him in the best frame of mind to succeed.
“Before the race, I have a routine I do,” he explained. “I listen to music that will exit out everything. All I’m thinking about the race and what I have to do to be at my best. I’m going to go all out. I can promise you that.”
Blair’s performance played a big role in the Jaguars’ second-place finish (196 to 95) to heavily favored Blue Springs at conference.
“We were very pleased as a coaching staff as to how the boys competed,” boys coach Troy Harding said. “Second place is the highest we have finished since we joined the big conference. Blue Springs is heavily favored to be the state champ, so there is no shame in finishing second.”
“It’s awesome to be a part of a second-place team,” Blair said. “I know people will be talking about it for a while. Coaches are talking about our legacy – a lot of our kids stepped it up – the relays, and everyone. A lot of our younger guys have served as the backbone of the team.
“I can’t wait to see what they do in the future.”
When asked how he started hurdling, Blair grinned.
“I can thank my dad for hurdling,” Blair said. “He passed the hurdling genes down. In eighth grade they had everyone line up and see who could go over hurdles and I had the natural form. My junior year is when I really felt comfortable with hurdles. That is when I began attacking the hurdles and not just hopping over them. I got speed down, worked hard in gym, my legs got stronger and it all just came together.”
It’s all been coming together for Klausen for the past two seasons, as she has joined former South teammate Samantha Nightingale as one of the most dominating distance runners in school history.
“The stuff Grace does Monday through Thursday makes what happened Friday night possible,” South girls coach Ryan Unruh said. “She knows she is the best distance runner in the conference. She knows just what she has to do to win the race. She was just holding back, we made sure she did not go over 90 to 95 percent because that distance is hard on anyone. But she does it and makes it look easy.”
Klausen was topped by Raymore-Peculiar’s Morgan Smith as the Golden Spike winner as the Panther senior won the 110 and 300 hurdles, the high jump and was on a relay team that scored points.
“Grace was begging to run the 4x8 earlier in the week,” Unruh said, “but this time of year you have to look ahead to district, sectional and state. We don’t have the luxury of her running too many events. We didn’t want anything lingering on from Friday night. We wanted to keep it simple.”
And Klausen is fine with that.
“Last Friday, I wanted to help the team score points, and we scored 97.5 and finished in fourth place,” Klausen said. “I was proud of what we did as a team. Like Coach Unruh said, I believe in preparing for a race, being ready to do whatever will help the team.
“I wasn’t that tired last week because of all the hours of training I’d done, all the miles I’d run. It was fun, it was awesome to be able to race like that. One thing you have to remember. It’s all about the offseason. I am ready to run because of how hard I work.
“And now, I am so excited for district. I am ready to show what I can really do.”