Many of Eastern Jackson County’s top performers – Tori Findley, Daniel Carson, Dalton Miller and Darius Clark – were home, getting ready for the KU Relays today and Saturday – so Thursday night’s Grain Valley Invitational provided many of the not ready for primetime players the opportunity to show what they could do at a big meet.
And Grain Valley’s Missouri River Valley Conference West boys – minus Miller, who is competing in the steeplechase at KU – proved they were ready for their moment in the spotlight as they finished third behind Suburban Big Seven rivals Raymore-Peculiar (139 points) and Blue Springs (136).
The Eagles finished with 113.5 points as they were paced by double winners Tristan Pfeiffer and Tyler Luke and senior Kole Wagener, who won the javelin in his final home meet.
“Winning the javelin in my final home meet means everything to me,” said Wagener, a football standout who will play at William Jewell College. “I know a lot of the better throwers didn’t come to the meet and I didn’t have my best throw (143 feet, 8 inches), but it was good enough to win and get some big points for my team.”
Pfeiffer, a junior, won the shot put (48-4) and the discus (130-2) and Luke, a sophomore, won the 200 meters (23.24) and was part of the winning 400 relay team (44.14).
“It’s amazing to come out and compete with the big schools like Blue Springs and Raymore-Peculiar,” Pfeiffer said. “Carson (of William Chrisman) wasn’t in the shot put, but those schools are so much bigger than we are, if we can compete against them in a meet like this, it will give us a lot of confidence later in the season when we’re competing in our biggest meets.”
Luke agreed, adding, “This is our meet – a lot of our friends and family members and teachers might just come to one meet, and it’s this one – so we really wanted to do well. I know how much bigger schools like Blue Springs are than us, and they might not have brought their entire team, but we really competed against the athletes they brought. And that really makes me proud.”
It made coach Marc Cleveland and girls coach Cris Byington proud, too.
“I couldn’t be any happier with my guys, any prouder,” said Cleveland, who served as the PA announcer while Byington manned the tent on the field where the results were compiled. “I told our guys that a lot of the athletes they’ve heard about from the bigger schools might not be here, but to go out and compete and show the bigger schools what we’re all about.
“Look at Luke, a sophomore, winning two (gold) medals and Pfeiffer winning the shot and discus. That’s huge for our program. And Kole is a kid everyone loves, and we all wanted him to win the javelin his senior year.
“We had 472 kids competing in more than 1,000 events – that might be the biggest Grain Valley Invitational we’ve ever had – and we pulled it off without too many glitches. I know a lot of coaches – including some from our school, who are leaving for KU at 6 in the morning, so we wanted it to run smooth.”
• Lee’s Summit West won the girls title with 144 points. Grain Valley was third (113), Oak Grove sixth (52) and Blue Springs South seventh (40.5).
“I’m very happy with our girls,” Byington said. “We had some good times and Mariah Lister is getting healthy and running well.”
Lister, who won The Examiner’s Track Performer of the Year as a freshman, has been slowed this season by a hip pointer.
“You know Mariah,” Byington said, “she wants to get out there and compete. She’ll be ready by the time conference rolls around.”
Lister was second in the 1,600 and fifth in the 800.
• The Oak Grove boys were fifth (61.5). The Blue Springs South boys did not compete.
“I’m proud of the guys we brought,” Blue Springs coach Joe Cusack said. “We brought some guys who usually don’t get to compete in this many events and we came within three points of getting first place. They should be proud of how hard they competed.”