Moments after the Blue Springs High School 1,600-meter relay team of Donte Buckner, Matt Marzolf, Alex McCullough and Josh McCullough capped a near perfect Thursday afternoon for the Wildcats at the 57th annual Bill Summa Relays, coach Joe Cusack gathered his entire team near the finish line.
He praised the 1,600 relay squad, congratulated all members of the Wildcats track team for a dominating first-place performance, then turned his attention to William Chrisman track coach Tyler Rathke.
“I want to tell you about Coach Tyler Rathke, who is in my opinion, the best young track coach in the state,” Cusack said as his players huddled around their coach. “You want to talk about a classy coach? I called him at 6 a.m. Wednesday to see if we could get in the Summa invitational because the weather was looking so bad and I didn’t want to take our team to Springfield (for the Hillcrest Invitational) because of the chance of snow and bad weather.
“He called me back in five minutes, said he had to talk to his activities director (Greg McGhee) and said he’d get back to me. I got another call in a minute or two inviting us to this meet. He’s right over there – let’s go thank him.”
The team ran over to a surprised Rathke, big Daniel Parker and a teammate put Rathke on their shoulders and marched him down the track.
All the while, Cusack was grinning from ear to ear.
“It was great to have Coach Cusack’s team here,” Rathke said. “We had great weather, great teams and great competition. I’m really pleased how it all went.”
It was a great call by Cusack to stay home and compete at the Summa Relays as the Wildcats produced eight gold medals – with Xavier Hall winning the 110 and 300 hurdles; Tre’ Wheaton winning the triple jump; the 400 (Aveion Bailey, Nick Wood, Richard Fontenot and Nick Hessefort) and 800 (Donte Buckner, Hessefort, Alex McCullough and Josh McCullough) relay teams joined the winning 1,600 relay squad; Oaklee Hauschild lapped many runners in winning the 3,200; and Gabe McClain won the 1,600.
The Wildcats finished with 174 points and second-place Grandview had 112. The host Bears finished fifth with 63.5, Truman was eighth with 33, Lee’s Summit North was 10th with 29, Fort Osage was 12th with 22.5 and Van Horn was 14th with seven.
“This was a great meet, hat’s off to Coach Rathke and everyone at Chrisman,” said Cusack, whose Wildcats have won all three meets they have competed in this season. “It was a good chance to run against some teams we don’t see that often.”
Hall was thrilled with his two-win night.
“It was a great night against some great competition,” said Hall, who has not lost a hurdling event this season. “What’s even more important that a lot of guys, some new, young guys, got to compete tonight and see what it means to be a part of this family – this great, Wildcat track and field family.”
William Chrisman’s Daniel Carson finished fourth in the discus, but threw a personal-best 150 feet, 10 inches. He was second in the shot put but was disappointed in his 54-7 throw because the man who once owned the Chrisman shot put record – which Carson beat last week at the Rusty Hodge Invitational – was in the stands at the Summa Invitational.
Dean Rohr, a 1978 Chrisman grad who owned the record of 57-4, wanted to meet Carson, who had a throw of 57-11 at the Hodge meet.
“I was so honored, so thrilled to meet Dean,” Carson said. “I’ve had his record of 57-4 as the screensaver on my phone since last season. It was one of the records I wanted to break, and when someone told me he was here tonight, I wanted to do a lot better than I did. I wish I could have won tonight with Dean watching me throw.”
Rohr, whose son Chris was a three-time state champion in the discus and one-time state champion in the shot put at Lee’s Summit North High School, said records are made to be broken.
“I didn’t think it would take 40 years to break my record,” Rohr said. “I was thrilled to meet Daniel. What a great young man. You want someone like him to break your record.”
Emari Grimes won the 100 and 200 and finished second in the 400 to lead the Fort Osage girls to a second-place finish with 73.2 points. St. Teresa’s won with 175.2 points. Chrisman was fifth (60), Lee’s Summit North was eighth (29), Truman was 10th (26.2) and Van Horn was 14th (15).
Truman’s Stacy Briggs won the 3,200 meters.