When Fort Osage junior Emari Grimes takes her place at the starting line of the 100, 200 or 400 meters at track and field events across the metro area, in the back of her mind she is thinking about her mother, Adiia.
“When I cross the finish line,” said Grimes, who won the 100 (12.81) and 200 (26.36) and was second in the 400 (1:00.77) Thursday night at the 57th annual Bill Summa Relays at William Chrisman High School, “I look forward to hearing my mom say, ‘Good job Grimes!’”
Her mother has been saying that on a frequent basis this season as Grimes has burst on the scene as one of the premier runners in Eastern Jackson County – which is quite a feat for a young performer who doesn’t even have a home track on which to practice.
That’s because Fort Osage High School is getting a new track/football complex complete with a new turf infield and new state of the art track facility.
“We’re basically running in the halls at the high school and I’ve spraypainted a makeshift track at Osage Trails (Middle School),” Indians track coach J.D. Snead said. “But you know what? It hasn’t affected Emari or the rest of our team in a negative way.
“I feel bad for the seniors, who will not get to participate on our new track, but they’re accepting the challenge of this season right along with all the other runners and hurdlers. We’re making the most of a challenging situation and in Emari’s case, she is thriving and has become one of the top sprinters in the area.”
The 200 has become Grimes’ personal showcase as she owns victories at the Rusty Hodge Invitational last week and the Summa Relays on Thursday.
“I like the 200 a lot,” Grimes said. “I like the 100 and the 400 all right, but the 200 is the race I have had the most success in. I tied the school record in the 200 (25.06) and I ran a 26.36 (at the Summa Relays), which was OK – because I won. But I know I can run faster.”
So does her coach.
“You don’t want to peak too early in the season,” Snead said. “She is so competitive, we have to tell her that she’s doing great things now, and the best things are still to come. She is a quiet young lady, and she is so easy to support, coach and cheer for because you want someone like her to succeed. And she’s had a successful start and we think she’s going to have a successful junior season.”
Grimes has many goals in mind for this season, including a second consecutive trip to state.
“I went to state last year but didn’t get a medal,” she said. “This year, I want to go back and I want to get a medal. I want to hear my mom say, ‘Good job Grimes,’ after I’ve won a medal at state. That would just be wonderful.”
BRIGGS EXCELS: Another area standout at the Summa Relays was Truman’s Stacy Briggs, who won the 3,200 meters (12:31.54) and was second in the 1,600 (5:39.37).
“Since I go to Truman and the meet was at Chrisman, I really wanted to do well and represent Independence at the relays,” said Briggs, whose father Rod is the Truman boys basketball coach. “The weather was so perfect – the best weather we’ve competed in this season – and I wanted to get a PR in the 1,600 and it didn’t happen, but I was still happy with the way I ran.
“After finishing second in the 1,600, I really wanted to go out and win the 3,200 and I was able to do that.”
Briggs is one of the area’s premier cross country runners and she said that sport prepares her for the rigors of running the two distance events during the track and field season.
“Cross country really prepares me for running the 1,600 and 3,200 during the track season,” said Briggs, who finished just out of an all-state honor last fall with a 29th-place finish (19:55.47) in the Class 4 state meet. “But the two sports are so different. In track, I kind of base the way I run on who I’m running against. I don’t want to go out too fast so I will pace myself and will use the runners in front of me for drafting.
“If I give everything too early, I might not have enough left for a strong finish. There is a lot of time to plan how you’re going to run and everything really went well (at the Summa Relays).”
FAIR WEATHER FAN: One of the happiest coaches at the Summa Relays was Chrisman track coach Tyler Rathke, who was carried around on the shoulders of the winning Blue Springs High School track team when the meet ended.
When the weather forecast forced the Wildcats to stay home and not compete in the Springfield Hillcrest Invitational, coach Joe Cusack made an emergency call to Rathke, who let the Blue Springs team join the other teams at the Summa Relays.
“You love to have great teams like Blue Springs at this meet,” Rathke said. “Tonight was just about perfect. The weather was great, we had a lot of talented teams here – 17 boys teams and 16 girls – and I was happy with our kids, especially Jacque David, a freshman who set the school record in the discus with a throw of 132 feet.
“She’s a freshman and she has the school record! That’s so cool. The previous record was 128-5, and she’s just scratching the surface of what she can do.”
And David and the other Bears can compete and train on a state-of-the-art throwing area that was the talk of the meet – along with the new raised track pole vault area that was completed just before the big meet.
“We have some great things going on at Chrisman,” Rathke said. “There’s no place I’d rather be. We have a great group of athletes and the support of the administration.”