JEFFERSON CITY – Tori Findley thought it was deja vu all over again Friday.
The state's premier distance runner woke up Friday morning to rainy skies on the first day of the Class 5 Missouri State High School Track and Field Championships at Jefferson City High School.
Last year, Findley was more than two laps into the 1,600 meters when the skies opened, lightning crackled across the sky and the race was halted, with the then Blue Springs South junior holding a sizeable lead.
When the race was restarted more than two hours later, she finished second.
That was not the case this year.
The meet was postponed more than two hours, but Findley ran a personal best 4 minutes, 51.07 seconds to claim her first gold medal in the 1,600. She will compete in the 3,200 and 3,200 relay Saturday.
"At least the race today was not stopped in the middle, like it was last year," Findley said. "This year, the meet started late and our coach's parents live in Jefferson City, so we went over to their house. They have a nice screened-in porch and we played games and had a great time. I was totally relaxed and ready for the race."
Jaguars coach Ryan Unruh was thrilled with her gold medal finish.
"She deserves it, especially after what happened last year," Unruh said. "She was real upbeat and fun to be around during the rain delay. I had a feeling she was going to come out and do something special. And we're looking for more special performances tomorrow in the 3,200 and 4-by-8 relay."
Findley said this year's state championship has special significance because she is a senior.
"This is it, this is my last state championship meet, and I want it to be special," said Findley, who has not lost a 1,600 or 3,200 this year. "I can't wait to go to (the University of) Missouri and run, but I have two more races Saturday and I want to make the most of them."
• While Findley is counting down a brilliant prep career, William Chrisman freshman Jacque David is embarking on what might be a record-breaking four years with the Bears.
She topped her own school and personal record with a throw of 41 feet, 2.5 inches in the shot put to finish sixth and earn all-state honors in a field coach Tyler Rathke called "incredibly deep.”
"To throw 41-2.5 and finish sixth is pretty amazing,” Rathke added. “It shows how much talent was in the shot put. The sky's the limit for Jacque. She's just a freshman and she already has a state medal. I can't wait to see what she does in the discus tomorrow and what she accomplishes over the next four years."
David, who is cool, calm and collected, admitted, "I was afraid I would go out today and choke. It was a lot bigger than I anticipated. A lot of people watching and a lot of great throwers. I was really proud to get a PR and I'm excited about the discus on Saturday. Coach Rathke is an amazing coach and individual. He helped calm me down today and he'll have me ready tomorrow."
• The Blue Springs girls, coming off a sectional championship, finished the first day in 16th place with five points. Lee's Summit West is in first place with 48, followed by Blue Springs South, tied for seventh with 10 points, and William Chrisman, 19th place with three points.
"We didn't get all the points we were hoping for today, but we got some great performances – like Sarah Coy's 14.93 in the (100) hurdles (which help her advance to today's finals in fifth place) and Tessa Valdivia's fourth-place finish in the 1,600 (5:05.79). "We're looking for some good things from our girls tomorrow."
• Fort Osage junior Emari Grimes advances to the finals in the 400 with an eighth-place time of 58.23.
Blue Springs South freshman Akirah Venerable moved on to the finals in the 300 hurdles with a fourth-place time of 45.26. Fort Osage’s Dymon Preyor finished 14th (47.80).
• In Class 4, Van Horn’s Dasiah Tatum finished 10th in the shot put (36-2.25).
Oak Grove’s Lilli Weir earned all-state honors with a fifth-place throw in the javelin (128-10).