JEFFERSON CITY – Tori Findley, who won the 1,600 and 3,200 meters at the Class 5 Missouri State Track and Field Championships, didn’t think it could get any better than finishing 1-2 in the 3,200 Saturday with Blue Springs South teammate Danielle Hotalling.
Then, moments later, the top four teams were announced and the seven-girl Blue Springs South state squad found out it had earned a third-place state trophy, tying Liberty with 37 points.
Findley and her teammates – Emma Bassford, Amaya Hernandez, Lauren Low, Jayme Opdahl, Akirah Venerable and Hotalling – went crazy.
They were jumping, hugging, crying, laughing and experiencing a moment that had not happened at South for decades.
“I really don’t know when our school won a trophy at state,” South coach Ryan Unruh said, “but as you can see from the reaction of our girls, we’re pretty excited.”
Findley totaled 20 points with the wins in the 1,600 and 3,200 and eight points along with Hotalling, Opdahl and Low for a second place finish in the 3,200 relay. Hotalling added eight points with her second-place finish in the 3,200, and Venerable one point for her eighth-place showing in the 300 hurdles.
“It just shows how important every point is,” Unruh said. “We had one of the smallest teams here, and look at what they accomplished. I couldn’t be any prouder of them.”
Findley, a day after dominating the 1,600, capped an undefeated senior season with the runaway win in the 3,200 (10:47.03). Hotalling was second at 11:06.26.
“It’s super cool to finish 1-2 with Danielle in the 3,200, then to win third as a team at state is unbelievable,” said Findley, who has signed to run cross country and track at the University of Missouri. “Danielle and I were 1-2 at the state cross country meet and to finish 1-2 today in the 3,200 is amazing.”
Hotalling, who has signed to run cross country and track at Creighton University, agreed, adding, “I feel so good, this is just so cool. Tori has been a friend and an inspiration for me for a long time. People ask me what it’s like to run against her and have her finish first all the time and I just tell them that she inspires me and has made me a better runner.”
• The Blue Springs girls, who won the Class 5 Sectional 4 meet heading into state, finished 12th at state with 24 points. Lee’s Summit West won its third consecutive girls crown with 86 points.
All-state performers for the Wildcats were Tessa Valdivia (1,600 and 3,200 relay), Elaina Hubner (3,200 and 3,200 relay), Sarah Coy (100 hurdles) Alyna Thibault (3,200 relay), Reese Howard (3,200 relay), Reggie Kanagawa (discus) and Natalie Sheehy (pole vault).
“I’m proud of the way our girls competed,” Wildcats coach Jennifer Reeder said.
For Coy and Kanagawa, it was bittersweet as Kanagawa has signed to play softball at Brigham Young University and Coy will not compete in track in college.
“I set back-to-back personal bests,” said Coy, who finished fourth in the 100 hurdles (14.77), “and I never thought I would be able to do that. I’m going to miss everyone on our team. I can’t believe it’s over.”
Kanagawa, who battled through an injury-plagued senior season, was eighth in the discus (123 feet).
“It’s been a tough year with the injuries, but I am thrilled that I was able to compete at state and get a medal,” Kanagawa said.
• Fort Osage junior Emari Grimes – who did not have a home track on which to train because of renovations and a new football/track/soccer facility at the high school – finished fourth in the 400 (56.49).
“I am happy to get a medal and I want to come back and do better next year,” Grimes said.
Look for more stories and features from the state meet in Wednesday’s Examiner. For a complete list of all winners go to mo.milesplit.com.