Let's talk for a minute about pressure.
Let's talk for a minute about pressure.
You spend four years of your high school career and it can all boil down to a single 11-second race, a desperation vault over a hurdle or the perfect handoff from a teammate.
Welcome to the world the best are facing beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday at Blue Springs High School, where the Wildcats are hosting the Class 3 and Class 4 sectional track and field meets.
It features a who's who of local high school stars who are vying for the chance to compete at next weekend's state meet in Jefferson City.
Roy Bay vs. the Wilkerson twins in the 100 meters; Cole Rockhold vs. Stephen Mugeche and his Wildcat teammates in the 1,600; defending state champion Asia Cole vs. Tyra Bickham in the throwing events; and all the drama that takes place in the relay events that so often determine the success – or heartbreak – of a big postseason meet.
“This one is going to be great,” said Blue Springs boys Joe Cusack, whose team has won conference and district titles the past two weeks. “I honestly believe there is more pressure getting to state than what you experience once you get there.
“You get off the bus and you have to perform. If you finish in fifth place, your season is over.”
The top four finishers in each event advance to next weekend's state tournament at Lincoln University’s Dwight T. Reed Stadium in Jefferson City.
“The rankings have been sent in,” Cusack said, “so everyone knows where everyone should finish. But look what happened to Carlos (Davis) at district. He scratches in all three shot-put attempts and his (shot put) season is over.
“He shows what he's made of by coming back and winning the discus, but we thought we'd get points in the shot and we didn't. But we had enough overall depth to overcome that and win a district title.
“Now, our goal is to get as many kids to state as possible.”
That's a goal shared by Jennifer Reeder, whose Wildcat girls also won conference and district crowns the past two weeks. But they needed a win in the last event – the 1,600 relay – to claim the district title. A solid showing by Lee's Summit North and the Broncos could have claimed the top prize, but they dropped the baton.
“The first thing we are doing Friday,” Reeder said, “is going over the rules on the relays. I want the girls to know they can take three steps off the track and go straight across and not advance to get a baton and not impede a runner. I know they know those things, but in the heat of the battle, well …”
Page 2 of 2 - Blue Springs' Bickham will take on Fort Osage's Cole in a battle of the titans in the shot and discus.
“I can't wait to see what happens,” Reeder said.
Fort Osage girls coach J.D. Snead knows it could be a big weekend for Cole, who won the shot and discus at state as a sophomore last year.
“The weather this season has been less than ideal but Asia is ready to compete and throw big,” Snead said. “She's had a good week of practice and her confidence level is building. Asia's desire to progress as a thrower is the pressure she talks about. She hasn't seen the improvements in her performance like she hoped for but knows it will happen if she keeps working hard.”
He added that her competitive drive could be a key factor at sectionals.
“Asia knows what she is capable of doing and she is a great competitor,” Snead said. “She is an incredibly gifted athlete and historically performs her best when the stakes are the highest. We all should expect big throws from Asia the next two weeks.”
The Wildcats have so many marquee athletes, but Jazmin McCoy might top the list coming in off wins in the 100, 200, long jump and 400 relay.
“I don't care where I finish at sectional, as long as it's in the top four,” McCoy said. “I want to win them all, but getting to state is the most important thing.”
And the group Cusack calls “The Three Amigos,” sophomore Mugeche (who is coming off wins in the 1,600 and 3,200 the past two weekends) and seniors James Barnett and Simon Belete, will have a real challenge to claim the top prize as they face Truman's Rockhold in the 1,600.
“That's going to be one of the races everyone is going to watch,” Cusack said. “Those three guys, our Three Amigos, handle themselves with such class, they just make you proud to be their coach. And it means a lot to them to advance, and with Rockhold in the mix, it's going to be a challenge.”
Truman's Bay will go against William Chrisman's D'Vante and Dalvin Wilkerson in the 100 and 200 and they could be classics. Bay won both last week at district. But some unknown could burst out of the pack and steal the show.
“Nothing is written in stone,” Cusack said. “That's why you run the races and all the other events. Anything can happen.”
And it usually does.
Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC