In his eight years as the head coach of the Blue Springs boys track and field team, Joe Cusack had never won in the St. Louis area.
That streak ended Saturday when the team topped 13 other teams to win Kirkwood’s Dale Collier Invitational with 162 points, 47 ahead of second-place St. Louis University High School. The Blue Springs girls finished second with 130 points, five points behind first-place Columbia Rock Bridge.
“(The win) meant a lot to me because this is the first year we are without some All-Americans (Carlos and Khalil Davis and Jacob Peister),” Cusack said. “And to achieve something we have never done before is a big deal because we take pride in new accomplishments.”
The boys were led by yet another career day from Texas Tech signee Justin Hall, who was first in the long jump with a personal-best distance of 24 feet, 1 inch, which was good for the 15th best jump in the nation this season. He also was first in the triple jump with a distance of 48-3, topping teammate Tre’ Wheaton by nearly five feet (43-4).
“It was nice for him to set two meet records,” Cusack said of Hall. “Justin was definitely the highlight of the meet.”
Victor Mugeche claimed the other Wildcat individual win and he did it in his first event of the year coming off of a calf injury. He took the 3,200 meters with a personal-best time of 9 minutes, 38.50 seconds.
“That was really good for him in his first meet of the year,” Cusack said of Mugeche. “We are so happy to get him back in the lineup.
Also earning a gold medal was the 4x200 relay team – which was without Tyree King who was out with an ankle injury – of Tayron Whitley, Codie Bell, Xavier Hall and Richard Fontenot with a time of 1:29.64, and the 4x800 relay team of Cody Berry, Mugeche, David Gunn and Josh McCullough with a time of 8:10.
Also finishing in the top three were the 4x400 relay team of Bell, Colton Gurera, Alex McCullough and Whitley (second, 3:24.10); Ne’land Smith in the high jump (second, 6-3); Daniel Parker Jr. (second, 144-1) and Tyler Bronston (third, 138-1) in the discus; Ronnell Shelby in the shot put (third, 43-3); Dylan Cowling (second, 141-3) and Brandon Brown (third, 137) in the javelin; Ethan Ashu in the 110 hurdles (third, 15.14 seconds); Stephen Benson (third, 11.23) in the 100 meters; Whitley in the 200 (second, 22.57); and Gurera in the 800 (second, 1:56.55).
“He ran a time that ranks third in the state right now,” Cusack said of Gurera. “The 800 was a great race. It was one of the best races at the meet. Colton Guerra had two monster performances.”
On the girls side, Alicia Starr and Reggie Kanagawa highlighted a superb night for the Wildcats. Starr won the high jump (5-0), took third in the long jump (17-3) and was second in the triple jump (37-2).
“What motivated her was seeing the girl from Kirkwood,” girls coach Jennifer Reader said. “She competed against her in the triple jump last year. It came down to the last jump and the Kirkwood girl edged her out last year. But Alicia had a new attitude this week. She said ‘I am going to go out and do the best I can and try and step up my game.’ It was good to see her with that competitive edge.”
Kanagawa took first in the discus (120-6) and won the javelin (103-1). The other first-place finishes went to Elaina Hubner in the 3,200 (11:57.72) and the 4x100 squad of Lydia Alipio, Sarah Cox. Sy’maih Smith and Jordyn Williams (50.97).
“With all the experience she has running big meets, we have to remind ourselves that she’s just a sophomore,” Reader said of Hubner. “She had some experience at state last year. She’s kind of a sophomore veteran.”
Other Wildcats finishing in the top three were Joslyn Snead in the pole vault (10, third); Myra Tupai (third, 103-3) in the discus; Elyse Valdivia (second, 1:00.86) and Payton Minnis (third, 1:01.59) in the 400; Tessa Valdivia in the 800 (third, 2:28.16); the team of Alipio, Minnis, Elyse Valdivia and Williams in the 4x200 relay (1:47.19, second); and the 4x400 foursome of Alipio, Minnis, Tessa Valdivia and Elysa Valdivia (4:05.53, third).