Chris Earley, a cross country and track and field coach at Fort Osage High School, picked up his 9-year-old son Samuel after a basketball camp at Grain Valley High School and then walked across the parking lot to Moody Murry Field, the site of tonight’s eighth annual Missouri vs. Kansas Meet of Champions.

Close to 200 track and field competitors from Missouri and Kansas have signed up for the event, which features high school seniors, Special Olympians and up-and-coming youth stars from both sides of the state.

The meet begins at 6 p.m. Admission is free for those 18 and younger and $5 for adults. All money raised goes to area Special Olympic chapters.

Athletes from many area high schools, including Fort Osage, Blue Springs, Blue Springs South, Van Horn and Lee’s Summit West will compete in the meet.

Missouri’s girls will be defending their title, which they won 64-13 last year. The Missouri boys will hope to dominate Kansas like they did in 2017, 113-13.

“We’re excited about the meet,” Earley said. “It gives kids one last chance to compete for their high school and their state. I got an email from the parent of a competitor from Lutheran High School that said they thought the last time they would see their daughter compete was when she stood on the podium at state. Now, they will see her compete one more time, and they were appreciative of that.

“Something like that, and the looks on the kids’ faces after they compete, make it all worthwhile.”

One of the top competitors at the meet is expected to be Lee’s Summit West’s Makayla Kelby, who won the shot put (46 feet, 7.25 inches) and discus (166-8) at the Missouri State High School Track and Field Championships meet at Jefferson City.

“We’re excited that Makayla is going to compete, along with a lot of other great seniors from Eastern Jackson County and the surrounding area,” Earley said.

Competing seniors will be joined by Special Olympians and young track athletes, which might include Earley’s son Samuel, who competes in the long jump and 800 meters.

“We’ll see if Samuel competes,” Earley said, grinning, “he thinks this is basketball season because of his camp, but we might get him out there.”

The Meet of Champions will also honor former William Chrisman track coach Keith Peterson and longtime Oak Grove coach Rusty Adams, by inducting them into the Coaches Hall of Honor.

“That’s something we like to do, honoring recently retired coaches or coaches who have coaching for many years, because they deserve the recognition,” Earley said.