Just a few days ago, Blue Springs senior Tessa Valdivia was anticipating the two biggest days of her final high school track and field season.
Those two days were Friday and Saturday at the Missouri State High School Track and Field Championships at Jefferson City High School’s Adkins Stadium.
But the meet site was devastated by a tornado late Wednesday, damaging much of the stands and the press box, along with the track and playing field.
After some scrambling and early-morning Thursday phone calls, the Missouri State High School Activities Association scrapped the two-day vmeet and has condensed it into a one-day event at three locations.
Class 3 state will be held at the University of Missouri’s Walton Stadium, Class 4 will be at Washington High School, and Class 5 will be at Battle High School in Columbia.
All field events, at all three locations, will begin at 9 a.m. with the boys high jump kicking off the day. The first track event will be the girls 100-meter hurdles at 10 a.m. All para events will take place at the Class 3 meet at Mizzou.
That means Valdivia, who won the Class 5 sectional 1,600 meters (5 minutes, 19.70 seconds) and 3,200 (11:46.81) will now compete in those two events, along with the 3,200 relay all on the same day instead of dividing it over two days.
“It was a little overwhelming at first, but my coach gave me a pep talk to keep my mind under control and stay as positive as possible,” Valdivia said. “He says I am strong enough and have enough endurance for all my events and that I should place all-state in each event.
“I believe him. He really helped me get it together and get my emotions under control. I am prepared mentally and physically for this. With everything that happened in Jefferson City, we’re thinking about all those people, and that’s the important thing right now. I am just thankful we are going to be able to compete.”
So is Blue Springs distance coach Matt Johnson, who shared Valdivia’s concern for the town affected by the tornado.
“We just found out about the new schedule, the one-day meet and all of that,” Johnson said, “and Tessa is going to be fine. She is tough mentally and physically.
“But right now, we’re all thinking about everyone in Jefferson City and what they are going through. To get the meet together, at three different locations is pretty amazing.”
The news of the tornado sent a chill down the spine of Blue Springs boys track coach Joe Cusack, who lost his Neosho, Mo., home to an F4 tornado back in 1975.
“April 24, 1975 – we heard the sirens and didn’t have a basement and went to a neighbor’s house with a basement and our home was destroyed,” Cusack said. “I’ll never forget that day as long as I live.
“Our prayers are with everyone in Jefferson City. Having lived through something like that, I know what they are going through. It kind of puts everything else in perspective.”
Many other coaches and activities directors shared his thoughts and concerns.
“Our prayers are with everyone in Jefferson City,” Chrisman coach Tyler Rathke said. “Unlike a lot of coaches and teams, we’re not really going to be affected by the meet going to one day because we are taking single-event kids, so as tough as it’s going to be for some kids and teams, it’s not a big deal for us.
“But the teams with kids running the 100 and 200 and 100 and 110 hurdles, it’s going to be tough because they are going to have to run prelims and finals. That could make for a long day.”
Thursday was the final day of school at Grain Valley, which complicated the morning for activities director Brandon Hart to make hasty arrangements for his team to travel to Washington, Mo., instead of Jefferson City.
“When you think about all the things everyone is dealing with in Jeff City, what we’re dealing with is nothing,” Hart said. “But this morning, we thought we had hotel rooms for about 30 people – 11 kids from each (boys and girls) team and their coaches – and we got a call saying the hotel was overbooked and did not have rooms.
“So we got back on the phone and found rooms in Foristell, Mo., which I guess is about a half hour or so from Washington. We’re going to show up and our kids are going to compete and we’re all looking forward to it.”
Eagles girls coach Brian Winckler and boys coach Marc Cleveland said they are ready.
“First and foremost, you have to have Jeff City in your prayers and in your thoughts,” Winckler said. “We’re looking for big things from our relay teams and the kids are excited. They can handle anything. They just see it as a new challenge.”
Ditto for Cleveland’s boys.
“This is going to be a great bonding experience for the boys and girls teams,” Cleveland said. “They’re all thinking about everyone in Jeff City right now, and we’re going down together for a one-day meet and they are going to be ready to work hard because we have a chance to bring home a (state) trophy.
“Tyler Luke could run six times with preliminaries and finals, and that could take a little bit of a toll, but he’s ready. That’s how it is – at least the state worked hard to make the state track meet happen and we’re all thankful for that.”
Luke led the way for the boys team at the Class 4 sectional, winning the 200 meters (22.38 seconds), taking second in the 100 (11.46) and teaming with Mason Rogers, Nate Booker and Logan Pratt for a win in the 400 relay (43.28) and a second-place finish in the 800 relay (1:29.90).