One by one, the left their cars in the south parking lot at Grain Valley High School, unloaded their gear and packed it onto a school bus that is headed to Washington, Mo., the site of Saturday’s Class 4 Missouri State Track and Field Championship.
For the first time in state history, Class 3, Class 4 and Class 5 will compete at different sites following the tornado that ravaged Jefferson City, the site of the annual track and field championship track and field meet.
Class 3 will be held at Walton Stadium on the campus of the University of Missouri, Class 4 will be at Washington High School and Class 5 at Battle High School in Columbia. All para events will take place at the Class 3 site.
Because the annual two-day meet has been condensed to one day, Grain Valley sprinter Tyler Luke is going to lose out on an event, because coach Marc Cleveland does not want his senior standout to have to run six races in the 100 and 200 meters because of preliminaries. So he is dropping out of the 100 and concentrating on the open 200 and 200 and 400 relays.
“Tyler Luke could have run six times with preliminaries and finals, and that could take a little bit of a toll,” Grain Valley coach Marc Cleveland said. “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.”
No one is more thankful that Luke, who 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).
“All I’m thinking about right now are the people in Jeff City and how that could have happened to our high school – to any high school in the state,” said Luke, who has visited many colleges and expects to make a decision on where he will attend within the coming week.
“I am so thankful that we are getting to compete. It’s surreal to think that this is the last time I will compete for Grain Valley. I love my teammates and coaches and they have been my family for the last four years. We all want to go to state and do something special.”
Because 22 performers and additional coaches are making the trip, the Eagles piled into a school bus for their last state journey
“This is going to be a great bonding experience for the boys and girls teams,” Cleveland said. “They’re going to work hard, have fun and both teams have the chance to bring back a (state) trophy.”