Nothing is as exciting, heartbreaking, inspiring or memory-making as a prep postseason event, and for more than three decades, the Missouri State High School Track and Field Championships have provided enough thrills and spills to last a lifetime.
Saturday’s Class 5 state meet at Battle High School in Columbia did not have the golden moments of past events, but it offered a rare glimpse into what it takes to actually win two events that are taking place at the same time.
I’ll never forget a comment by Lee’s Summit North coach Eric Davis, after his boys team finished second at state with 49 points. He looked at senior Devon Richardson and said, “He’s not just super, he’s Superman.”
I have seen my share of multi-sport state champions, but I have never seen an athlete win two golds, in two events, that were running at the same time about 200 yards apart from each other.
Richardson won the high jump with a Class 5 record leap of 6 feet, 10 inches, which broke his state mark of 6-8 that he sat last year for the 2018 state champion Broncos.
“Breaking my own state record made that special, real special,” Richardson said. “I don’t think I’ll really appreciate all that happened today until later on, when I have the time to look back on everything.”
While competing in the high jump, he also competed in the triple jump – with two preliminary jumps and a winning jump of 48 feet, 3.5 inches, his only attempt in the finals.
“I really wanted that triple jump, since I only got to jump once then go compete in the high jump,” said Richardson, who has signed with Pittsburg State University. “I wish we could have won state again (as a team), but the last three years we’ve been third, first and second, so I guess it’s been a good run.
“I wouldn’t want to compete on any other team for any other coach. This has been my family the past four years.”
Richardson and fellow North seniors Christian Carter, John Eldridge, Jack Gatti, Dubem Okonkwo, Nyles Thomas and Isaiah Vigliano were part of a third-place state team as sophomores, won state last year and were second this time. Thomas, Eldridge and Okonkwo teamed with junior Keyon Mozee for a state title in the 400-meter (4x100) relay.
“Those seniors are so special,” Davis said. “They’re all special, but last year we won state when those guys were juniors. We were third when they were sophomores – they have been responsible for a lot of success on this team and I’m going to miss them.”
• And Blue Springs boys coach Joe Cusack is going to miss seniors Matt Marzolf and Gabe McClain, who he called “the heartbeat of our team,” along with Celestino Almeida, Prince Griffin and Nick Wood.
Cusack, who is accustomed to having a team on the podium at the end of the state meet, saw his Wildcats finish in 17th place Saturday. But his two senior leaders wrapped up their track careers with three medals at their final state meet
McClain was second in the 800 meters in 1 minute, 53.96 seconds to St. Louis University High’s Lazarus Williams, who set a state record with his blistering time of 1:53.29.
McClain was also part of the second-place 1,600 (4x400) relay team (Prince Griffin, McClain, Celestino Almeida and Matt Marzolf) that lost in the blink of an eye at tape when McCluer North’s Angelo Butts stumbled and dove across the line, edging Wildcats anchor Matt Mazolf 3:18.55 to 3:18.62.
McClain was also part of the eighth-place 3,200 relay team along with Marzolf, David Bushey and Kevin McClain (8:92).
Marzolf was part of the 3,200 relay and earned an all-state honor with a seventh-place finish in the 400 (49.86).
“We have so many great kids on our team,” Cusack said, “but those two seniors are the heartbeat of our team. And they’re great leaders – they showed the underclassmen what it takes to have success and they are going to be missed – missed by me and every member of this team.”
McClain and Marzolf both walked out of Battle Stadium with their heads held high.
“We were part of a lot of great teams, got to work with great coaches and had amazing teammates,” McClain said. “I wouldn’t trade the past four years for anything.”
Marzolf, who competed with a golf ball-sized blister on the sole of his foot Saturday, agreed.
“This has been one of the most special times of my life,” Marzolf said. “We’d have liked to have won a few events today, but we gave it all we had. We can look back and know that we left everything on the track.”
• To William Chrisman seniors Tony Hilton, Camryn Holloman and David Toese, thanks for four years of memories that will leave a lasting legacy at your high school. Even though you did not return to Independence with medals, you left with something much more important – the respect of every coach and competitor you ever faced.
And sophomore throwing sensation Jacque David, who earned a fourth-place showing in the shot put (44 feet, 9.25 inches) after entering the competition with a top-seeded heave of 148 feet in the discus, remember how you felt Saturday on the drive home and let that fuel your desire for what I know will be two highly successful junior and senior campaigns.
• State is about seniors like Gavyn Monday, who capped a solid track career at Fort Osage with a fourth-place finish and school record time of 49.64 seconds in the 400 meters.
Watching him celebrate with Fort Osage teammate and 400 school record holder Emari Grimes of the girls squad still puts a smile on my face. They were as happy for their respective teammates as they were for the medal that hung around their necks.
“I feel so amazing, but it’s also a bittersweet feeling because I know this is the last time I’m going to run for Fort Osage High School,” Monday said.
• I didn’t talk to an athlete or coach Saturday who did not mention the tragic tornado that devastated Jefferson City High School, the original site of the state track meet. Their hearts were with everyone in Jefferson City and congratulations and thank you to all the volunteers and MSHSAA officials who pulled off three state meets at three locations – Class 3 in Columbia at the University of Missouri’s Walton Stadium, Class 4 at Washington High School and Class 5 at Battle High School.
– Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com or 816-350-6333. Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC