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Chrisman track athletes happy for one last chance

Bill Althaus
William Chrisman track and field coach Tyler Rathke, right, adjusts the height of the bar as he works with the high jumpers as the Bears prepare for the All-Independence Track and Field Meet against Truman and Van Horn July 2 at Chrisman Stadium.

William Chrisman graduate Isaiah Jackson, The Examiner’s Boys Basketball Co-Player of the Year, has punched his ticket to college.

The Bears all-state guard will head to Northwest Missouri State University this fall to be a part of one of the most successful NCAA Division II programs in the country.

But that didn’t keep him from heading to Chrisman Stadium on a sizzling Tuesday afternoon, where he was joined by many of the Bears track and field performers as they prepared for the one-time, All-Independence Track and Field Meet July 2 at Chrisman.

“I wouldn’t miss this competition for anything,” said Jackson, who spent most of the two-hour session working on the high jump with teammates and coach Tyler Rathke. “We are so honored that the Independence School District cares enough about its athletes, especially the seniors, that they would allow us one last chance to compete against our rival schools here in Independence.

“I know it’s hot, but I can’t think of anything I would rather be doing that working out here at Chrisman. This is my second home. During the basketball season, I probably spend more time here than I do my own home.”

Junior pole vaulter Wyatt Leutzinger, who hopes to earn a college scholarship next spring, spent the session fine tuning his game.

“I want to do well in this track meet against Truman and Van Horn,” Leutzinger said. “If Coach Rathke and our other coaches are out here, I’m going to be here, too.

“We owe them so much and I’m excited to compete since the quarantine took away our entire track season.”

No one on the track expressed more joy than the coach who has made track a burgeoning sport at Chrisman.

“I just want to give the kids who want to compete and train the opportunity,” said Rathke, as beads of sweat rolled down his forehead. “These kids were here today from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and you know how hot it is at that time in Independence in the summer. We picked up three seniors today and had 37 kids participate in the practice, which really excites me.

“We have freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, like Isaiah, who just want to come out and compete one more time for their school, and that’s pretty cool.”