South squads sweep Hodge Invite

By Bill Althaus

Adam Courter sat in the north suite of the Blue Springs South press box at Larry Stewart Memorial Stadium.

His Jaguars had just cruised to a team victory Tuesday in the Rusty Hodge Green Invitational, and he was helping pass out the team medals, when was approached by former South boys track coach Troy Harding.

"Well," quipped Harding, "you were able to do something I was never able to do when I was here – win the Rusty Hodge Invitational. Congratulations.”

Harding left South three years ago to become the track and field coach at Rockhurst High School. 

In his coaching debut at the Hodge Invitational, which was canceled two years ago because of weather and last year because of COVID, Courter’s host team captured the first-place trophy as it starred in every phase of the meet.

The same could be said for Ryan Unruh's Lady Jaguars, who swept the top three places in every distance event and had double winners with Mya Trober and Jaidyn Mason.

Unruh was not sure if this was his first Hodge championship, but, like Courter, he was thrilled to participate in the meet again after the two-year absence.

Unruh's Jaguars finished with 215 1/2 points. Lee's Summit North was second (137 1/2), Fort Osage third (87 1/2), Raytown South fourth (66 1/2), Raytown fifth (57) and Truman and Grandview tied for sixth (56 1/2).

Courter's boys ran away with the team title, totaling 253 points. Rockhurst was second, 139; Grandview fourth, 112; Truman fourth, 91.5; Raytown fifth, 65; Fort Osage sixth, 26.5; and Raytown South seventh, 13.

For the first time, the meet was split into a Green meet and a Blue meet, which will take place Thursday.


"I promised the girls doughnuts if we finished in the top three in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200," Unruh said after taking an animated team photo following the meet. "We also won the 3,200 relay, so I now know that if you want to motivate distance runners, you just promise them doughnuts."

Trober, The Examiner's reigning Cross Country Runner of the Year, picked up from where she left off during the fall season, winning the 800 (2:32) by eight seconds and the 3,200 (11:10.47) by 45 seconds. The 3,200 was run with the boys and girls competing together, and she passed two of the male runners en route to her dominating win.

"One of the guys I passed came up and congratulated me, which was really nice," Trober said. "This is our home meet, and we were all so excited. We wanted to do well, and we did. Coach Unruh is the best coach and the best guy. We love to have good meets because we're all so close – more like a family than a team."

Mason won the 100 (12.32) and long jump (4.86 meters, as meet results listed distances and heights in metric), Karina Cox the 100-meter hurdles (18.37), Emily Carpenter the discus (29.26m) and Lauren Good the javelin (28.40m).

Blue Springs South's Jaidyn Mason wins the girls 100-meter dash during Tuesday's Rusty Hodge Invitational at South. The meet was contested for the first time since 2018, after inclement weather in 2019 and the pandemic last year.

"I like running more than jumping," said Mason, who is also a standout guard on the Jaguars basketball team. "Basketball is my sport, and I like track because it keeps me in shape."

The trio of finishers atop the leaderboard, who earned the Jaguars doughnuts, were Magdalene Boley (5:44.72), Amy Woolsey and McKenna Ledgerwood in the 1,600; Trober, Emmerson Allen and Caitlyn Grover in the 3,200; Hayley Neff, Boley, Paige Thielen and Grover in the 3,200 relay (10:21.81) and Addison Hunt, Hannah Sartain, Abigail Wilhelm and Amy Woolsey in the 1,600 sprint medley relay (4:43.29).

"The best thing about tonight was just happy everyone was to be back competing," Unruh added. "It was great to win, but the best part was just watching the kids and hearing them all talk about how much fun they had tonight."

Other area girls winners were Lee's Summit North's Savanna Anthony, Taylor Bailey, Katie Allison and Ally Custer in the 400-meter throwers relay (1:01.26), Annica Valmassei in the pole vault (3.20m) and Bailey in the high jump (1.62m); Fort Osage's Paige Franks, Tayler Hines, Keira Jones and Nevaeh Wilson in the 1,600 relay (4:43.13).

Blue Springs South's Karina Cox wins the girls 100-meter hurdles Tuesday during the Rusty Hodge Invitational.

Special meet

In the boys meet, South winners included Bryce Reeves in the 100 (10.92); Alexander Jackson, 1,600 (4:37.26); Jaydan Steele, Cooper Doolin, Branden Watson and Rex Regier, 400 relay (44.29); Jackson, Ryan Ringenberg, Quintin Falk and Aiden Wahrenbrock, 3,200 relay (8:37.09); Caleb Calandro and Jack Brickhouse, tie for first in the high jump (1.77m); Noah Macias, shot put (13.57m); Drew Penniston, discus (39.27m); and Quintin Van Wyk, javelin (39.26m).

"When you think about it, our seniors were sophomores the last time they competed and our sophomores were in the eighth grade," Courter said, referring to the cancellation of last spring's season due to COVID. "I'm thrilled with what our guys did tonight, and what makes it even more special is that it came at the Rusty Hodge Invitational. This is a big event at our school, and I think all our athletes knew how important tonight was for everyone."

One of the most entertaining events of the night was the boys throwers relay, which South won thanks to a complete team effort and strong anchor leg by Penniston. Other members of the relay were Noah Macias, Dallin Sauni and Van Wyk.

"Before they ran, I told them two things," Courter said, grinning, "to get the baton around and to not get hurt."

There was a collision on one handoff, but no injuries and the crowd roared in approval.

"Everyone seemed to enjoy that relay," Courter added. 

Unruh, who was cheering for the South boys, added, "Other meets have that relay and it's great. Those guys are over throwing away from the stands and no one really gets to watch them, and this puts them in front of everyone, and you could judge by the crowd's reaction how much they enjoyed it."

Other area winners were Truman's Patrick Martin in the 200 (23.02) and Jack Getman in the 800 (2:10.78).

Truman's Kennedy Rucker finished fourth in the 100 meters at the Rusty Hodge Invitational.