Wildcats, coach happy for return of Gary Parker Invitational

Bill Althaus
The Examiner

To see the smile on the face of Blue Springs High School boys track and field coach Joe Cusack late Wednesday night, an outsider might have thought his Wildcats won the Gary Parker Invitational at Peve Stadium.

The Wildcats did not win the prestigious event that features some of the top teams from across the state. In fact, his Wildcats were edged out of a second-place trophy by half a point, but Cusack was so happy the Parker Invitational returned – after being canceled last year because of COVID-19 restrictions when all spring activities were brought to a halt – that he couldn't stop smiling.

"We missed bringing home a trophy by half a point, but it's so great to have the Gary Parker Invitational back that I feel like everyone won tonight," Cusack said. "We had to move the meet up a day because of weather (the boys were scheduled to run Thursday and the girls Friday, but a rain forecast Friday forced a change), and it was still a great meet.

"I was really impressed with Grain Valley. Boy, have they got a nice team. And I know they were missing their two fast baseball players (Cole Keller and Keagan Hart) because they were playing baseball up North and some of their guys were at a meet at Fort Osage, which they had committed to, but Coach (Erik) Stone brought some fast guys over here and they did great."

Liberty won the meet with 120 points and Columbia Rock Bridge was second with 97. Cusack's Wildcats were third with 96.5. Blue Springs South finished fourth with 65, Grain Valley was ninth with 50.5 and William Chrisman 11th with 29.

Blue Springs senior captain Brock Wooderson won the 3,200 meters in 9 minutes, 24.26 seconds and was part of the winning 3,200 relay team that also featured Viger Romo, Keagan Enicks and Kevin McClain (8:06.24).

"Being a senior, and because we missed this meet last year because spring sports were canceled, tonight means everything to me," Wooderson said. "It was great to open with the win in the 3,200 relay and I wanted to do well in the individual 3,200. I know Coach Cusack was up in the press box doing the public address announcing, but it was like he was right by my side encouraging me."

Grain Valley's Logan Pratt won the 100 (11.07), 200 (22.66) and was part of the winning 400 relay team (43.58) that also included Jacob McAhan, Carter Vrlenich and Tristin Pouncil.

"Logan had a great meet – really, all the guys we brought over here had a great meet," Stone said. "Last week we had a lot of success at the Bill Summa Invitational at Chrisman and tonight half our guys are here and the other half are at Fort Osage. We had committed to that meet before they moved the date of this meet. And Cole and Keagan are playing baseball, so we didn't have enough to field a 4-by-4 relay team. Overall, I couldn't be happier."

William Chrisman's Wyatt Leutzinger won the pole vault by clearing 13 feet, 9 inches in a jump-off.

"The official stats have Wyatt at 13-6, but he won a jump-off at 13-9 and he's just getting better and better every week," Chrisman coach Tyler Rathke said. "After running the Bill Summa Invitational last week, kudos to Joe and his staff for pulling this off without a hitch. We all hated to miss it last year and that makes this year even more special."

Blue Springs South coach Adam Courter was also pleased with his Jaguars’ performances.

"We're a little banged up, but we had a lot of personal best times and the kids really enjoy coming over here and competing," Courter said.

FORT OSAGE INVITATIONAL: Grain Valley captured the girls title at the Fort Osage Invitational, edging Blue Springs and host Fort Osage for first place.

The Eagles totaled 164.5 points, followed by Blue Springs (148.5), Fort Osage (143), Truman (106), Blue Springs South (99.5), Raytown (35.5) and Van Horn (15).

Grain Valley captured three individual wins and relay victories in the 1,600 (4x400, 4:28.80) and 3,200 (4x800, 10:33.75). Grain Valley’s JayOnna Perry (15.93) prevailed in the 100-meter hurdles, Riley Downey won the javelin (32.36 meters) and Abby Castle cleared 2.64 meters to win the pole vault.

Basketball standout Jada Williams won the 300 hurdles in 50.20 seconds and the 400 (54.06) and 800 (1:55.10) teams triumphed for Blue Springs.

Fort Osage’s Kendra Siefker claimed a pair of wins in the shot put (11.54 meters) and discus (36.52) to lead Fort Osage. Destiny McDonald (100, 13.36), Paige Franks (400, 1:05.38) and Dawn McIntyre (triple jump, 10.01) also claimed wins for the Indians.

Kennedy Rucker (200, 27.49) and Laila Tatum (high jump, 1.52) picked up wins for Truman.

Blue Springs South’s Haley Neff also claimed two wins in the 800 (2:32.51) and 1,600 (5:40.45) and McKenna Ledgerwood took first in the 3,200 (12:33.50).

Rockhurst, which won three of the four relay events, claimed the boys title with 208.5 points, followed by Truman (124), Blue Springs South (114.5), Fort Osage (107), Van Horn (77), Grain Valley (54) and Raytown (41).

Truman earned three wins to earn the runner-up finish – Freddie Sheppard (shot, 13.05), Jack Getman (1,600, 4:56.56) and Josh Nunn (800, 2:10.64).

South’s lone win came from Devon Frost in the 110 hurdles (17.45). Arthur Wyatt (high jump, 1.88) and Larenzo Fenner (200, 23.72) won for Fort Osage.

Van Horn recorded three wins, including the 400 relay (45.31). Tyrique Ross prevailed in the long jump (6.04 meters) and Damon Washington won the discus (33.32 meters).