Wildcats take second in highly competitive field at Gary Parker Invitational

Bill Althaus
The Examiner
The Blue Springs' 1,600 (4x400) relay team of Olivia Dixon, Noema Wild, Gwen Deterding and Ariana Jackson celebrate their win in the Gary Parker Invitational Thursday at Peve Stadium. They helped the Wildcats finish second, just two points behind champion Columbia Rock Bridge.

The first all-girls Gary Parker Invitational Thursday was a night full of drama and success for the area teams that participated in the star-studded event.

The annual event was split into two nights to follow COVID-19 protocols after Wednesday’s meet featured the boys at Blue Springs High School’s Peve Stadium.

The Blue Springs High School girls finished second, just two points behind Columbia Rock Bridge and many area performers brought home multiple medals.

Rock Bridge scored 110 points, the Wildcats tallied 108 and Blue Springs South had 84 to round out the top three.

Grain Valley (54) finished seventh and William Chrisman (32) took ninth in the 14-team field.

"This is Rock Bridge's first time competing in the Gary Parker Invitational and a lot of people think they have a good chance of winning state," Blue Spring coach Jennifer Reeder said. "We're so young, and we had a lot of success tonight. I couldn't be any prouder of my girls.'

Blue Springs’ 1,600-meter relay team of Olivia Dixon, Noema Wild, Gwen Deterding and Ariana Jackson scorched the track in a time of 4 minutes, 2.10 seconds.

"We had to win that race to have a chance for first," said 2015 graduate Aliyah Lee, who has returned to Blue Springs to join Reeder's coaching staff. "We needed someone to finish second, other than Rock Bridge, and that didn't happen, but our girls were amazing, That last race was so exciting."

With Dixon's strong opening leg, the Wildcats led wire to wire.

"I just wanted to get that lead and put my teammates in the best position to win," Dixon said.

Wild, who ran the second leg, added, "I just want to make sure I get the handoff, and make a good handoff to Gwen because we didn't want to give up the lead."

Deterding, who was chosen as one of the Top 100 Seniors in the State of Missouri, said her job was easy.

"I was not going to give up the lead and then all I had to do was make the handoff to Ariana,” she said.

Jackson, who also won the long jump (5.45 meters) praised her teammates for their excellence.

"There can be some stress being the anchor," Jackson said. "But tonight, I just had to go out and do my thing. I got a great handoff, we had a lead and I just had to go out and finish."

Sophomore Jada Williams, who recently committed to play basketball at UCLA, had the crowd buzzing with a first-place and state-ranked time of 47.40 in the 300 hurdles.

Williams running in that event was the brainchild of sprint and hurdles coach Tom Lester.

"I talked to Jada about three weeks ago and asked her what she thought of running the hurdles, and she told me, 'No way, my mom won't want to run the hurdles,'" Lester said. "But her mother said OKy and she now has one of the top three times in the state – in only her third time competing in the event.

"I've already heard people say, 'It's not fair! She can do anything.'"

At the finish line, Williams jumped up and down and celebrated with her teammates.

"I don't think they're used to someone high-fiving after a race," Williams said. “I bring my basketball mentality to track. I never thought I would have this kind of success, and I'm only a sophomore."

When asked about Williams, Reeder simply said, "She's a winner. She brings the grittiness from basketball to our track team. And even though she is just a sophomore and new to the sport, she has already become a team leader."

Another Blue Springs winner was Abby Brackenbury, who ran away from the field with a time of 11:23.89 in the 3,200 meters, more than 12 seconds ahead of the runner-up.

"I was really happy with the way I ran the race," said Brackenbury, a freshman. "I have so much to learn and so many years to keep getting better. But it's a great feeling to win the 3,200 on this track in the Gary Parker Invitational.

Arianna Calloway won a gold for the Wildcats in the high jump (1.68 meters) and the 800 relay team won in a time of 1:43.00.

Mya Trober, The Examiner's Cross Country Runner of the Year, continues to dominate in distance events for Blue Springs South.

She won the 800 (2:18.73), 1,600 (5:07.07) and anchored the 3,200 relay team (9:46.24) win that included Maggie Boley, Caitlyn Grover and Emma Allen.

"Tonight was a great night, individually and with the 4-by-8 relay team," Trober said. "I've had a lot of success early in the season and it was great to share that success with my teammates on the 4-by-8 relay team. We have great coaches, we have a great team – always encouraging and supporting each other – and I'm just taking everything one event and one meet at a time."

South coach Ryan Unruh was thrilled with his team's third-place finish.

"There were some great teams here and we won a few events and had a lot of personal best times," Unruh said. "Mya was Mya and everyone stepped up to the challenge of competing in a meet like this."

William Chrisman senior Jacque David won the javelin (38.2 meters) and shot put (13.26) and coach Tyler Rathke said she is getting back to the form that helped her take the two events by storm until she tore her ACL last year playing basketball for the Bears.

"She's getting closer and closer, and while she's getting closer and closer, she's winning," Rathke said. "But she has a long way to go, and I can't even imagine how good she is going to be in four weeks when district rolls around."

Much like Trober, David is taking it slowly.

"I'm happy I won tonight, but I know I can throw much better and with the help of Coach Rathke and Coach (Lindsey) Markworth, I know I'm going to get better technically and throw farther in each event," David said. "They spend so much time with me and the other members of our team, and we appreciate them so much. I don't know where I would be without them."

Grain Valley freshman McKenah Sears, who also plays softball and basketball, won the javelin with a throw of 35 meters.