Blue Springs relay teams expected to make splash at Class 5 Missouri State Track and Field Championship
Watching coach Jennifer Reeder's Blue Springs relay teams work with relay coach and former Wildcat Aliyah Lee, one would think the season was just starting.
The participants seem to be simply enjoying a return to the sport they love after last season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But this team, coming off an impressive victory at the Class 5 Sectional 4 meet at Liberty North High School last week, is just three days away from not only competing at the Class 5 Missouri State Track and Field Championship at Jefferson City High School, but taking home some impressive hardware.
"By watching them, you wouldn't think state was Thursday, would you?" asked Reeder, a 20-year veteran who enjoys this team as much as any she has coached over the past two decades. "They're so talented and they are so young. Maybe they don't know what it's like to go to state so they're not feeling any pressure or nervousness."
Lee, who was part of a first-place 400-, second-place 800- and fourth-place 1,600-meter relay team in 2015, agrees with her former coach.
"All the girls, and me included, respect Coach Reeder so much, because she knows what she's doing, but she makes it fun," Lee said. "This team is so young, and they're having so much fun that I don't really think they realize that state is Thursday and what it's going to be like.
"Jen's resume is so impressive that all the girls are going to listen to her. And I hope they listen to me, because I've been there – I've run for this team, I've been a part of state relay teams and I think I bring a lot to this staff. Usually, there is a type of pressure you can feel as you get ready for state, but this group continues to work hard and have fun."
The Wildcats dominated the sectional relay events, and Reeder hopes that success continues Thursday in Jefferson City.
The team of Arionna Umbles, Olivia Dixon, Makenna DeLany and Kayleigh Jenkins won the 400-meter relay in 48.53 seconds. Dixon, Arianna Calloway, Ariana Jackson and Jenkins won the 800 in 1 minute, 41.46 seconds. And Noema Wild, Dixon, Gwyn Deterding and Jackson won the 1,600 in 3:59.06.
I'yana Foster, Alli Bonham, Deterding and Abigail Brackenbury finished second in the 3,200 in 9:53.47.
"We started with a second-place finish in the 4-by-8 and finished with a victory in the 4-by-4," Reeder said, "and we had a lot of relay and individual success in between."
Dixon, a sophomore, was third in the 200 (25.99) and part of the three winning relay teams, and Jackson, a freshman, won the long jump (5.58 meters) and was second in the 400 (56.59).
"When you think about it," Jackson said, "we're both like freshmen because Olivia couldn't compete last year because of the pandemic. I was in eighth grade, and I couldn't compete, either. So this is our first year of high school track and we're loving it.
"We've both played a lot of sports, but I think this is the most fun we've had."
Dixon shakes her head in agreement.
"All our coaches make it fun," Dixon said. "We're having fun today, even though state is just a few days away."
Suddenly, the two young leaders of the team looked at each other and realized that "state is just a few days away."
"When we talked last week," Jackson said, "it was like state is next week. Now, it's coming up this week. When you say that, it makes it more important. I'm a lot more excited than I am nervous, but it all seems real right now, right this minute."
Added Dixon: "I better start eating right. I better get some good sleep – state is here and I want to be ready."
The mother hen of the team, senior Gwyn Deterding, knows her young teammates will be ready to go when the gun sounds Thursday.
"I love all the girls on this team because they have made my last season with the track team so much fun and so successful," Deterding said. "Ariana, Olivia – all our kids – they're so special. I don't know how a team that is so new, with so many freshmen and sophomores could be this close – but we're a family.
"We're a big, happy successful family and we're all excited – and ready – for state."
Local state track qualifiers
Blue Springs: Bethel Glin (shot put); Royce Gray (100); Daniel Jantzen (300 hurdles); Brock Wooderson (1,600, 3,200); 400 relay; 3,200 relay.
Blue Springs South: Jack Brickhouse (high jump); D’Avion Stokes (triple jump).
Grain Valley: Cole Keller (400); Logan Pratt (100); 400 relay; 800 relay; 1,600 relay.
Truman: Hayden Kunkel (pole vault); Patrick Martin (200).
William Chrisman: Ethan Dias (javelin); Wyatt Leutz
Blue Springs: Ashton Arndt (javelin); Abigail Brackenbury (1,600, 3,200); Arianna Calloway (high jump); Olivia Dixon (200); Ariana Jackson (400, long jump); Kayleigh Jenkins (100); Jada Williams (300 hurdles); 400 relay; 800 relay; 1,600 relay; 3,200 relay.
Blue Springs South: Caitlin Grover (3,200); Madison Hoffman (javelin); Mya Trober (1,600, 3,200); 3,200 relay.
Fort Osage: Kendra Siefker (discus).
Grain Valley: Abby Castle (pole vault); Avery Huffman (400); JayOnna Perry (100 hurdles, 300 hurdles); McKenah Sears (javelin); Jordyn Weems (long jump); 1,600 relay; 3,200 relay.
Lee’s Summit North: Taylor Bailey (high jump); Annica Valmassei (pole vault); Hannah Wilhite (pole vault); 1,600 relay.
William Chrisman: Jacque David (discus, shot put).
Van Horn: Arlandes Mitchell (200); Sean Mitchell (long jump); 400 relay; 800 relay.
Oak Grove: Landon Chance (javelin); Joshua Shade (300 hurdles).
St. Michael the Archangel Catholic: Noland Boyer (javelin, shot put); John Paul Murphy (triple jump); Jack Wheeler (800).
Oak Grove: Jaycee Alexander (discus); Autumn Hearn (100 hurdles, 300 hurdles).