Freshman Ariana Jackson leads Blue Springs track to third-place state finish
JEFFERSON CITY — Blue Springs girls track and field head coach Jennifer Reeder wasn’t even sure if she would get to showcase her new star freshman and her talented team.
With rain and lightning causing several delays Thursday at the Class 5 Missouri State High School Track and Field Championships at Jefferson City High School’s Licklider Stadium, just finishing the meet was uncertain.
But the weather held off long enough to let Ariana Jackson and the Wildcats shine to take home a third-place state trophy.
Jackson finished all-state in four events, capturing second place in the 400 meters (57.97 seconds) and seventh in the long jump (18 feet, 1.75 inches). She also anchored the state champion 1,600 (4x400) relay team – teaming with Noema Wild, Olivia Dixon and Gwyn Deterding to win in 3 minutes, 58.74 seconds – and was part of the third-place 800 relay team with Dixon, Arianna Calloway and Kayleigh Jenkins (1:42.18).
"First and foremost, this was a team win and Ariana played such a big role," Reeder said as the Wildcats totaled 43.5 points to finish behind first-place Cardinal Ritter (64) and Lee's Summit West (58) and ahead of fourth-place Columbia Rock Bridge (37).
"During the (two hour) rain delay, I could tell Ariana was getting a little nervous, but all the kids were nervous, wondering if we were going to be able to complete the meet. And she goes out and anchors that amazing 4-by-4 team and wins four state medals and we finish third. It was a great day."
Jackson, with her anchor leg in the meet's final event, attracted the attention of former Olympic sprinter and Raytown South graduate Maurice Mitchell, who was invited to the meet by the Missouri State High School Activities Association and was honored.
"She's a freshman?" asked Mitchell, who won the 100, 200 and 400 and anchored the 1,600 relay team in back-to-back seasons and led Raytown South to it first state team title in 2008 before earning international fame at Florida State University and the 2012 Olympics. "I could use her on my team down in San Antonio. Think she'd be interested?"
He was kidding, of course, but he has led his Geneva School of Boerne, Texas, Class 4A team to a state title in 2019 and fourth-place finish this season.
"Ariana is our beast!" Wildcats teammate Jada Williams, who finished 14th in the 300-meter hurdles, said as the girls celebrated with a post-meet dance party on the field. "She is an elite athlete and she doesn't even know how good she is or how good she can be."
Jackson outsprinted two-time gold medal winner Makayla Clark from Lee's Summit West and Cardinal Ritter's McKiya Taylor to win the 1,600 in a finish that gave all fans plenty to cheer about.
"I knew I had to keep us in the race," said Wild, the leadoff runner. "Then, I gave the baton to 'The Chaser.'"
The Chaser is Dixon, who went from seventh to second, before handing the baton to Deterding.
"My job is to put Gwyn in the best position to help us win the race, and I was able to do that," Dixon said, grinning.
Added Deterding: "Olivia is amazing. I knew I was going to get the baton in a good position and I wanted to help Ariana all I could."
Jackson started in second place, burst to the lead, then lost it on the second turn.
"I knew I had to get the lead back," the freshman said. "And I was able to do it. And down the stretch I had two of the best runners in the state right at my back, but I wasn't going to let them pass me, no way that was going to happen."
As she looked at the four medals hanging around her neck, she smiled as Williams approached her.
"The beast!" Williams said, and both girls laughed.
"I didn't know what to expect today or this season," Dixon said. "But I had a lot of success and a lot of fun and I love my girls so much. And we're so young we have the chance to do this again the next few years."
An unsung hero for the Wildcats was Jenkins, who finished with the two relay medals and a seventh-place showing in the 100 (12:34).
"I play volleyball and basketball and I decided to go out for track this year and had a blast," Jenkins said. "The girls and our coaches are amazing. I can't even tell you how much fun I had."
The Wildcats’ 400 (4x100) relay team of Arionna Umbles, Dixon, Makenna DeLany and Jenkins finished second to Cardinal Ritter in 49.23 seconds.
The Blue Springs 3,200 (4x800) relay team of I'yana Foster, Allison Bonham, Deterding and Abigail Brackenbury finished sixth (9:45.60), and Calloway took sixth in the high jump (5 feet, 4.5 inches).
Calloway also earned all-state honors in the high jump with a tie for sixth place (5 feet, 4.5 inches).
Jags’ Trober earns three medals
Blue Springs South junior Mya Trober lived up to her advanced billing as The Examiner's 2020 Cross Country Runner of the Year, finishing second in the 1,600 (5:01.91), third in the 3,200 (10:46.45) and was part of the third-place 3,200 relay team with Amy Woolsey, Hayley Neff and Magdalene Boley.
"We have a motto at South," Trober and her teammate Caitlin Grover, who also earned all-state honors with a seventh-place finish in the 3,200 (11:15.33), said in unison.
"The faster you run, the sooner it's over, and Caitlin and I went out and ran fast today," Trober finished.
State was the first time Trober had run all three events in the same day, as the usual two-day meet was condensed to one, wet and rainy Thursday.
"Mya was amazing today," Jaguars coach Ryan Unruh said. "It's funny, she once told me that, 'No matter how you try and convince me to run track, I'm just running cross country,' because she is also an outstanding soccer player. I talked to her today and she told me she was happy she's running track."
When asked about giving up soccer, Trober said, "I loved soccer, and I love cross country, and now I love track. Today was just amazing, and standing on the medal stand with my teammates was just an incredible feeling."
And all her teammates were on the first row of the stands to cheer her on in the 1,600.
"I heard them and I saw them," said Trober, who went over after the race to thank them. "Our coaches and my teammates are the best. I love them."
South's Madison Hoffman finished eighth in the javelin (114 feet, 10 inches), joining her friend McKenah Sears of Grain Valley, who finished third (129-9).
"I love Maddie and it was so cool we both medaled our first time at state," said Sears, a freshman who also plays softball, like Hoffman, and basketball. "I didn't even think about the javelin before the start of the season and now I'm a state medal winner. I can't wait for next season."
Bears’ David medals twice
There will be no next season for William Chrisman senior Jacque David, who overcame a torn ACL last year to bounce back and finish second in the shot put with a personal best toss of 44 feet, 11 inches.
It took a state record throw of 45-6.25 by Lee's Summit West's Cydney Banks to beat her.
"Well, it took a state record to beat me, so I am happy," said David, who also earned all-state honors with a fourth-place showing in the discus (137-4) and finished 23rd in the team standings with 13 points by herself. "I told myself I'm not going to cry, and here I am crying. I love my school and our coaches – who have spent so much time with me, especially while I was rehabbing. They mean the world to me, so do my teammates.
"Today is really bittersweet. The only thing that makes it better is the fact that I know I am still going to be playing basketball and throwing the shot and discus."
She has signed with Division I Hawaii to compete in both sports.
Fort Osage's Kendra Siefker also earned all-state honors by taking seventh in the discus (114-10).
Eagles earn three medals
Grain Valley took home three all-state medals.
Senior JayOnna Perry was sixth in the 100 hurdles (15.27), Sears was third in javelin and the Eagles' 1,600-meter relay team of Avery Huffman, Perry, Emma Jane Ogle and Jordyn Weems finished fourth in 4:03.60.
Perry came close to a second medal, taking ninth in the 300 hurdles (47.12) as the Eagles tied for 20th as a team with 14 points.
Lee’s Summit North’s Annica Valmassei, a state champion in diving, also earned an all-state honor in track by taking fifth in the pole vault (11-4). Valmassei’s teammate, Hannah Wilhite, tied for 11th and Grain Valley’s Abby Castle was 13th.
Visit pttiming,com for a complete list of all team scores and winners.