Nieka Wheeler shivered and swayed back and forth on the infield grass at Liberty High School in an attempt to stay warm.

Nieka Wheeler shivered and swayed back and forth on the infield grass at Liberty High School in an attempt to stay warm.

The William Chrisman sophomore sprinter had just held off a late charge from Lee’s Summit North’s Madison Smith to capture the 100-meter race Friday at the Ron Ives Invitational. Much like the hundreds of other competitors at the meet, Wheeler reached for the layers of clothing she disposed of to run her event, and immediately after being announced the winner, sprinted from the track to the grass to bundle up.

“It’s cold,” Wheeler said as she slipped into warm-up pants and a sweatshirt. “My feet are cold. I can’t feel my feet right now. It was so cold and the wind was pushing me back.”

The cold and wind didn’t stop Wheeler from outlasting Smith. Wheeler shot out of the gate in her first meet of the season, held a commanding lead halfway through the race, then held firm as the hard-charging Smith crept up on Wheeler’s left.

“I had someone out there pushing me,” Wheeler said. “So I just put it in my head that I needed to win.”

Bears coach Annie Dudek said she offered Wheeler some coaching advice as she prepared for the 100 meters.

“I told her to make sure she got good and loose before she hit the track,” Dudek said. “And to stay warm.”

Wheeler took heed.

“I was jumping up and down and doing high knees and butt kicks and lunges,” Wheeler said.

Blue Springs’ Jayce Thomas was held up by a reporter’s question after his second-place finish in the 110-meter hurdles and couldn’t get to his extra clothing as quick as he would have liked. No fret, as a Blue Springs teammate was in the immediate vicinity ready to deliver Thomas’ warming gear on cue.

“It’s cold,” Thomas said of the race. “I was high on the hurdle, my form wasn’t all the way there, but it was OK.”

Truman’s Alisha Meyer got her 2011 track season under way by pulling away from the pack halfway through the 400 and claiming first place. A state qualifier in the event last season, Meyer used caution to outdistance her competitors on Friday.

“It’s real difficult,” Meyer said of running in such cold and windy conditions. “It’s cold, your muscles start cramping up. I was nervous, but I wasn’t that nervous. I have a lot of ground I need to catch up on though.”

Emilie Farris of Blue Springs South might have had one of the better approaches to counteract the chilly temperature. The Jaguars senior finished third in the 400 and fourth in the 800.

“It is hard, but you gotta keep a positive attitude,” Farris said. “You just gotta stay warm and keep moving until the very last few minutes and then you do your jumps, keep your legs moving and act like a cheerleader. Then you run as fast as you can and just hope for the best.”

Complete meet results will be available in Tuesday’s print edition.