Jayce Thomas and Sam Patterson have some pretty lofty goals for their senior track and field seasons at Blue Springs High School.

Jayce Thomas and Sam Patterson have some pretty lofty goals for their senior track and field seasons at Blue Springs High School.

Thomas wants to earn a state medal in four events and Patterson is focusing on a state title in the pole vault.

“They have big goals, and they have a lot of talent,” Wildcats track coach Joe Cusack said.

“They are going to be the leaders of the team. Both are returning all-state athletes and each young man is working hard to make his senior season one to remember.”

Thomas was sixth in the triple jump last year at the Missouri State Track and Field Championship with an effort of 44-1, while Patterson was fourth with a 14-0 mark in the pole vault.

“That was my first state medal last year,” said Thomas, who was also a standout wide receiver for the Wildcats football team. “I like a challenge, and last year, I finally got my first medal at state.

“This year, I want to bring home four – the triple jump, long jump and the 110 and 300 hurdles. When you compete in four events, you’re pretty busy the entire meet, and I like that.

“I like to be on the go – either getting ready for an event or competing in an event – and they are all spread out enough that I can warm up and be ready for each one. It’s fun, really.”

Although he competes in just one event, Patterson brings the same enthusiasm and desire to the table.

“I’m so excited for this season, I can’t wait,” said Patterson, who was injured at the Big Seven Conference meet last year when he fell on a piece of the vaulting standard.

“I limped into district and barely qualified; then I got healthy and won sectional with a 13-9 jump and was fourth at state.

“This year, I’m shooting for 16-something and want to get back down to state and try to win the whole thing.”

During the offseason, Patterson has been training in Excelsior Springs, Mo., with vaulting coach Todd Cooper.

“I’ve been taking private lessons, because I want to do everything possible to make my senior season special,” Patterson said. “And I want to stay healthy.”

Which can be difficult when you’re carrying a 14-foot pole in winds that can gust up to 40 mph.

“The weather in the spring is crazy,” Patterson said. “I don’t ever think about getting hurt. But there are times when you’re carrying your (vaulting) pole and you think, ‘This is crazy.’ But I love it, and I love seeing improvement each season.

“You know, I started out as a distance runner, but I didn’t really enjoy it and I was looking for something else to do. I always thought pole vaulting looked like fun. It’s an unnatural sport – flying in the air and landing on your back after making it over a bar 14 feet high – but from the first time I tried it I liked it. I liked it a lot.”

Thomas felt the same way about his four events.

“I started running track in eighth grade, and I first tried the triple jump,” Thomas said. “It’s all about technique. But you also have to be explosive – like in the long jump – and I thought they just worked real well together.

“I started hurdling when I was a freshman and that’s another fun event. They’re all different, but you need strength, speed and explosiveness in each event.”

Both seniors said they feel a sense of urgency this season, because they know it will be their last representing Blue Springs High School.

“Yeah, I guess there is some urgency,” Thomas said. “I want to do well every year, but you really want to do well when you’re a senior.”

Added Patterson, “This is it. If I want to have any chance of winning state, I had to come this year. It’s a real challenge, and I’m ready for it.”