The co-winners of The Examiner’s Female Track and Field Athlete of the Year are different in so many ways. Yet when it comes to their respective sports, they represent the best of the best.

The co-winners of The Examiner’s Female Track and Field Athlete of the Year are different in so many ways. Yet when it comes to their respective sports, they represent the best of the best.

While Fort Osage sophomore Asia Cole has a bright prep future on the horizon, Blue Springs South senior Samantha Nightingale leaves the high school ranks with four gold medals and the admiration of an entire state.

Cole won the shot put (46 feet, 1 inch) and discus (143-5) at the Class 4 Missouri State Track and Field Championship while Nightingale wrapped up her brilliant prep career with her first state wins in the 1,600 meters and 3,200 – to go along with two gold medals she won the past two years in cross country.

“I think it’s just awesome that the two girls share The Examiner’s award,” South cross country and track coach Ryan Unruh said.

Fort Osage coach J.D. Snead agreed.

“This year was Asia’s coming out party,” Snead said, “and Samantha Nightingale left a real mark at state. They are both very deserving of the honor. I’m so pleased The Examiner chose to honor both girls.”

While the soft-spoken Cole said she simply wanted to go to state “to compete at the highest level,” Nightingale was on a mission.

She was fourth in the 3,200 and sixth in the 1,600 in 2011, and that disappointment was like pouring gasoline on her competitive fire.

“I went to state this year to kick some butt,” said Nightingale, a four-time winner of The Examiner’s Female Cross Country Athlete of the Year. “All I heard about was Hannah Long (a freshman sensation from Eureka) this and Hannah Long that. I know people just think of me as a cross country girl. I wasn’t going to let a freshman beat me at state – no way!”

Nightingale held off Long in the 1,600 – 4 minutes, 56.06 seconds to 4:58.56 – and smoked the field in the 3,200, finishing 27 seconds ahead of Cor Jesu’s Jill Whitman – 10:44.96 to 11:11.27.

“What Sam did at state is pretty remarkable,” Unruh said. “I know all the attention Hannah Long was receiving motivated Sam. She said on numerous occasions that she wasn’t going to let the freshman beat her. And she was right.

“Then, to come back the next day and beat the best in the state by 27 seconds? That doesn’t happen very often.”

Nightingale was thrilled to share the award with Cole.

“After she won the discus, I ran over and gave her a hug,” Nightingale said. “I don’t know if she even knew who I was. But I was so excited for her.”
Cole knew all about Nightingale.

“She’s a great athlete,” Cole said at state.

Cole then explained, “Winning the shot and discus have really helped my confidence. I was second in the shot as a freshman and I wanted to do well this year. When I won the shot, it really gave me a confidence boost in the discus.”

Snead says we have not yet seen the best from Cole.

“The sky’s the limit,” Snead said. “We didn’t want to put any added pressure on her this year, but we all felt like she had a good chance at winning both events. We told her that if she performs up to her capability, good things will happen.

“And they did.”