Hornets meet expectations after Friday rain delays meet at Jefferson City

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Recent Chillicothe HS graduates Walker Graves and Brett Shaffer lived up to, if not exceeded, expectations in the rain-delayed first day of competition in the 2018 Missouri Class 3 high school track-and-field championships.
For at least the third-straight year, the Missouri high school state track-and-field meet for classes 3, 4, and 5 schools was thrown off track by rain, this time before it got underway. Rain Friday morning delayed the start of competition by about 3-1/2 hours, prompting use of a “rolling” schedule for events, rather than the strictly-timed approach normally utilized to allow, for health reasons, athletes participating in multiple events as much recovery time between them as possible.
Once competition was able to begin, CHS Hornets prospered, by and large, sometimes dramatically.
Chillicothe’s Jack Willard, Graves, and Shaffer were in action Friday – the first two in field events and the latter in three preliminary “heats” of shorter races.  The other two members of CHS’ all-graduates state-qualifying group –  girls’ pole vaulter Molly Jones and boys’ high jumper Jon Burk – were set for field-event action Saturday, along with Graves in the shot put. In addition, by virtue of sharp performances Friday, Shaffer again will be in three running events – two as a serious state-title contender.

A state medalist throwing the discus in 2016, Graves stood third in the final “flight” of that event prior to his last of six attempts when he uncorked his longest fling ever on the last one of his career.
The nearly-300-pounds, yet surprisingly-nimble and well-balanced, Graves fired the discus 173’6”, surpassing prior second-place contestant Justin Danner of Odessa by over six feet and capturing second place. Beaten by Danner in several previous meetings this season, Graves got the last laugh, placing behind only fellow 2018 graduate Cooper Lucas of Lamar, who had three throws of 170’ or longer, topped by a 176’2” toss on his second attempt.
Shaffer, the only Chillicothean involved in track events at state in 2018, shrugged off the weather delay which compacted the time between his three preliminary “heat” races Friday.
Third a year ago in the 110-meters high hurdles and undefeated this spring, the younger son of the Hornets’ veteran head coach continued his stellar campaign by crossing the finish line first in his “heat” in 14.81 seconds, more than 0.4 seconds ahead of the nearest runner.
His time was the second-fastest – to 2017 runnerup Sean Irwin of Owensville – among the 16 contestants by a mere 0.11 seconds. That puts Shaffer in one of the favorable middle two lanes for Saturday’s midday final.
Late Friday afternoon, Shaffer also ran – and advanced to the finals – in two other races within about a half-hour of each other.
First, in the 300-meters intermediate hurdles – an event in which he took second at state last year and, like the 110 highs, was undefeated in 2018, he settled for second in his “heat” in a very solid 39.49 seconds. That was 1.7 seconds behind the winner of his heat, defending state champion Jameson Williams of St. Louis: Cardinal Ritter, and 1.11 ticks back of Grant Conway of St. James, both juniors.
As with the 110 highs, Shaffer’s Friday placement will garner him an advantageous, mid-lanes spot in the final.
Sooner than normally would be the case, had the meet not been forced to condense its time schedule to “catch up” for the idle morning hours, Shaffer soon was back on the track for the 200-meters dash, having had only four short heats of the 300-meters hurdles (classes 4 and 5) and three classifications of girls’ 800-meters races in the interim.
With only about 30 minutes to recover from the taxing, nearly-lap-long, hurdling race, Shaffer’s prospects of advancing to Saturday’s finals in the 200 were clearly less than in his hurdles races, but he proved undaunted.
Having had a sectional-meet time that put him around the middle of the 16 qualifiers for the half-lap sprint, if the Hornet was fatigued from the high-emotion atmosphere of the previous race and was just a bit off-form, he well could have run slower than his 22.81 sectional time and not made the top eight.
Instead, he chopped 0.26 of a second off his sectional clocking – and essentially needed it. His 22.55 was third in his heat, but had only a 0.28-second advantage over the fifth-place runner in the succeeding “heat” and less than that over the fourth-place entrant in his prelim. While another 22.81 by Shaffer would have squeezed him into the final by 0.02-second, he gave himself some “elbow room” and heads on to Saturday’s late-afternoon race which will be the last of the outstanding prep career for the University of Central Missouri-bound trackster.
Although his “heat” time in the 200 was 1.14 seconds slower than the fastest finals qualifier, no matter what the Hornet runs in his last CHS effort, short of being disqualified for some reason in any of his three races, that last sprint will net him his third state medal of 2018 and his seventh in his sterling career.
Friday’s action for CHS began at around 1 p.m. with Willard competing in the pole vault.
As had been conjectured, he was not able to clear the daunting opening height – 12’. He was one of four qualifiers (out of 16) who missed all three attempts at the height, but still had the satisfaction of having qualified for state for the first time and also being a district champion as a wrapup to a very fine CHS athletics career.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s field events prospects for CHS, Graves took third in the shot put a year ago and seems positioned to battle for the state title this year. He won the sectional event last weekend at 54’5”, nearly 1’5” farther than last year’s state-meet-winning distance.
Also competing Saturday will be new alumni Molly Jones in the girls’ pole vault and Jon Burk in the high jump.
While Burk, a district champion at 6’2” two weeks ago, makes his state debut, Jones is back where she was as a freshman in 2015, when she finished 13th in the pole vault.
While reaching state is an outstanding accomplishment for both, their previous performances this season suggest it will be difficult for either to have a top-8 finish that would net one or both a state medal.

Jones will pole vault early in the day – scheduled for 9 a.m., while Burk's high jump is due to begin at 3 p.m., a half-hour ahead of Graves' shot putting.

Shaffer's first race – the 110 high hurdles – will be at around noon.
Information on the CHS athletes’ Saturday results will be posted on www.chillicothenews.com as results are learned.