Recent graduates prevailed Saturday in Class 3 state meet in shot put and 110-meters high hurdles, respectively, powering CHS Hornets to fifth-place tie in final team standings
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Chillicothe High School’s 2017-18 athletics year closed on one of the highest possible notes this (Saturday, May 26) afternoon when recent graduate Walker Graves – the last CHS athlete in competitition this school year – won the shot put in the Class 3 boys’ MSHSAA Track-and-Field Championships.
Just as fellow alumnus Brett Shaffer had a few hours earlier in the 110-meters high hurdles, Graves earned the place atop the medals stand at Jefferson City High School’s Dennis and Roberta Licklider Track Complex at Pete Atkins Stadium.
A day after placing second in the discus throw with a last-attempt personal-best fling, Graves put himself in command of the shot put with a second-attempt heave of 53’9”. While that or two other tosses in excess of 53’ would have been good enough to claim the crown over a 16-throwers field that did have anyone else reach 53’, Graves – as he did in the discus – made his last attempt his best. His title already assured, he left himself go free and pumped the steel ball 54’8-1/2”, nearly two feet farther than the runnerup’s 52’11-1/2”.
Prior to Graves’ crowning touch on the CHS season, Shaffer had completed a 7-state-medals career by snaring three Saturday, pinnacled by the state title in the high hurdles.
Third in the event last year before capturing second in the 2017 300-meters intermediate hurdles, Shaffer made Sean Irwin of Owensville a repeat runnerup in the highs by running a 14.46-seconds time in Saturday’s final, 0.35 faster than the Hornet posted in Friday’s preliminary “heats.”
Irwin, a sliver ahead as the pair reached the second-to-last-barrier, clipped it with his trail leg, slowing him just enough for the Chillicothe ace to inch ahead as they went over the last hurdle and win by less than a half-stride. Despite the slight mishap, Irwin also cut his time from Friday, but by only 0.08 to 14.62, leaving him 0.16 behind Shaffer.
The 14.46 clocking in his last prep running of the 110-meters high hurdles – like Graves’ last tries in the shot put and discus – was Shaffer’s career personal-best, just over 0.2 faster than he ran in the state final a year ago.
Having a pair of state champions is something Chillicothe has accomplished now twice in three years. Two years ago, now-NCAA Division II All-American Jesse Miller and Whitney Clampitt both took first place in their respective gender division’s high jump.
With the title in the high hurdles figuratively safely tucked in his back pocket, Shaffer approached the 300-meters intermediates a couple of hours later hoping to repeat an elevated finish from his junior year. If he did so, it would mean being a 2-times state champion, since he finished second in the intermediates in 2017.
However, even if he’d matched his ’17 time of 38.37 or equaled his CHS school-record time of 38.3 in the event in the final, he’d still have placed where he did – third.
Defending champion Jameson Williams of St. Louis: Cardinal Ritter didn’t quite match his state-championship time of 37.28, but still repeated by a stride in 37.47 seconds Saturday. Grant Conway of St. James was second in 38.05.
After less than an hour’s respite following the 300 hurdles, Shaffer completed his CHS career by running in the 200-meters dash. Not surprisingly, in his sixth max-effort, state-meet race in about 26 hours, the Hornet settled for the eighth-place medal in the straight sprint, clocked in 22.69 seconds. That was only 0.23 away from fourth place, however.
That final bit of state hardware was the seventh of the career of the younger son of long-time CHS boys’ head coach Bill Shaffer and wife Janice.
Had it not been for the unwarranted disqualification of the Hornets’ 1,600-meters relay team at the sectional meet, where the group of Shaffer, Isaak Rasche, Jacob Anderson, and Kaleb Mullikin ran a time which would have broken the 39-years-old school record, the state hurdles champ likely would have matched the legendary, late Joe Shy’s CHS mark of eight career state-meet medals.
Shy, who had most of his for solo events, won his eight in the late 1930s, the same general era when two others – William Minor (earlier in the ’30s) and Gary Fordyce (in the mid ’40s) – each collected seven state medals in their careers. The bulk of both Fordyce’s and Minor’s came as members of relay squads, compared to Shaffer’s ratio of six in individual races and one in a relay.
Incidentally, if the 2018 Hornets’ 1,600 relay had been able to compete at state, it might well have posted a third CHS state championship. Richmond, a squad CHS’ group defeated by significant (1.5 seconds to six seconds) margins repeatedly during the regular season and district, took third at state Saturday, about 2.5 seconds behind winner Southern Boone.
“All” the Chillicothe quartet would have needed to do was place sixth in the finals or higher and the Hornets would have earned the third-place team trophy they almost-certainly deserved. Instead, via Shaffer’s and Graves’ performances, they totaled 35 team points, tying for fifth with Centralia.
That was a mere one point behind Lamar in fourth and two back of third-place Herculaneum. Had Lamar, which took sixth in the final-event 1,600 relay, been seventh, CHS, it, and Centralia would have shared fourth place and all would have received a team trophy eventually. Had Lamar taken only eighth, Chillicothe and Centralia would have tied for fourth and a trophy.
As things played out at Jefferson City during the state meet, which was hampered by a rain/storm delay for a third-consecutive year, Graves and Shaffer were the only CHS medal-winners.
That was not surprising. Though warranting commendation just for qualifying for the state championships, the others in the 5-Hornets contingent had not produced regular-season or postseason performances which suggested they’d likely crack the top eight in the state competition.
The highest finish of the other three qualifiers – all new graduates – came from Jon Burk in the high jump Saturday. He cleared the opening 5’9” height, then 5’11” and 6’1” before missing all three attempts at 6’2”. That placed him 12th out of 16.
In the pole vault, after Jack Willard had not been able to get over the challenging 12’ opening height in three tries following Friday’s pre-meet, 3-1/2-hours rain delay, Molly Jones slipped over the opening 9’ height in Saturday’s girls’ competition before bowing out at 9’6”. Having gone to state also as a freshman, Jones improved on her performance of three years ago, when she was eliminated after clearing 8'6".
Like Burk, Jones took 12th place, while Willard – with three others also “no-heighting” – shared 13th.