Junior long jumper Hibner posts one personal-best on last try of opening flight to jump from 15th place into finals, then hits another on last overall try to claim eighth-place state medal Saturday, May 25. Boys' 1,600 relay group of Rasche, Forck, Corbin, Mullikin takes sixth at state with 2019-best time
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
COLUMBIA, Mo. — With one exciting exception, Chillicothe (Mo.) HS' 2019 state track-and-field contingent performed almost exactly as prior performances had projected at last Saturday’s (Mah 25) weather-relocated Class 3 state meet.
Of the half-dozen events for which CHS athletes were qualified, all but one finished either exactly or nearly where their and other schools’ state qualifiers’ sectional-meet efforts had suggested they might.
The one that didn’t proved, in highly-dramatic manner, to be a very pleasing “outlier.”
Lady Hornets junior Jordan Hibner first slipped into the round-of-9 “finals” in the long jump by hitting her best jump of the season – 16’1-3/4” – on her third and last attempt of the preliminary round of 16 competitors. That dramatic, do-or-die performances leap-frogged her from 14th place all the way to ninth, squeezing her into the finals, where she would get three more attempts.
Although she made two more solid jumps (16’1-1/2” and 16’1/2”) on her first two tries with a state medal on the line, she stepped to the end of the runway for her last attempt needing her best jump ever in competition. Immediately ahead of her in the standings in the last medaling spot was a jumper with a best thus far of 16’2-3/4”.
A Hibner took off and accelerated down the runway at the University of Missouri’s Audrey Walton Stadium, the meet’s revised location after Jefferson City High School’s Adkins Stadium sustained significant damage from a tornado three nights earlier, she had her approach measured just right.
Lifting off from the runway without scratching – the Lady Hornet was one of only two medalists in the event to make all their jumps cleanly, Hibner flung herself into the air toward the landing pit, arms and legs flailing to try to sustain her forward momentum as long and far as she could.
When her heels hit the sand and her body momentum bounced her forward, the measurement from where her heels touched down back to the edge of the takeoff board nearest the landing pit proved to be both a new personal-best and a medal-earning 16’4-1/2”.
When the girl who had been just ahead of her followed with a last leap of only 15’6-3/4”, leaving her with a top jump of 16’2-3/4” back on her first attempt of the competition, Hibner – with two outstanding performances “in the clutch” – had gone from having the 15th-best sectional distance entering the meet and standing in 14th place prior to her last attempt of the preliminary round to having an eighth-place state medal hung around her neck late Saturday morning.
For most of the rest of the day, that stood as Chillicothe’s only medal, but that was more due to scheduling than anything.
While a couple of CHS entries made strong bids to earn medals, but just fell short, Chillicothe’s entry that went to state as the likeliest to post a top-8 finish and secure a medal (medals) waited to compete in the final race of the day – the boys’ 1,600-meters (4-by-400) relay.
When, at last, late in the afternoon, that closing event rolled around, the Hornets’ quartet of seniors Ethan Corbin and Peyton Forck and juniors Kaleb Mullikin – faced a familiar scenario, albeit one different from the normal state-meet experience.
Normally, with the state meet held across two days, the 16 relay qualifiers run in one of two preliminary heats on the first day and the groups with the 8-fastest times advance to a final battle the next day with all assured of a medal, save a disqualification.
Because of the devastating weather event that forced the dispersal of the Class 3, 4, and 5 meets – normally held concurrently at Jefferson City – to three separate sites and reconfigured to a single-day format, all of the sprint relay races (400-, 800-, and 1,600-meters) were run “against time.” The eight fastest times, regardless of which heat they came in, would earn those athletes involved the state-meet medals.
At sectional the previous Saturday, CHS’ group had produced what proved to be the fifth-fastest time of any of the 16 Class 3 state qualifiers, so the Hornets accordingly were included in the second “fast” heat. That’s considered an advantage, since it psychologically pushes a competitor to “keep up” with the presumably “best” opponents in the event.
Having had outstanding success throughout the season and having consistently reduced their time through the postseason series, the Chillicothe runners moved onto the track for their race knowing they’d have to continue that trend. Knob Noster had won the first heat in 3:30.86, 0.11 second faster than the Hornets had run in winning their sectional.
One last time, they met the challenge.
Although a “split” for the first 1-lap leg run by Mullikin was not available from official results online, according to overall electronic timing, Mullikin and succeeding runner Corbin completed their laps in a combined 1:47.78, more than a second behind Knob Noster’s mid-race time. However, because Buffalo was trailing them in their heat, it added some “wiggle room” to the Hornets’ window of opportunity, since beating Buffalo would mean they’d “only” have best St. Louis: John Burrough’s second-place time of 3:31.23 from the first heat to claim at least eighth place.
However, with Forck and Rasche yet to go, the Hornets had their sights higher than squeezing into the medal ranks in eighth place.
With a smooth handoff, Forck took the baton from Corbin and used his long strides to start tracking down some foes ahead of him. By the time he bolted down the home straightaway for the last exchange, he’d overtaken two runners with what was listed as CHS’ fastest leg of the race – a 51.12.
That allowed Rasche to head into his lap comfortably secure in the medal chase in fifth place. Although he nearly matched Forck’s split with a 51.26 anchor leg, the last runner for St. Louis: Lutheran North passed him to take fifth place and put CHS sixth in the final standings in a season-best time of 3:30.16 after entering as the sixth “seed.” The Hornets’ clocking was the better part of a second faster than their sectional time and their best of 2019.
“This season has been a lot of fun and has been memorable for many reasons and not just because we had so many odd things happen,” CHS boys’ head coach Bill Shaffer reflected for the C-T after the Chillicothe group had returned home. “I’m very proud of what our boys and girls were able to do all year.”
Remarked Lady Hornets head coach Karen Jackson, “All of the kids did amazingly well with the conditions that were given to them. I thought it was neat for the kids to get to run on Mizzou's track.”
Of Chillicothe’s other four state entrants, just as sectional performances had hinted, freshman discus thrower Damarcus Kelow was close to gaining a state medal, but just missed.
Fouling on his first and third throws, the frosh nevertheless hurled the thick-middle disc 131’10” on his second attempt in the opening round of 16. While more than 13 feet short of his season’s best, it eked him into the final round of nine and gave him three more throws.
Yet again, he managed to produce only one “good” throw out those three (whether any of four fouls were intentional or not – on occasion, she discus throwers know instinctively their throw, while on course to land “in bounds,” will be far short of their expectations and will intentionally exit the front half of the throwing ring before it lands, effectively forfeiting that throw – was not known at the time of the writing of this article).
That lone “good throw” in the fifth round sailed 137’, still almost eight feet short of his personal best – thrown at district two weeks earlier, but still left him in ninth place. When, needing to sail the discus at least 141’4-1/4” on his last attempt to edge up to eighth, he once more fouled, Kelow had to settle for coming up a bit short.
Had he managed to match his personal-best distance of 144’11”, he would have claimed the sixth-place medal.
Like Kelow in the discus, Rasche had gone to state with the ninth-best sectional performance, statewide, in the 400-meters dash, making him a very reasonable hopeful for a piece of state hardware.
Had he been able to improve, equal, or come very, very close to his sectional effort of 51.32 seconds, the junior could have gained perhaps the seventh- (51.31) or eighth-place (51.54) medals Saturday, but, with a 51.64, he ended up exactly 0.1 second away from winning a medal. His place finish turned out to be 11th, less than 0.02 out of ninth. Fortunately, he was able to salve that near-miss disappointment later in the 1,600 relay.
Another Chillicothe boys’ state entry which looked to have a decent, but still borderline, chance to secure a state medal – the 800-meters relay of Deon Reynolds, Mullikin, Forck, and Rasche – produced a state place finish which was right where they’d qualified, but left them on the outside, looking in, come medals ceremony time.
Despite the race being only half as long, that Hornets foursome ran a time – 1:32.36 – nearly two seconds faster than their previous best (1:34.2), yet still had, as they ranked among the sectional advancers – only the 10th-best time in the race. They were third across the finish line in the first (“slow”) heat.
New Chillicothe graduate Kylee Larson also saw her state showing mostly mirror where her sectional time in the 100-meters high hurdles had suggested she’d finish at state.
CHS’ first athlete to compete Saturday, Larson completed her race in 16.7 seconds, almost exactly what she posted at sectional. She did manage, however, after having the slowest state-qualifying time in Class 3, to avert a last-place time in the actual competition. Her performance in the first of the two heats put her 15th overall among the 16 racers.
Although Chillicothe’s string of four years in a row with at least one state champion or runnerup (and that span actually saw CHS have at least two of those each of the preceding four years) came to an end, as expected, the Hibner and boys’ 1,600 relay medals kept alive the school’s run of having at least one state medalist. The last time neither the Hornets nor Lady Hornets had someone or a relay unit medal was 2010.
Last Saturday’s state meet and the circumstances surrounding it proved an apt denouement to the CHS track-and-field season.
Both the boys’ and girls’ teams returned scant key members from the strong 2018 season and early development and talent discernment was hampered by uncooperative cold and wet weather, both during the would-be preseason-practice period and into the first couple of weeks of the season Late in the season and again in the postseason, dealing with uncertainty of when or where the Hornets and Lady Hornets would get to compete was the rule, not the exception.
“A lot of things happened this year that I have never experienced as a coach before,” acknowledged Shaffer, boys’ team head coach most of the past quarter-century.
“We were the host for a double district. We had to split the sectional meet into two days. We had the state meet suspended and weren't sure when or if we would compete. Definitely a year of firsts.
“However,” he continued with emphasis, “our kids responded amazingly. We talk a lot about being ready to compete when they call your name to the line. Conditions will almost never be perfect, but that they have to control what they can control.
“Never once did our kids complain or whine about having things changed up at the last minute. They just shrugged things off and went out and competed.”