Both Chillicothe (Mo.) HS Track, Field Squads Earn Second Place in 2021 Midland Empire Conference Meet May 4

CHS' Hope Helton breaks school mark in javelin throw, while Braxten Johnson's 30 team points apparently led all male competitors in league meet in Chillicothe

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Junior Braxten Johnson of Chillicothe High School "climbs" through the air to get addition distance on a long jump attempt during Tuesday's Midland Empire Conference Championships track-and-field meet in Chillicothe. Johnson took second in the event and won both hurdles races to apparently be the top points scorer in the boys' division.
Sophomore Hope Helton of Chillicothe High School's track-and-field Lady Hornets strides into her javelin throw attempt that produced an event-winning and CHS record distance of 103' during Tuesday's Midland Empire Conference Championships in Chillicothe. Helton broke Jaylynn Reeter's record by not quite two feet.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

In an ironic twist, in a 2021 season in which Chillicothe High School’s girls’ and boys’ track-and-field teams have shown having team success isn’t always dependent on winning lots of events, when they did take a somewhat-surprising number of first places in Tuesday’s Midland Empire Conference Championships at their home facility, it didn’t quite translate to the ultimate team success.

With a pair of junior dual champions and, apparently, the meet’s top male points producer in Braxten Johnson, the Hornets won five of the 19 events – three in field events and two on the track – and led the team standings most of the way until being overtaken by Maryville in the second-to-last event. With a 1-2 finish and 18-points haul in the 3,200-meters run, MHS’ Spoofhounds pulled ahead of the CHS boys by seven points.

In the final event, needing only to finish the 1,600-meters relay without being disqualified, Maryville managed to do so, taking fourth place – a couple of spots behind Chillicothe – out of the six teams competing to win the varsity boys’ team crown by four points, 158-154.

The girls’ division saw Chillicothe near the top of the standings all meet, but, even with a school-record performance from sophomore Hope Helton in the javelin throw and two other event triumphs, they could not keep up with Cameron’s Lady Dragons.

The Lady Dragons claimed five event wins – also three in the field and two on the track, like the Chillicothe boys – on their way to 176 team points, a healthy 36 ahead of second-place Chillicothe.

In addition to Helton’s record performance in capturing the javelin throw, the Lady Hornets also got wins from Sarah Boon in the pole vault and the 3,200-meters relay unit of Madison Albaugh, Jolie Bonderer, Delaney May, and Kadence Shipers.

In the boys’ competition, Johnson swept the hurdles races on his way to tallying 30 points and Damarcus Kelow took the weight throws. The fifth triumph was delivered by Rudy Yutzy in the pole vault.

The meet saw one conference-meet record fall. Maryville star distance runner Garrett Dumke, who doubled in the 1,600- and 3,200-meters runs, took the latter in 9:52.45. With a 68-seconds final lap, he eclipsed the semi-ancient record of 9:54.69 set by Savannah’s Joe Freudenthal back in 1987 (interestingly, the conference’s boys’ record in the 1,600 also dates to 1987, but is owned by a different runner).

Also on the record-breaking front, Helton unleashed her CHS-mark resetting javelin throw on her second of four attempts, zipping the spear 31.4 meters – exactly 103’. That surpassed the record of 101’3” set by Jalynn Reeter in 2017.

Helton, who was joined in placing in the javelin by senior Ella Leamer’s fifth place, also scored in the discus throw, taking sixth place.

In her only event, freshman Boon proved to be the only girl who could get over the pole vault bar at 7’ (2.15m), doing so on her first try, while two other competitors bowed out with three misses at that height.

When the track action began at 4:30 p.m. at Chillicothe’s Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II (the meet site because rotational host school St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond does not have an 8-lanes track), the Lady Hornets grabbed the very first race.

From left, Chillicothe High School Lady Hornets Madison Albaugh, Kadence Shipers, Delaney May, and Jolie Bonderer combined to win the 3,200-meters relay in Tuesday's (May 4) Midland Empire Conference Championships track-and-field meet in Chillicothe.

Running two laps each, May, Shipers, Albaugh and Bonderer combined to finish in 11:01.53, not quite five seconds in front of Cameron. The only other school which entered a group was Kansas City: St. Pius X.

The Chillicothe boys’ initial triumph of the day was supplied by senior Yutzy. Setting the stage for Boon’s later success in the pole vault, Yutzy topped out a meter higher than the female champion at 3.15 or 10’4”. He did so on his second attempt at the height, while the only foe who reached that height missed all three times.

Ironically, in that very first boys’ event to be completed, Chillicothe had a second participant who, had he been able to clear the starting height (8’), would have been assured of no worse than fourth place, since there were only four vaulters.

Although many other subsequent finishes factored into the final standings, the five team points that would have been worth ultimately could have given the Hornets the team crown by a single marker.

Junior Kelow grabbed his first of two wins next, prevailing in the shot put with easily the best throw of 46’2” (14.07m). That gave him a margin of just over six feet over the runnerup.

Junior Damarcus Kelow strains as he released an attempt in the shot put during Tuesday's Midland Empire Conference Championships track-and-field meet in Chillicothe. Kelow won both the shot put and discus throw, helping carry the CHS team to a close runnerup finish.

Later, in his better event, he fired the discus a meet-best 158’5” (48.3m). That was about 25’ farther than the next-best distance from a foe.

In between Kelow’s wins, with track events getting underway, classmate Johnson provided an early boost to Chillicothe’s chances by claiming the 110-meters high hurdles in 17.18 seconds, a win by a mere .07 second over a Cameron foe.

That added to the team-most points haul Johnson already had begun with a second-place jump of 19’ (5.79m) in the long jump.

About 90 minutes after his first hurdling victory, Johnson was back to compete in the 300-meters intermediates. He got a tough challenge that time, too, but answered it, finishing first in 44.3 seconds, .29 second ahead of a Maryville entry.

When, with the team outcome still hanging in the balance, he joined Quentin Cranmer, Laik Graham, and Sam Reeter for the second-place finish in the 1,600-meters relay, Johnson finished his day with exactly 30 points, easily tops on the Hornets.

While that rounded out the Chillicothe boys’ event victories, they were doing a solid amount of scoring with other high finishes.

In addition to Johnson’s runnerup long jump of 19’ (5.79m) and the 4-by-400 relay’s second spot, the Hornets got a second from Tristan Forck with a 6’1” high jump (1.85m).

Third places were delivered by Hayden Simmer in both the 3,200 and 1,600, Cranmer in the 200-meters dash, Drake Cosgrove in the triple jump, and Isaiah Sprong in the javelin.

For the Lady Hornets, supplementing the trio of triumphs with runnerup performances were the 800-meters relay unit of Kirsten Dunn, Bronlyn Ward, Kayanna Cranmer, and May (1:57.65) and Bonderer in the open 1,600 where she lost in a photo finish by .01 in 5:46.27.

Securing thirds among the CHS girls were the 1,600 relay group of Ward, Albaugh, K. Cranmer and Bonderer, Katelynn Fleener in the shot put, and Aliyah Briner in the 3,200.

As anticipated beforehand, the girls’ division’s overall scorer was Maryville junior sprinting ace Brooklynn Holtman with a perfect 40 points. She repeated her 4-events sweep from last month’s Chillicothe Joe Shy Relays with victories in the three sprints and the high jump.

Pacing Chillicothe’s runnerup effort, as she has in every scoring meet to date this season, was ninth grader Bonderer with 17 points.