Six from CHS qualify for Saturday's state track, field action

Funk, Yutzy in boys' pole vault, Kelow in boys' shot, discus pace advancers

As reported to C-T
Chillicothe High School track-and-field Hornets senior Rudy Yutzy reaches the bar during one of his attempts during the pole vaulting competition during last Saturday's Class 3 sectional meet at Odessa. With a fourth-place finish, the recent CHS graduate advanced to today's state championship.
Chillicothe High School track-and-field Lady Hornets freshman Jolie Bonderer, left, takes over the lead for keeps about 600 meters into the 1,600-meters run  during the Saturday, May 22, Class 3 sectional meet at Odessa. Bonderer will be the only Lady Hornet competing in this Saturday's state meet at Jefferson City.

ODESSA – Although they wished there’d be more of their teammates able to join them, six Chillicothe High School students – only one of them a newly-graduated senior – will travel to Jefferson City this Saturday to compete in the 2021 Class 3 track-and-field state championships.

The six – qualified to participate in six total events, albeit not one per event – are 2021 graduate Rudy Yutzy and sophomore Gavin Funk in the pole vault, junior Damarcus Kelow in both the shot put and discus throw, junior Braxten Johnson in the 110-meters high hurdles, junior Tristan Forck in the boys’ high jump, and – as the lone distaff qualifier – freshman Jolie Bonderer in the girls’ 1,600-meters run.

Of the septet of state advancers, Bonderer, Funk and Kelow will head on as sectional champions.

The former two repeated their district-level victories, while Kelow swapped his district crown in the shot put for a sectional one in the discus Saturday at the Odessa High School track facility.

The meet was delayed for about 2-1/2 hours prior to its start by overnight and morning rains, CHS boys’ head coach Bill Shaffer noted.

The changes that caused in the condition of some of the competition facilities, as well as the mental challenge of dealing not only with highly-talented opponents, but the uncertainties of when and how to prepare the minds for the moment of competition made for a potentially-disconcerting atmosphere, both Shaffer and Lady Hornets head coach Karen Jackson observed.

“With the rain delay and conditions, I was really impressed with our athletes,” lauded long-time coach Shaffer. “They handled themselves with a great deal of poise, especially considering that this was the first sectional track meet for almost all of them.”

Stated Jackson, “I thought all of our athletes did an amazing job.

“It is a very tough sectional (normally) and then, on top of that, (there were) the weather issues. They did an outstanding job performing at a high level. ”

As was the case the week before at district, the most intriguing and dynamic CHS performance at sectional probably was suddenly-emergent Funk’s triumph in the pole vault.

A bolt from the blue at district to not only qualify for sectional, but do so as district winner, Funk had more eyeballs focused on him this past Saturday. Turns out it didn’t matter.

The event saw the Chillicothe 10th grader clear the first two heights routinely without a miss, as would be expected.

Then, however, with the bar at only 10’, essentially two feet lower than the height he cleared to win district, the Hornet missed his first attempt, while teammate Yutzy and others were easily up and over.

A second try by Funk produced another miss and, suddenly, with the competition barely underway, the district champ was one misfire away from being out of the meet and finished with the season.

Under that pressure, he sprinted up the wet runway, planted the pole, and rode it up to and then over the bar.

From there, the bar went to 10’6”, where Yutzy was one of three to clear it on the first attempt and Funk the lone vaulter to advance on his second. However, two others used their third chance to advance, keeping the suspense going as to who eventually would comprise the top four who’d head on to state.

At a sliver under 11’ (3.35 meters),  Funk suddenly turned the tables, soaring over the bar in his first crack at the height. As he looked on from the sidelines, one, then two, and finally three competitors – including Yutzy, who had not had a previous miss and technically was in the lead – recorded three misses.

Just like that, after being very shaky just a bit earlier, Funk was one of merely three vaulters still going and thus assured he’d move on to state.

As the bar was elevated about another half-foot to 11’5-3/4” (3.5m), none of those top three could reach it, bringing the decision on the order of finish back down to the attempts at 10’11-3/4” and who missed the most recently.

Lo and behold, Funk’s first-try success at that height had won him the sectional crown, as well.

On top of that, Yutzy’s unblemished work at the first four heights also gave him the “scorecard playoff win” in the battle for the fourth and final state berth.

Having two pole vaulters advance is the first such occasion for the Hornets in five years; Kyle Ross and Bradley Mosier both made it to Jeff City in 2016.

The boys’ pole vault is slated for an 11 a.m. start at state.

A study in consistency despite her youth, freshman Bonderer came within .07 second of winning the girls’ 1,600 in the exact same time she had at CHS’ Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II a week earlier.

Her time last Saturday was 5:40.48, a sliver slower than her district clocking. Her winning margin over her nearest district challenger also remained virtually constant, although a runner from the other district involved in the sectional meet at Odessa slipped between those two and was just over four seconds behind the Lady Hornet in claiming second place.

Chillicothe High School track-and-field Hornets junior thrower Damarcus Kelow whirls his body around to build momentum before releasing an attempt in the discus throw during the May 22 Class 3 sectional meet at Odessa. Kelow won the event and figures to a contender for a state championship today.

If at his best in the discus throw, Kelow likely will be a threat to win at state this Saturday, having a season’s best distance of just over 170’. However, he has some rough postseason edges to his technique to smooth off to do so.

After fouling (either intentionally or unintentionally) on three of his four attempts while finishing second at district, he had only two “counting” throws among his four attempts at sectional. He posted the eventual winning distance of 152’1” (46.37m) on his first try and fouled on his last two (throwers sometimes intentionally foul even before their throw lands, if they sense it will not be a worth-measuring distance).

As it was, his winning mark still was nearly 27 feet farther than his nearest competition. Odds are, depending on the weather conditions at state, he’ll need a throw at least in the 150s, if not farther, to be in contention for a win at state, but he’s proven he can deliver such a throw.

He’ll also compete in the shot put at state after placing third at sectional with a pedestrian (for him) distance of 42’11-3/4”. The winner threw nearly 46’, a distance Kelow surpassed by about three feet when he won at district.

“I thought our field-event kids really shined,” stressed Shaffer. “The throwing rings were never dry and it was really a matter of survival and just getting a (qualifying) mark.”

At state, if the weather doesn’t monkey with the time schedule, under the single-day format utilized this year, Kelow will throw the shot put first, starting at 11 a.m. and, relatively shortly after that, the discus in a session starting at 1 p.m.

For decades prior to this year, state meets were spread across two days and the weight throws were split up – one on the first day and the other on the second – to give contestants involved in both more-equal standing with opponents doing only one. This year, particularly with the two events “back to back,” a “double-dipper” like Kelow could be at a slight disadvantage in the discus.

Chillicothe High School track-and-field Hornets junior Braxten Johnson clears the final hurdle on his way to snaring third place and a trip to state in the 110-meters high hurdles race during the Saturday, May 22, Class 3 sectional meet at Odessa.

Two other CHS 11th graders – district champion Forck and hurdler Johnson – will be in competition at the Dennis and Roberta Licklider Track Complex at Jefferson City’s Adkins Stadium Saturday after taking second and third, respectively, at sectional.

Forck is scheduled to begin action in the high jump at 1 p.m. Saturday.

On the heels of his somewhat-unexpected district title, earned at an even 6’, on May 15, the Hornet jumped 6’2-3/4” (1.9m) successfully at Odessa, yet finished behind Kansas City: Center’s Roman Smith after a “jump-off.”

The “jump-off,” won by Smith at 6’3-3/4” after neither one could clear 6’4-3/4”, was necessary because neither Forck nor Smith had missed any jumps prior to 6’4-3/4”, so there was no tiebreaker on misses possible.

Forck, sidelined much of the first half of the season and thus, like Funk something of a late-season “late bloomer,” in terms of high finishes, could be in the mix for a state medal if he can clear something in the 6’2” or 6’3” neighborhood this coming weekend.

No matter whether you look at it right side up or upside down, Chillicothe High School track-and-field Hornets junior Tristan Forck is up and over the high jump bar on his way to winning the event during the Saturday, May 22, Class 3 sectional meet at Odessa. Forck will compete at the state meet this Saturday.

Johnson’s state fate, in terms of being a top-8 finisher and state medalist, will be decided early and quickly after his 16.66 seconds time at sectional gave him a clear third place.

His state race will be the third one conducted, following the 10 a.m. 3,200-meters runs for each gender, the noon 3,200 relays, and the girls’ 100-meters high hurdles. Race time for Johnson will be 1:15 p.m. and, depending on which heat he’s in – most likely the first, his season will be finished by 1:16 p.m.

Under the prior 2-days meet format, the 16 qualifiers for the sprint-distance races, including both hurdles races, would have preliminary heats on the first day to set a field of eight finalists, who’d have a head-to-head showdown on the second day.

This year, with the single-day format, two sections of eight runners each will race not only each other, but against the clock, with the fastest eight times posted deciding the eight state medal-winners.

“We'll see how things will shake out this coming Saturday,” Shaffer glanced ahead in comments to the C-T Sunday. “The (1-day) format is new to us, since there will not be any prelims in the running or field events.

“Based on how they handled things at sectionals, I'm excited to see how they perform on the big stage.”

While a half-dozen CHS students or recent grads will carry the red-and-black colors to state, another 10 CHS sectional entrants came back from Odessa with their 2021 seasons – and, in a couple of cases , their CHS careers – over.

Senior distance runner Hayden Simmer, a veteran cross country runner who did not participate in track-and-field until 2021, finished only one spot “out of the money” in the boys’ 3,200 at Odessa, but that’s rather deceptive. The race’s fourth-place finisher and last state qualifier, was nearly 45 seconds faster than the Hornet, who had no reason to push himself on the final lap with his fate sealed.

Also entered in the 1,600, Simmer was closer to state, time-wise, in that one, even though his placement was a spot worse at sixth. He ran a 4:57.51, 18 seconds behind the fourth-place runner.

Also competing for the last time at sectional was Delaney May. She ran a leg on the Lady Hornets’ 3,200-meters relay which took fifth place in 10:49.66, only a third of a second away from advancing to state. The other members of the ill-fated quartet were junior Kadence Shipers and freshmen Madison Albaugh and Bonderer.

Those were CHS’ only two fifth-place finishers among the non-state-qualifiers.

Taking sixth in the girls’ 3,200, like Simmer did in the boys’ 1,600, was sophomore Aliyah Briner in 13:54.33. Among the Hornets, promising sophomore Isaiah Sprong took sixth in the javelin throw at 132’11”, among his best distances ever.

Posting seventh places among eight contenders at sectional were the girls’ 1,600 relay group of freshmen Kayanna Cranmer, Bronlyn Ward, Albaugh and Bonderer (4:29.08), frosh Emmy Dillon in the 300-meters low hurdles (51.52), and sophomore Hope Helton in the javelin throw (101’8”).

CHS’ lone eighth-place showing was by sophomore Katelynn Fleener in the shot put (27’4-1/2”/8.34m).

“A lot of them who are not moving on to state still set ‘PRs’ (personal records) in their events,” Shaffer pointed out.