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Preparation: Seniors Martez Manuel (left), Marcus Manuel (middle) and Eli Darrough prepare for an upcoming track meet. Darrough will be going to Oklahoma University and running track. Photo by Sarah Mosteller.

Track heads into sectionals on Saturday

It’s been a chaotic season for track and field, and the Class 5 District 6 meet Saturday, May 11 was no different.

Girls’ varsity took home first place out of eight teams while the boys’ side took fourth. Many athletes on both teams will move on to sectionals Saturday, May 18.

All four boys’ relay groups will take part and the girls’ 4×200 and 4×800 relay groups will progress, but their 4×100 relay team missed out by just four tenths of a second.

Sophomore Tyra Wilson placed first in her four events: 200 meter dash, 100 meter hurdles, 300 meter hurdles and triple jump. Sophomore Zakiya Porter will move on in the 100 meter dash after a fourth place finish. Additionally, freshmen Maci Steuber and Grace Fisher both ran in the two mile placing second and fourth, respectively. Emily Litton and Adison Farris took second and third in the pole vault to earn a trip to sectionals.

For the boys’ open events, sophomore Matthew Hauser will compete in both the mile and two-mile run after placing fourth and third, respectively. Senior Martez Manuel will race in the 110 and 300 meter hurdles, having taken second in both.

Field athletes were also successful. Senior Quinton Brown will compete in high jump after a second place finish at districts. In pole vault, senior Eli Darrough nabbed a second place finish to head into sectionals. Senior DJ Baker will throw in shot put, having placed fourth, and senior Melvin Drayton will compete in both shot put and discus after placing third and fourth, respectively.

Coach Neal Blackburn believes that the level of both mental and physical turmoil these athletes go through to make it out of districts shows just how much they are capable of.

“Some tend to rise to the level of their competition, and others get caught up in it,” Blackburn said. “Being able to look inward and monitor and control oneself is probably the most important thing to do.”

However, with these accomplishments come some unfortunate news in the form of injuries. Sophomore Dillon Hilbert, another consistent source of points for the team, sustained injuries after his event in pole vault. Hilbert jumped incorrectly during one of his attempts, landed on his neck on the runway and suffered a compression in his spine, resulting in an L1 fracture. He rushed to the hospital shortly after the injury.

“He is conscious and okay,” Blackburn said. “He is currently at home, and I doubt that he would come back to school this week. He just needs rest.”

Senior Kyjuan Collins, who played an important role in the boys’ relay groups, went down with an injury to his hamstring, as well, causing him not to compete in some of his events at districts. This created an issue with who will be put in his place. Blackburn plans for situations like this, having multiple ready athletes training specifically for cases similar to those of Saturday.

“We focus on execution and try not to purposefully do anything different than what we’re used to,” Blackburn said of their training. “Consistency is key.”

Blackburn had high praise for his athletes moving into the postseason, stating these students had incredible resilience when things looked tough, mainly surrounding injuries.

“We’ve gone through it every season and every sport where there’s been times it may look bleak,” Blackburn said. “But where we’re at right now is the best we’ve looked all season, with people coming off injuries and people really starting to show what they’re capable of.”

Consistency and execution drive team members freshman Dasha Schauwecker and Brown. Both are in sprints and also compete in two different events, with Brown doing high jump and Schauwecker being a part of the 4×200 and 4×400 sprint relays. They share similar thought processes when it comes to the pressure of the postseason.

“In order to push myself at this point, it’s going to take a huge amount of focus and passion,” Brown said. “How badly do I or we want this championship, and are we willing to perform for each other?”

Brown says being a student athlete comes with difficulties and outside distractions, especially in the form of school and graduation. But he doesn’t let that get to him and remembers, “You just gotta push through that.”
Schauwecker has the same mindset and wants to prove to herself and others that her hard work was not done in vain.

“The hardest thing is doubting myself,” Schauwecker said. “The stakes are high, and I’ve been feeling a little anxious. But I’m going to push as hard as I can. I just have to want it.”

The coach and two athletes believe the team has performed as well as they have under this pressure because of their camaraderie.

“Our team is like a big family. We work together, and we fight together,” Schauwecker said. “We’ve worked so hard all season for this. We’ve all gotten stronger and faster.”
With an increased sense of accomplishment throughout the season, Brown believes the Bruins are not to be taken lightly.

“We’re a legitimate track team that can compete with anyone. It’s easy to take us lightly because we’re a team [in Columbia] and not the big city areas,” Brown said. “But we put in more work than just about any team in Missouri and continue to strive for greatness.”

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