By Dana Harding
For most schools, the conference meet serves as a final tune-up for district and sectional qualifiers, as well as a shift in focus to team-based results.
The Ash Grove girls and Stockton boys utilized overall depth and a little strategy Tuesday afternoon to capture overall team titles.
With do-it-all senior Mallory Keith hurting a bit after the open 400, Ash Grove head coach Jared Langley was forced to make a strategic shuffle in the 4×400 relay.
Enter freshman Makenna Johnson.
“We took one of my girls out of the 4×4 because she was hurting, and we put a different girl in,” Langley said. “I was surprised, in a good way, that [Johnson] ran as well as she did, and we still ended up getting third. [Keith and Johnson] are cousins, so they both can run pretty well, but that was the first 400 she’s ran all year. Pretty good surprise that she ran that well.”
Ash Grove tallied 138.5 points in the meet, finishing ahead of second-place Fair Grove (125 points) and third-place Stockton (100 points).
The boys competition saw much of the same, with a host of runners shuffled into somewhat unfamiliar territory in order to maximize the overall point total.
Stockton head coach T.J Sanderson tinkered with relay lineups early on. Blessed with considerable depth at middle distance, Sanderson opted to go top-heavy in the individual events with fresh runners.
“We took three guys off the 4×800 that are typically on it, but we’ve got some cushion there” Sanderson said. “We’ve got a lot of really good middle distance kids, so we knew we could pretty much take our A-team out altogether, put in our B-team and then run a lot of those guys on the A-team in individual events.”
While the strategy paid off in the end, Sanderson did have to endure post-meet Gatorade bath for his efforts.
In a hotly-contested battle, Stockton’s 154.5 points bested Fair Grove’s 132.5 and Strafford’s 121.
Burns, Locke continue rivalry
Stockton’s Cooper Locke found himself in a bit of unfamiliar territory with an event he’d only run once before, the 1600-meter.
Matched up against Strafford’s Shane Burns in both the 1600 and 800, Locke was tasked with pulling as many points as possible towards Stockton’s overall total.
Knowing he’d finished second to Burns a week earlier in the 800, Locke’s prime event, the Stockton senior was out for a bit of revenge.
While other, larger meets can serve as prime opportunities for fast times and individual success, conference meets typically see more tactical racing in the longer events.
The Mid-Lakes 1600 was no exception.
After a casual first lap, Burns picked up the pace on the second and moved into a comfortable lead.
“The first lap was pretty slow,” Locke said. “It was a 77 [second], so I knew I couldn’t go faster than what I was hoping. My coach had talked to me beforehand and said if I wanted to go for first place, to just go for it, but I looked ahead and saw how far ahead Shane was and knew I wouldn’t be able to get him, so I just ran for second place.”
Locke shifted into a comfortable pace and followed the Strafford senior to the finish for exactly that result. The duo finished in 4:48 and 4:52, respectively.
The 800 marked a much more familiar situation.
Following a timid first lap, Locke managed to outkick his rival down the stretch for a first place finish, 2:05.00 to 2:06.89.
“In the 800, I’ve run up against Shane twice so far,” Locke said. “The first time, it was really close. Afterwards, he said he could hear me coming up from behind and, since then, he’s known that I’ve had more of a kick than he does, and he definitely has more endurance than I do, so he knew he would have to get way ahead of me in the first part of the race in order to beat me. Luckily, I had more of a kick today and caught him in the end.”
Burns followed up the 1600 and 800 with a first-place finish in the 3200.
Cashio powers to first-place finish in the shot put
Sydnee Cashio has a couple goals in mind before she finishes her high school shot put career.
Another shot at a state title and a 40-foot mark.
The Ash Grove senior took a step towards those goals Tuesday, winning the conference shot put event with a 35’ 1.5” throw.
While the 40-foot barrier would tie the Ash Grove school record, it would also set a much more valuable mark.
The Cashio record.
Cashio’s owes a pedigree debt to older sister Halee, a 2014 graduate and current family record-holder at 39’ 4.5”. Cashio credits her older sister for helping develop a fierce, competitive nature.
“What I get from Halee is to not stop pushing to be the best that I can,” Cashio said. “I really want to push towards 40. I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but I really want it. I think the breaking point between where I’m at now and where I want to be is just working on my technique more. This is my last year, and I just want to see how far I can do it.”
Clark nets first-place quadruple
Madison Clark’s impressive season tallied another benchmark..
The Fair Grove freshman won the 100, 200 and 400 Tuesday in thrilling fashion, then anchored the Lady Eagles’ 4×400 relay to another first-place finish.
Clark also set a high school personal best in the 400 with a 59.59, bettering her previous mark by over a second (:60.67). As a seventh-grader, Clark cracked the 60-second barrier with an impressive 59.00.
After finishing third at Strafford behind Ash Grove’s Mallory Keith, Clark vowed to shift her strategy in her least-favorite event.
Facing off against Keith once more, Clark’s strategy paid off. Rather than dash out at the start and drag in for the finish, she ran a brisk but relaxed 300, matching the Ash Grove senior step-for-step after making up the lane stagger.
When the duo rounded the final turn, Clark stretched her kick and cruised home in a finish that left onlookers wondering how much time might have been left on the track.
Key to the race was a shift in mental focus.
“I changed my mentality,” Clark said. “I didn’t go in dreading it. I stayed with [Keith] and then took off in the last 100 meters. She had a couple steps on me, so I decided just to stride out for her, push through and finish the race strong.”
– Fair Grove’s Isaac Mauldin also won the sprint triple, taking first in the 100, 200 and 400 events.
– Stockton’s Luella Bradshaw took first in the girls 1600 and 800. While the Lady Tiger sophomore also posted the fastest seed time for the 3200, Bradshaw finished third behind a PR (13:09.71) from Strafford freshman Madalyn Ward.
Mid-Lakes Conference – Varsity Girls Results
138.5 Ash Grove
125 Fair Grove
69.5 Pleasant Hope
Mid-Lakes Conference – Varsity Boys Results
132.5 Fair Grove
51 Ash Grove
23 Pleasant Hope