By Dana Harding
When track meet scoring comes down to the wire, the 4×400-meter relay is aptly positioned to serve up a final challenge.
That said, Thursday’s Central Ozark Conference Large Division meet was anything but typical.
Howling winds in excess of 20 mph caused a bit of havoc with early events and necessitated an almost four-hour delay for pole vault and high jump starts due to safety concerns and bar stability.
By the time the marquee relay saw its final baton cross the finish line, the pole vault and high jump were only just getting started with early stages.
With razor-thin margins at the top of both girls and boys overall scoring, the field events were suddenly thrust into the spotlight.
Turns out, both the Nixa girls and Carthage boys had hammers to turn to in the high jump.
Nixa’s Meleah Ridenour and the Carthage duo of Dylan Pruiett and Arkell Smith closed out the team contests and brought their respective schools first-place finishes.
Despite the slim lead heading into the final event, Nixa girls head coach Jim Middleton was confident in his jumpers.
“When you’ve got Ridenour; she’s gone 5’4” and barely missed 5’6” this year, so you’re feeling really good about it” Middleton said. “And Mason Miller is another little freshman for us that’s cleared 5’ this year, too, so both of them are going to score in this event.”
For Carthage and head coach Andy Youngworth, it never hurts to have a pair of aces up your sleeve heading into the home stretch, but the uncertainty of field events can be maddening.
“The fact we started the high jump about 9:00 for the boys makes things a little bit different,” Youngworth said. “But, when you’re down one point going into the high jump, [Pruiett and Smith] have to score. I was confident because I know those guys are very capable, but you never know. High jumpers, and jumpers in general, you never can tell. They can get four scratches, they can no-height, they can twist an ankle coming off the mat, so there are no guaranteed points.”
Swadley doubles up on shot, discus crowns
Early field events took the brunt of the meet’s windy conditions, and discus was no exception.
For Willard’s Nate Swadley, it was just another obstacle.
Swadley made a simple adjustment in the cage prior to winning the event with a throw of 157’ 04”.
“You pretty much had to go in with the mentality of throw it far and keep it in,” Swadley said. “If you do that, it will fly about the same as it normally does. Just throw it lower, keep the nose down and it does what does.”
After a short wait, the Tiger junior was back at it in the shot put, setting a new personal best with a winning throw of 56’ 10”. Swadley he was in for a big one as soon as the shot left his hand.
“It has that feeling of kind of hurting,” Swadley said. “ and then It flies and you’re like, ‘OK, we’re good … just stay in.”
Seeley nets sprint double with 100, 200 victories
The afternoon wind didn’t just affect the field events. Runners had to deal with a brutal crosswind on both stretches, and more than a few competitors were forced to overcome mental hurdles before toeing the line.
Despite holding top seed times in both the 100 and 200, Webb City’s Destiny Seeley wasn’t immune to second-guessing herself during warmups.
“I was really nervous because of all the wind,” Seeley said. “I’ve had some aches in my legs this week, and I didn’t think I was going to do very well, but then I raced. After the 100, I was more confident, and I was like, ‘Well … I guess today’s a day to do good.”
Seeley cruised to victory in the 100 with a time of 12.86, and then followed up with a second first-place finish in the 200 at 26.03.
As she does with all her races, Seeley credited her finish to a secret weapon.
“My dad stands right at the end of the bleachers,” Seeley said. “So, when I hear him, he’s always ‘You gotta finish, you gotta finish,’ so I kind of kick it in right there and I’m like, ‘OK … I gotta go.”
In search of points, Riddle pulls off the distance triple
Webb City head coach Dustin Miller knew his team was in for a dogfight with respect to the overall point total. With plenty of depth in the distance events, Miller looked to his Ryan Riddle to lead the charge.
Riddle responded … and then some.
The senior notched victories in the 800, 1600 and 3200 events. Even more impressive is the fact that Riddle wasn’t gifted an easy race in the bunch. While the distance triple is difficult enough, the COC Large features a deep field of would-be spoilers.
Riddle fended off repeated challenges from Nixa’s Black Procell and Carthage’s Clay Hensley, as well as teammate Tad Capron.
The 800 was where the most trouble lurked, especially considering Procell entered with a faster seed time.
Facing a strong runner known for fast finishes, Riddle went out hard in an attempt to burn out Procell’s kick.
“I just wanted to get out hard and get out to the front,” Riddle said. “I don’t like to get boxed in at the start, and then I just hang on as long as I can. I already knew coming into here that [Procell] has an amazing kick, so I tried to take it out as fast as I can.”
With a healthy lead heading into the final turn, the race appeared to be Riddle’s to lose.
Then, just as expected, Procell’s kick engaged.
In the span of 150 meters, the Nixa sophomore erased Riddle’s lead. With another ten meters, the final result might have been different; however, the Cardinal senior had just enough left to hold off his sophomore rival, edging Procell 1:58.03 to 1:58.48.
– Willard’s Sydney Pyrah netted wins in both 1600 and 3200 events with times of 5:28.07 and 11:48.53, respectively.
– Carl Junction’s Weston Wendt pulled a sprint double with victories in the 100 (11.17) and 200 (22.19)
– Meleah Ridenour continued her field event dominance. The jump queen scored wins in the Long (17’00”), Triple (37’03”) and High (5’04”) jump events.
COC Large Conference – Varsity Girls Results
144 Webb City
65 Carl Junction
COC Large Conference – Varsity Boys Results
124 Webb City
81 Carl Junction