By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Many meet records fell at the SBU HS Invitational on Tuesday. There were also 10 new area No. 1 marks for 2019 established. Read about the big performances from the meet below.
Ward continues Carl Junction’s sprint tradition with a pair of victories
How do you follow up three Carl Junction’s most decorated sprinters in Weston Wendt, Sam Repsher and Lucas Berliew?
If you’re Lance Ward, you just keep doing Lance Ward things.
The Bulldog junior pulled off a sprint double in Tuesday’s SBU Bearcat Classic, winning the 200 meter and 400 meter events.
In both events, Ward also broke the existing meet records.
In the 200, Ward raced to victory with a time of 21.92, breaking the 2018 mark held by former teammate Weston Wendt (22.08).
In the 400, Ward set another record mark with a blistering 48.59 finish, racing away from the field by a nearly two-second margin.
From the first meet of the season, Ward has been in top racing form. As the meets continue to get bigger and the stakes higher, his times start to drop.
Pressure, according to Ward, seems to be his ultimate motivator.
“I usually run pretty good at big meets like SBU,” Ward said. “As the season progresses, like state, I always PR — at least I have the last two years. So, I’m looking to run probably my best time of the year there. Mainly because I get excited about the pressure, and all the people there really help fuel me.”
The victory in the 400 also recaptures the area’s top time for Ward from Nevada’s Devin McHugh, in what is likely to be a season-long battle between district rivals.
“I think running this well today is a good platform to improve from,” Ward said. “I think the competition we have this year is great for both of us, because we can make each other better.”
As for carrying on the Carl Junction sprint tradition, Ward was quick to pay homage to his former teammates and friends for helping find his own path to success.
“I think our graduating class last year was very stacked, and I loved all those guys on there,” Ward said. “Sam, Lucas and Weston — they were like brothers to me, and they taught me how to be a better person and a better man. They left some pretty big shoes to fill, and we’re trying to get everybody to pull together and do that.”
Alternate strategy yields double golds for Puetz
Rolla’s Emma Puetz burst onto the cross country scene as a freshman and notched some big wins early in the season.
At the time, she ran races the only way she knew — charge out to the front and hold the lead as long as possible.
With nearly three seasons of high school running under her belt, the junior has a slew of race tactics at her disposal.
At the SBU Bearcat Classic, Puetz opted to lurk behind the lead pack and showcase a devastating finishing kick.
“I’ve been talking to my dad, my coach and everything,” Puetz said. “I really like to lead the race, but we figured that the best strategy right now is to tuck in right behind someone and just stick with them all the way until the 200 and then blast off.”
Puetz and her rocket ship plan worked to perfection on Tuesday.
In both the 1600 and 800 meter runs, she sat on the leaders and made her move heading into the final turn.
At SBU, those leaders just happened to hold the season’s top marks in the area — Ozark’s Alexis and Brocklyn Barber.
“I wanted to make sure they didn’t get too far ahead of me,” Puetz said. “Alexis was in the first lane, and Brocklyn was on her right in between one and two. I had to go all the way out into lane three, and I was like, oh my gosh — I have to bring this in. I can’t be out this far, but I have to. This is the only chance I’m going to get. So I just gave it my all the entire way.”
Puetz finished with a personal best time of 5:11.99, after pulling away in the final 100 meters from Brocklyn (5:14.48) and Alexis Barber (5:15.97).
While the plan — and result — was largely the same in the 800 meter run, the journey was much different.
Heading into the final lap, Puetz found herself boxed in and unable to move into an ideal position.
“Oh my gosh,” Puetz said. “I could not get around. We were all so close, and somebody actually stepped on the back of my shoe. I’ve been working on my last 200 so much this season. It’s crucial to have a good finish and thank goodness I did.”
Once again, Puetz moved through the final turn and managed to get herself into position on the final straightaway to push for the line.
While she was able to pull away from her competitors in the 1600, Puetz needed every bit of 795 meters to finally gain an advantage in this one.
Her finishing time of 2:22.55 barely edged Brocklyn (2:22.75) and Alexis Barber (2:24.02) yet again, capping off a day Puetz had been dreaming of all season long.
“This boosted my confidence so much,” Puetz said. “I’ve seen articles about [the Barber twins] and everything, and they’re always ranked ahead of me. I was like, I have to get them — I have to get them. I just had to prove that I was better. Today, I’m so, so excited that I got first.”
Basham continues hurdle dominance with 100-meter victory
Natalie Basham is no stranger to firsts, but the Camdenton senior and former state champion has had to deal with a pretty significant one this season.
Her first season without a pair of graduated standout teammates — fellow state champion hurdler Kylie Meier and sprinter Grace Wormek.
Despite the adversity, Basham has stepped up to become a leader on the Lady Laker squad.
“It definitely helps my drive and motivation,” Basham said. “It’s been a struggle for the beginning of the year with an injury and trying to overcome that and not having my teammates with me since they graduated. It’s hard, but I’m just trying to be the big girl now and lead for my younger ones coming up.”
If Tuesday’s SBU Bearcat Classic is any indication, Basham might well be rounding into form for another state-title run.
A poor start in the 100-meter hurdle final put her a step behind Nixa’s Allison Brumley.
After quickly making up the difference, the two went stride for stride over the hurdle sets, neither athlete willing to give up an inch.
On the last hurdle, Basham finally pulled ahead to win the race with a time of 14.93, just ahead of Brumley (15.09) and Lebanon’s Jenna Glendenning (15.38).
Heading into the final 30 meters, Basham knew she was in for a fight that would bring out the best in her.
“You know, [Brumley] was neck-and-neck,” Basham said. “I was like — I gotta fight, I gotta fight, so I just pushed hard. I was like, ‘let’s finish this race and see what happens — I’ll be happy either way.’”
With a big-meet victory and finishing time that puts her on track for a shot at the state podium, Basham has her eyes on the prize.
“I just broke 15 today, so that’s a good — that’s a start,” Basham said. “It feels good, and I know that I can push, and I struggled with some of those hurdles during this race. So, I know that’s a good thing to realize. I think if I just push and get those nerves out of me and just have fun, it’ll be great.”
Aurentz hoping for one big throw at state
Kennedy Aurentz has had plenty of first place finishes during shot put career.
The Kickapoo senior added yet another one at Tuesday’s SBU Bearcat Classic with a throw of 42-04.
Despite the victory, Aurentz admits she has something else on her mind. Namely, the one thing that has eluded her thus far.
A state title.
Aurentz has a pair of runner-up finishes and third-place finish as a freshman, but the goal to be the best continues to drive her.
“I show up to practice every day with state in my head,” Aurentz said. “I’ve wanted that for so long, and it’s my senior year. I want to perform the best I can.”
In order to do so, Aurentz has stepped up her training regimen with additional strength and agility work.
“I actually started working out on the side with my trainer in CrossFit,” Aurentz said. “I’ve been getting a lot of shoulder strength and agility for my explosion, so that’s what I’ve been working towards — moving faster in the ring.”
While the additional strength and agility will pay dividends down the road, Aurentz feels her own mental focus is the key to big throws.
“I just always have it in my head,” Aurentz said. “My thing before every meet is ‘chuck it,’ because I don’t want to get in my own head.”
With one more opportunity to reach the pinnacle at the state level, Aurentz feels her one big throw is out there waiting to be captured in a true walk-off moment for her career.
“I really want to pop a PR off,” Aurentz said. “I’ve had a rough time breaking 43 this year, and I want to hit 46 so bad [at state]. That’s how I’m going in — hit the biggest throw you can and make it a big statement your last time ever. That’s what I want to walk away with.”
Warsaw’s Love nets quadruple in small-school competition
Parker Love is nothing if not versatile.
The Warsaw junior finished first in four events during Tuesday’s SBU Bearcat Classic.
Three of Love’s events — the 100 meter, 200 meter and triple jump — were in the Class 1, 2 and 3 competition.
In the long jump, Love placed first among all competitors with the simplest of game plans.
“I just go out there and jump,” Love said. “Whatever happens, happens.”
Love’s jump of 21-00.5 bested Lamar’s Dylan Lee Hill (19-05.5) and Hollister’s Tristan Parker (18-11) in the small-class division. Camdenton’s Gabriel Kurtz finished first in the large-class competition (4 and 5) with a jump of 20-05.5.
For Love, the opportunity to compete in a large meet with bigger schools is invaluable as he prepares for postseason challenges.
“I’m from a small school, but I like to know how I’m doing against everyone, overall, not just all the other smaller schools. Going into it, I just think about how I know the bigger schools are known for being better, but I just want to get myself out there and stay with them.”
Love’s finishing times in the 100 meter (11.45) and 200 meter (22.43) would have placed him seventh and tied for second in an overall classification. His triple jump distance of 40-08.5 would have notched another second-place overall finish.
The challenge for a multi-event standout is maintaining focus throughout a chaotic day spent travelling back and forth between track and field events which often take place simultaneously.
For Love, compartmentalization is key.
“I take it one at a time,” Love said. “If I know I’m getting ready for the 100, I’m going to focus on the 100 and think about jumping events and everything else later.”
Hendrickson posts rare 400 win from outside lane
Lane eight has long been considered the 400 meter run’s poison pill.
Stuck on the far outside in a staggered start, runners are unable to see any competitors and make any in-race tactical adjustments. In effect, it’s an all-out race flying blind.
No problem if you’re Birdie Hendrickson
The Logan-Rogersville junior ran away with the event during Tuesday’s SBU Bearcat Classic, finishing in 59.91.
Hendrickson was the meet’s only finisher to break the one-minute barrier, besting Republic’s Jasmyn Douglas (1:00.22) and Nixa’s Mackenzie Ihasz (1:00.63).
“Going into it, I was like, ‘oh no — I’m in eight. Everyone’s going to be chasing me the whole time,’” Hendrickson said. “You’ve just got to get out hard, run fast and finish strong. It’s hard, but I got out pretty fast.”
It should come as little surprise volleyball’s Gatorade Player of the Year was able to deal with a little adversity. While the approaches are different to her two sports, the mental focus required to perform at peak levels is the same across the board.
“In volleyball, you have a big team and it’s all about the team,” Hendrickson said. “In track, you’re just solo. You’re going out there, and you’re trying to win for yourself and compete with other girls and not just a team.”
Abel notches another shot victory in his first season of throwing
After deciding to give track and field a try for the first time this season, Cameron Abel isn’t doing bad at all.
Already staking his claim to the top shot put mark in the Ozarks, the Lebanon senior added another victory during Tuesday’s SBU Bearcat Classic.
Abel’s winning throw of 49-05 bested Hillcrest’s Kenesareta Moi (46-05.5) and Rolla’s Kaberon Burgess (45-00.50)
While pleased with the win, Abel was hoping to improve on his area-best mark of 51-05.5 set last month in Lebanon.
“I wasn’t too impressed with my throws today, but I’ll take the 49 — it was pretty decent,” Abel said. “It felt good coming out of my hand; better than the last one — a scratch.”
A defensive lineman for the Yellowjackets in the fall, Abel credits assistant coach Garett Wade for helping him quickly make progress in the shot put.
“Coach Wade has taught me a lot,” Abel said. “I came in and didn’t know anything about shot; I didn’t know it was a thing for a while, but then Coach Wade taught me a lot and had me work a lot. I’ve just been trying to get as many reps in as I can.”
With plenty of raw power, Abel has been putting in the reps in order to improve his technique.
“Mostly footwork,” Abel said. “That’s the key to it. What I was told is 70 percent comes from your kicking foot, so it’s what I try to work on.”
While a trip to the state championship competition lurks on the horizon, Abel isn’t concerned with that at the moment.
Right now, he’s too busy with his continued development at his new craft.
“I just work my butt off and get as many reps as a I can,” Abel said. “My goal is just to get new PRs.”
Sustaita captures steeplechase title and track record
For most would-be competitors, the steeplechase offers a cruel introduction to world of barriers and water jumps. Crowds pack the outer lanes surrounding the far corner to watch athletes splash over, through and, occasionally, into the water obstacle.
Fortunately, Eros Sustaita was no stranger to the unique event rarely run at the high school level.
“This was actually my second time doing it this year,” Sustaita said. “First time was a KU Relays in a very competitive race with some great schools from Denver, Nebraska and everywhere. It’s a big regional meet, and to get an eighth place there — it’s a big accomplishment.”
The Nixa junior ran away in the 2000 meter race, winning with a time of 6:29.82.
Sustaita also set a new meet record in the process.
“Coming into this race, I knew I was going to get a good time,” Sustaita said. “I knew I was going to run 6:36 or less — I just felt it. I knew what I was doing, and my water jumps were a lot better than at KU.”
A solid 1600 meter runner, Sustaita attributes his success in the event to the ability to push through fears and simply ride the adrenaline wave.
“Steeple’s one of those events that high schoolers don’t really get a lot of,” Sustaita said. “The people that do it, you’ve just got to go out and do it. I’ve never been a hurdler my entire life. So, going out and hurdling some of these things, it’s a lot, but you can’t start worrying too much. When the barrier gets there, the barrier gets there — and I jump it.”
Glendenning tallies upset in 300 meter hurdles
In a showdown featuring two of the area’s premier hurdlers, Jenna Glendenning took out a state champion in Camdenton’s Natalie Basham.
The Lebanon junior’s winning time of 45.99 bested Basham’s 46.81 during Tuesday’s SBU Bearcat Classic.
After the race, Glendenning recapped her thought process for a successful run.
“I know that I always have to get a really good start up to my first hurdle,” Glendenning said. “So, I automatically think my mind has got to get out of the blocks really quickly. Then, I just focus on my curve and not stutter-stepping up to the first hurdle. Finishing strong then is what my coaches have been telling me what to do.”
While the win establishes Glendenning as the area’s top active 300 meter hurdler (Kickapoo’s Jaden Wiley is out for the season with an injury), she was quick to credit her friend and rival Basham.
“Me and Natalie have been friends a while,” Glendenning said. “When we were little, we wrestled against each other growing up. I just thank her, because she always pushes me, every single race, and I probably wouldn’t be where I am as a hurdler without her. It’s a big deal, but I also have to give her some credit, because she’s pretty awesome.”
Other notable girls performances
– Ozark’s Sydney Johnson established a new area-best in the 200-meter dash. She won the event in a time of 25.17.
– Nixa freshman Alicen Ashley executed her race strategy to perfection in the 3200-meter run. Her winning time of 11:30.11 broke the meet record by one second and is the new No. 1 mark in southwest Missouri. West Plains’ Mia Harris finished second with a time of 11:32.23, which is the No. 2 time in the area.
– The 3200-meter relay saw six new top 10 times for the area led by Ozark’s 9:36.93. The Lady Tigers are the dominant No. 1 3200-meter relay team in the area leading the event by 17 seconds over No. 2 West Plains.
– Willow Springs’ Emily Daniels won the high jump competition outright with a leap of 5’5, which is also puts her alone at the top of the southwest Missouri leaderboard in the event.
– Ozark ran away with the Class 4-5 and overall girls team title with 147 points. Eldon won the Class 1-3 girls team title with 91.50 points.
Other notable boys performances
– Camdenton’s Parker Wormek finished second in the 110-meter hurdles, but still established a new area No. 1 time of 15.15.
– Bolivar’s Blade Hancock became the first area athlete to break the 40-second barrier in the 300-meter hurdles with a blistering 39.75 to win the event.
– The Carl Junction 400-meter relay dipped under the 1:30 mark at 1:29.99 to win the event and establish the new No. 1 time in the area for the event.
– West Plains’ 3200-meter set the new meet record in the event by .08 with a time of 8:05.78. That is also the area’s new No. 1 time.
– Lamar won the overall and Class 1-3 team title with 93 points. Camdenton was the overall runner-up and Class 4-5 team champion with 73 points.