However, the Bolivar Liberators were red-hot, taking home a meet-high 15 first-place finishes in the All-Relays at JFK Stadium Tuesday night.
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“We ‘ve been coming to this meet for the last three years, and look forward to it each year. I feel like in 16 years of coaching this could definitely be the best boys and girls team we’ve had,” said Bolivar head coach Vickie Newcomb. “We’ve got kids that work hard and don’t complain. They come to practice in rain, sleet, snow, we’ve had it all this spring, and just give it their best. I’m not surprised by their success because of how hard they work.”
Tuesday’s success was headlined by junior Daiwa Emmert who took home a clean sweep in the jumps.
Emmert placed first in the high jump (5’), long jump (16’4.5”) and triple jump (31’6.25”). In each instance, the runner-up was also a fellow Liberator.
“It really helps a lot to come here and compete as a team,” said Emmert. “Having them here really makes you want to push harder and score points for them.”
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Classmate Allie Burlison also had a great day for the Liberators.
The junior took first in the pole vault with a jump of 9’6”, a full two feet better than the second place finisher. She also was part of the 4x800 and 4x200 relay teams that took first place with times of 11:00.87 and 1:51.18 respectively.
“It makes me feel good. I didn’t get my goal today, but we still got points so I’m happy. Everything we do is for the team. Even though track is an individual sport, we try to do everything together as a family,” said Burlison.
Burlison, who owns the school record at 10’, continues to impress her coach Daniel Bayless.
“She came in as a freshman and set the school record at 9-feet, and since then she’s consistently moved it up. I really think she’s going to go higher,” said Bayless. “She’s maturing and wrapping her mind around it a lot better as far as the competition part and she’s learning how to handle those things.”
The race of the night came in the 4x200 relay that saw Parkview edge out Ozark Conference rival Lebanon by just .14 of a second, 1:31.29 to 1:31.43.
The Vikings used the same quartet of AJ Green, Chris Hargrove, Maurice Downey, and anchor Brandon Huddleston to also take home the 4x100 title with a 44.24.
Huddleston, just a junior, relishes the opportunity to anchor the Viking squad.
“Anchoring is a pressure filled situation. If you win you get all the glory, but if you lose it’s almost all your fault. I like the pressure, it helps me run better,” said Huddleston. “At Parkview we have a pretty good team, and last year we were state champions in the 4x100 and placed in the top 10 in the 4x200 so I’m pretty honored to anchor those teams.”
Despite the loss Tuesday, the Lebanon quartet of Aren Martin, Quinten Randolph, Brandon Newell, and Jeff Plake still have the area’s best 4x200 time at 1:31.00.
Plake would redeem himself in the 200 open and the 4x400 relay, taking first place in both with times of 23.98 and 3:33.77 respectively. As it stands, Plake would have a chance to qualify for state for an impressive fourth straight year.
“It would mean the world to me,” said Plake. “I’ve been to state every year of high school and to go again this year would be absolutely amazing. I would like to go to our graduation which is the same day, but it would be even better to skip graduation to go to a track meet.”
In the 400 open Plake was topped by Bolivar’s Haryl Starkey with a time of 51.24.
JFK Stadium has been a second home to the Liberator’s senior, who has first and second place finishes in two meets at the venue this season alone.
Regardless of being the smallest school in Tuesday’s meet, Starkey knows that meets like the All-Relays will help his team prepare for May.
“I use days like this to get better, not necessarily to win, although I would like to win every time I run. I just try to utilize the opportunity to get better,” said Starkey. “We’re the smallest school here. If we can do well against bigger schools, then come sectionals and state we should feel right at home.”
Even with so much individual success, Newcomb continues to stress team first to her Bolivar squad.
“Our team motto is ‘Individually committed, to our team success’. Our team comes first over individuals and we preach to our kids all the time that we are going to take care of you as an individual, but our goal is as a team,” said Newcomb. “We most definitely want to get as many individuals and relays to state as possible, but at the end of the day we are Bolivar Liberators and we want to represent the name on our jersey.”
That mantra even extends to the athletes after their event has ended.
“We typically don’t let our kids sign out until the last event because they are a part of a team. Everybody is on their feet cheering for their teammates,” said Newcomb. “The kicker on the football team doesn’t go home after he kicks, so that is the way we play.”