By Brock Sisney (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
JOPLIN — Here we are nearly halfway through high school spring sports and the Joplin Eagles only competed in their second meet this season when they welcomed nine other schools Friday night to their annual home invitational.
It had been 15 days for the Eagles between meets, since their season opener Apr. 1 at Carthage and they missed out when their meet last Friday at NCAA Division II school Pittsburg State (Kansas) was canceled — a meet that most or all of the schools in the Joplin Invitational field also lost from their schedule.
Webb City swept team titles on Friday, with the boys edging host Joplin in dramatic fashion.
The Cardinals entered the final event of the night — the pole vault — trailing the host Eagles by 20.5 points and three medalists swung the meet in the Cardinals’ favor at just the right time for them. Pryce Mason and Grayson Smith tied for first, earning a combined 18 points, and Justin Allen’s fifth place finish secured four more points and the team title.
“I thought it went really well,” Joplin head coach Brandon Taute said. “We were a little worried with the weather about how it was going to turn out. It was a little bit of rain, but it wasn’t too cold and it wasn’t too windy, so I thought the meet ran smooth. As far as the kids go, we were worried about how they would handle these conditions and they would mentally check out, but they did a really good job of doing the little things right, warming up, and competing. I’m super pleased with the way it went. We were solid across the board.
“On the boys side, Donovahn Watkins threw well. We’ve been kind of waiting for him. He won shot put, hit a big one for him, so he broke out of his shell. Hobbs Campbell in the distance events, Micah (Bruggeman) in the distance events, all our distance runners ran well. Our 4×8 looked good and I thought all our relays looked good. Trayshawn Thomas and Donovyn Fowler in the jumps came through like they always do. We held a couple kids out of a few events to make sure we don’t get them hurt, but I thought we did well overall.
“On the girls side, Jennalee Dunn was really good and I thought all our relays were good, as well. Allie Lawrence ran well in the sprints. Just super pleased.”
On the boys side, Webb City senior Mekhi Garrard earned a pair of firsts and one second, good for 28 points from the 200-meter dash, the long jump, and the triple jump. In all three events, Garrard battled Joplin standout Fowler with Garrard first and Fowler second in both the 200 and the triple. Fowler prevailed over Garrard in the long jump.
Joplin won three of the four relays — the 4×100 of Nathan Glades, Thomas, Dominick Simmons and Fowler, the 4×200 of Glades, Luke Vieselmeyer, Simmons and Evan Overstreet, and the 4×800 of Nicholas Horton, Ryan Byers, Ashton Ventura and Zaben Barnes. Neosho’s quartet of Tristan Clanton, Evan Haskins, Kaden Cole and Isaiah Green won first in the 4×400, with Joplin in second.
Distance runner Campbell gave a strong performance on the home track with double victories in the 1600 and 3200.
Other individual titles were earned by Glades in the 100, Neosho’s Cole in the 800, Webb City’s Caleb Cook in the 110 and Gustavo Sabbag in the 300 hurdles, Webb City’s Luke Brumit in the high jump, Watkins in the shot, Webb City’s Zetthew Meister in the discus, and Carthage’s Caleb Calvin in the javelin.
On the girls side, Webb City won two of the three sprints with titles for Essence Robinson in the 200 and Riley Hawkins in the 400. Haidyn Berry earned the other individual first for the Lady Cardinals with the best distance in the javelin.
Nevada finished second behind a pair of strong throwing showings by shot put winner Claire Pritchett and discus winner Taylor Thompson. Their junior classmate Lillian Hart claimed first in both the high and the long jump.
Carl Junction’s Alanza Montez won titles in the 100 and 300 hurdles and Dunn’s titles in the 800 and 1600 highlighted the Lady Eagles’ night.
Other titles went to Carl Junction’s Shiloh Sluder in the 100, Neosho freshman Riley Kemna in the 3200, Carl Junction in the 4×100, Carthage in the 4×200, Nevada in the 4×400, Joplin in the 4×800, Carl Junction’s Emerson Lundien in the pole vault, and Neosho’s Jayden Browning in the triple.
Joplin returns to action Thursday in the Willard Invitational.
“After losing Pitt State, we saw the weather and we’re like we just can’t lose another meet,” Taute said. “It worked out because it (weather) wasn’t as bad as we thought it was going to be. It’s good to get another meet under our belt. To have only two meets under our belt at this point, it’s pretty crazy, honestly.
“Coming into the season, we didn’t know who we were as a team, where everybody fit, and so this meet helped us figure some of those things out. I feel like we’re starting to figure out who we are as a team and down the stretch, we’re going to be tough.”
Team scores, boys — Webb City 167.5, Joplin 166, Rogers Heritage (Ark.) 106.5, Neosho 90, Nevada 41.5, McDonald County 37.5, Carthage 33, Columbus (Kan.) 28, Carl Junction 23.5, Riverton (Kan.) 17.5.
Team scores, girls — Webb City 129, Nevada 121, Neosho 102.5, Joplin 99, Carl Junction 98, Carthage 62, Riverton 38.5, Columbus 34, McDonald County 31.