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Groves eager to take next step in title chase
The top step.
It's the pinnacle of the medal podium, reserved for the best track and field athletes in the state.
In her previous two years at the Class 2 championships, Loren Groves of Scott City has been everywhere in Jefferson City but on the top step.
The junior is quite familiar with the podium, though, as she prepares for the start of the state meet today. Groves, who possesses a unique blend of power and speed, has competed in seven events at the state meet in her first two years and has has been an all-stater seven times. The finishes include four seconds, a third, a fourth and a fifth.
One of those seconds was a heart-breaking one-hundreth of a second loss in the 100-meter hurdles as a freshman.
On Monday, Groves gave herself four more chances for a state championship. She won all four of her events at the Class 2, District 1 meet in East Prairie to increase her career total of district titles to 11.
The wins put her at the head of a group of local athletes competing in the Class 1 and 2 state championships today and Saturday in Jefferson City.
Accomplished in the hurdles and throws, Groves is unbeaten this year, going a perfect 48 for 48 in 12 meets. In her three years in high school, she's never lost in an individual event outside the state meet.
"She's just an amazing athlete," Scott City coach Tyson Moyers said. "She has a lot of talent, but she works hard."
Competing at state for the second straight year in the discus, shot put, 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles, Groves appears to have a better chance than ever to reach the top step.
"Hopefully I can this time," Groves said.
She has four shots at a state title, but appears to be the favorite in the discus, an event she's improved dramatically this season after finishing second in the state the past two years.
"I think I'm more excited this year because I have the mentality that I can actually win," Groves said.
She threw 120 feet 6 inches at the state meet last year, five feet behind the winning toss. Those distances pale to her current throws. She's topped 140 feet on several occasions this year and has upped her school record to 145-1.
She threw 137-1 in her first meet this year, which would have been a record at the Class 2 championships.
"You never know until you get up there," Moyers said. "I try to keep tabs on other people in the state, but I haven't seen anybody throw over 130, 135. She's got a real good chance in the discus."
Groves has been fine-tuning her technique in the throws and hurdles for years. She was introduced to the hurdles in fifth grade and added the throws in the seventh grade. With each passing year, she seems to gravitate toward the throws, which she will probably perform at the college level in a couple of years.
"It seems like I'm developing to where my body type is more of a thrower," Groves said. "I do hurdles to keep points for my team and to stay in shape."
A third-place finisher in the state shot put last year with a throw of 34 feet, Groves has pushed her school record to 39 feet this year.
Her hurdling ability has not suffered with her improvement in the throws.
She recently lowered her school record in the 100 hurdles to 15.63 seconds, and her season-best time in the 300 hurdles (47.9) is just two-tenths of a second off her school record.
"Honestly, if she has a good two days, she can go up and win all four," Moyers said. "If that happens, it happens. But two days of doing prelims and you're going as hard as you can go at state, that's not easy. She has a chance in any and all of her events and that's very impressive."
A good two days could also put Scott City's girls near the top of the team standings. Last year the Rams sent just Groves and their 3,200 relay team and finished seventh in the state.
This year, Scott City's girls will be represented in nine events.
"Our goal is to be in the top three in the state," Moyers said. "But to do that we have to have points from other places than just Loren."
Other district winners for Scott City were Angie Laxton in the 3,200 and the Rams' 3,200 relay team, which consists of Christy Laxton, Kacie Cartwright, Alisha Obermann and Jenny Pinkston.
"I think we've got a good shot at winning top four in the state as a team with our relay and the Laxton twins," Groves said.
The top two finishers in the district meet advanced to state.
Angie Laxton will compete in the 1,600; Christy Laxton will run in the 800; and Cartwright will perform in the 400.
Also in Class 2, district winner Nathan Lewer of Kelly will compete in the high jump, and Scott City's Joe Brunner will run in the 200.
Competitors must finish in the top eight to earn all-state honors.
In Class 1, Jennifer Vandeven leads a group of 12 Chaffee athletes. Vandeven, a senior, won district titles in the 100, 200 and 400 and qualified in four events at the District 1 meet in Fulton.
Chaffee also will feature a district winner -- Amy Holmes -- in the high jump.
Other Chaffee girls competing individually will be Kate Pfefferkorn (discus), Nicole Poe (shot put) and Lindsay Everett (1,600, 3,200). The trio of Holmes, Shannon Hampton and Natalie Townsend will join Vandeven in the 400 relay.
Chaffee's boys will have two district champions at the meet in Matt Sanders (discus) and Sid Burks (high jump). Also competing will be Brandon Davis (high jump, 300 hurdles), Nick Powderly (triple jump) and Brett Whitaker (discus).
Also in Class 1, Oran will be represented by district long jump champion Jan Eftink. Eftink, a junior, traveled 14 feet, 11.5 inches in winning the title.
Class 3,4 sectionals
Sectional track and field meets will be Saturday. Central and Jackson athletes who finished among the top four at last weekend's Class 4, District 1 meet will strive to reach the state meet by finishing in the top four at Eureka High School in St. Louis County.
Central district winners were Cody Beaton (high jump), Jeremiah Dukes (triple jump), Mikell Abraham (shot put), Jennifer Pancoast (800, 1,600) and Vicki Wilson (100). Central's girls 3,200 relay team of Pancoast, Linnea Woldtvedt, Holly Shaffer and Alex Wieser also finished first at district.
Leading Jackson into sectionals are district winners James Fortner (300 hurdles), Isaac Venable (800), Stuart McIntosh (pole vault) and Heather West (triple jump).
Notre Dame and Perryville athletes who passed District 1 tests will strive for the top four spots in a Class 3 sectional at Festus.
Leading the charge for Notre Dame is district 100-meter champion Adam Prasanphanich.
Emily Amberger (200) was the lone individual district champion for Perryville. The quartet of Chase Colum, Kent Hadler, Terry Wood and Ryan Shea combined to win titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 relays.
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