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Saxony's Simpher looks to build on her state title
Saxony Lutheran sophomore Cassie Simpher remembers when she was 5 years old and she would race all her neighborhood friends.
"I would have all the kids line up in my yard and I'd race them, and I'd always beat all of them," Simpher said.
Simpher's mother, Carmen Simpher, added: "We'd look out the window and the kids would all run past the window in a line with Cassie way ahead of them. We'd tell her that she was going to have to let them win every now and then or nobody was going to come over anymore."
Cassie, in her second season of varsity track and field with the Crusaders, is still typically the runner leading the pack.
She placed first at last spring's Class 1 state meet in the 400 meters, running it in 59.8 seconds.
She also earned third-place finishes as a freshman in both the 100 (12.88) and 200 meters (26.43).
Despite winning the state title, Simpher said she could have placed higher and ran better times in the 100 and 200. Her times in those races peaked at the sectional meet. She looks forward to trying to win all three sprints this season.
Saxony coach Larry Cleair said Simpher looks to be in even better physical condition this spring.
"She just looks like an athlete ready to hit the line," Cleair said.
Passion for running
Carmen and Cassie's dad, Brad Simpher, saw their daughter's passion cultivate as early as age 3.
"We signed her up for the Jackson track club they have for little kids," Carmen said. "After that she just kind of caught the bug of racing. ... When she would run as a little kid and run races at the track meets she would smile the whole way."
Cassie has competed in AAU meets and at the Show Me Games. She still holds the Show-Me State Games' 8-year-old record for the 200 meters, Carmen said.
Brad said when Cassie was young she would always want him to take her to the track to run. He would also have her do sprints up the hill in front of their house in Jackson.
"[Her running] is more for the competition and the joy of doing well," Carmen said.
Loves to compete
Cassie said her favorite meets are the ones against larger schools, such as Jackson. She looks forward to beating the best competition.
"Hopefully I'll show God's word to people from running track at such a small school and competing and beating other Class 4 times at a Class 1A school," Cassie said. "I love to run. I know it sounds like no fun to run, but I like the winning."
Cassie, who began a speed and agility class in November to improve her strength, enjoys racing against the Saxony boy sprinters during practices. The boys enjoy the challenge of racing her, too.
"We did a 30-meter run in the [school] hallway one day," freshman Shawn Hadler said. "It was tied by the end. ... Since she's fast she wants to prove she can beat us. It helps her push harder. It helps us boys because we don't like to be beat by her."
Cassie has set high goals. She's hoping to some day run track at the University of Tenessee.
She has family members who live near the university.
"You don't have any idea how much she wants to go to Tennessee to run track," Brad said, adding that it is one factor motivating her to improve. "We went to look at the track and, she said, 'Yeah, I could run here.'"
Still, Cassie is more focused on her high school career. This spring she aims to cut a second off her 400 time and wants to run the 100 in 12 seconds flat.
Cassie also competed in the long jump at state. The event took place during the finals of all three of her sprinting events, and she said it might have tired her. She plans to cut back on her jumping this season.
Cassie knows she has tough competition with Chetara Watkins of the Missouri School for the Deaf, who beat her in the 100 and 200 last year, returning as a senior.
"Hopefully, I'll win most of them this year," Cassie said.
"I hope in the years to come, faster times," she added. "That's all I'm pushing for — how fast I can go and my personal record. That's what I'm always trying to beat."