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Sophomore duo powers Jackson
JEFFERSON CITY — The Jackson girls track team picked up points from just two people during the Class 4 girls state meet, but the Indians managed an eighth-place team finish that sparks optimism for the future.
"We're pretty fired about that," said Jackson coach Steve Wachter, whose two sophomore standouts made improvements from last year.
Jill Rushin had her personal record Friday in the shot put with a 43-feet, 11-inch throw for second place. She launched the discus 134 feet for third place Saturday.
Landon Wachter had a personal record (2 minutes, 16.82 seconds) in the 800 on Friday to place third and another in the 400 (57.69) on Saturday to place fourth.
"I thought it was a lot better than last year, so I was pleased," said Landon Wachter, who finished sixth in the 400 last year. "At the beginning of the season, I laid down my goals, and I wanted to place in two events. Third and fourth, I'm happy."
Wachter had scratched out of the hurdles preliminary Friday with a slight back injury that she did not want to aggravate. She ran in the 400, 800 and 1,600 relay Friday, but had only the 400 on Saturday.
"I got extremely tight," she said. "I knew I had to go out hard because of the Raytown South girl [Racquell Powell, who won the race]. I knew she ran a 56, and so I thought I had to stay with her and go under 57. I tried to go out harder and keep my pace and use my endurance at the end."
Like Wachter, Rushin had to wait through a rain delay that pushed the start of the meet back more than two hours.
"It's hard to wait around because you get excited and then you have to calm back down, and then you get excited again when you get ready to throw," Rushin said. "If I would have to throw in the rain, I still would have tried to do my best."
The weather cleared in time for Rushin to complete an impressive meet.
"She had a great meet," Steve Wachter said. "Her discus was outstanding.
"Her shot put series was as great a series as I've seen a girl have throwing the shot. We figured out 15 or 16 years of the last 20, she would have been the state champ."
Fort Zumwalt West junior Jasmine Boyer won the shot for the second straight year at 46-9, and she finished 5 feet ahead of Rushin in the discus. The winning throw there, however, was 153-2 from Lee's Summit North senior Megan Collins.
"I had a lot more fun because the level of competition this year was much higher," said Rushin, who was fifth in the discus and sixth in the shot put last year. "I'm very pleased with the strides I made. I'm going to work on getting stronger and work on my steps and speed. Hopefully, I'll do better next year."
With 25 points, Jackson's duo was just 21 points out of fourth place, the final team trophy.
Rushin looked forward — a little too far — when thinking of whether Jackson can contend for a team trophy.
"I know Landon's little sister's class will have some good people," she said.
"She's still young; she's still in seventh grade," said Steve Wachter of his other daughter.
He then named some returning athletes on the current team who could have an impact.
"There are some girls in our school that might be able to help out," he said. "We'll just see who wants to run and will come out this summer and the offseason and work."
Jackson's 1,600 relay team had placed eighth in its preliminary heat Friday and did not advance to the finals.
"We did our best, but we ran with some classy people," Steve Wachter said. "What great competition."
It was so good that Central's season-best 4:00.87 left its foursome on the outside looking in Saturday. The Tigers had the best time for not qualifying, less than a second from the sixth-best time.
"We were pumped up," Central distance coach Mark Hahn said. "Four-flat almost always gets you to the finals, but this year."
"It was a bummer," junior Brittany Moreland said. "We would have loved to have gone through, but we ran our best time of the season."
The time posted by Moreland, Asia Thomas, Rita Walter and Tiffany Mead was about 2 seconds off the school record time of 3:58.05 set in a state championship run in 1996.
"They went back to the hotel last night very happy," Central coach Lawrence Brookins said.
Moreland came out fired up in the first event Saturday, running a 2:17.7 split in the 3,200 relay to start the Tigers off with the lead en route to a seventh-place finish and a medal. Moreland was boxed in early during her run.
"She ran it the way a veteran would," Hahn said. "She was patient and waited for the opening."
Moreland teamed with Mary Dohogne, Victoria Schabbing and Tiffany Mead for a 9:43.69, which was not their best time.
"We all ran really well, and I'm proud of the whole team," Moreland said. "I'm excited about our 4-by-4 and 4-by-8 teams for next year."
Thomas, a freshman, completed her state debut by finishing eighth in the 400.
"Her eyes were wide, wide, wide open. She was nervous all week," Brookins said. "We came here for practice Thursday night and it was mainly just coaches and athletes in the stadium, and she said, 'There aren't going to be that many people tomorrow, are there?' And I said, 'You ain't seen nothing yet.'
"It's a great experience for a freshman like her. This is a tough road."
Thomas, who ran a 58.86 in Friday's prelims, finished in 59.75 on Saturday.
"I can't wait until next year," she said, mentioning plans to run with the cross country team this fall to prepare for 2009.
That will mark the 20th anniversary of the first of her mother's two state titles. Nakeba Thomas set the school record of 56.43 in 1990.
"I don't think she wants me to beat it," Asia Thomas said, "but I really want to beat it."