No area team finished higher at Saturday’s Class 4 state track finals than Washington.
The Lady Jays tied for eighth overall in the team standings with 23 points, bolstered by two individual medals, one relay medal and one individual state championship from senior distance runner Claire Ayers.
Washington hosted the event Saturday after the original plans for the event to take place Friday and Saturday in Jefferson City were changed due to Wednesday evening’s tornado damage at the state capital.
Parkway North received the team championship with 73 points on the day. Others received team trophies were Webster Groves (53 points), Parkway Central (49) and MICDS (39).
Tying Washington for eighth place was Wentzville Liberty.
Other area team scores included Union (nine points), St. Clair (four points) and Pacific (one point).
In girls events, area athletes combined for state medals in eight different events.
Ayers won the state championship in the 800-meter run with the top time of 2:16.06, a full 3.5 seconds faster than the closest challenger, Webster Groves’ Emma Kelley.
“It’s really special to win a state championship on your home field,” Ayers said. “It’s so surreal. I don’t know what happened. I just decided in the first 200 that I’m just going to go for it and if I blow up, then I blow up — at least I tried.”
Ayers was never challenged for the lead in the race.
“What a warrior,” Washington Head Coach Mike Olszowka said of Ayers, who ran a total of 2 miles on the day and earned medals in all three of her events. “All our kids, what they’ve done this week, beyond track and field and training, has been beyond what we could expect out of any kid at their age. Not only did they do it, they did it at 100 percent.”
The 800-meter championship performance was the final race of Ayers’ career.
Previously in the day, she finished fourth in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 5:14.74 and took seventh along with teammates Mia Reed, Anna Schneider and Lilly Nix in the 3,200-meter relay. The Lady Jays, defending state champions in that relay race, turned in a time of 9:49.91.
Washington teammate Morgan Gratza broke her own school record in the high jump to finish third in the state with a height of 5-7.
“She had two great attempts at 5-8,” Olszowka said. “If she pops one of those, we’re talking to her at the top of the podium instead of one step down. She’s just such a good kid, a good athlete. She’s incredible. There’s really not an event she can’t do.”
Union’s Deseray Washington competed in three individual events and one relay Saturday. She claimed fourth place in the 100-meter high hurdles with a time of 14.89.
“As expected, the state meet brings the best competition out in everyone, and that did not go in our favor in every event,” Union Head Coach Sarah Meieners said. “However, we did come out with several state medals on the girls side. Deseray Washington ran a great race, lowering her PR and our school record even further in the 100-meter hurdles. This was her first year qualifying for the state meet in individual events, and this is her first state medal. She has great determination and work ethic, and she keeps improving each year.”
Union’s Washington only narrowly missed the podium in her other two individual events, placing ninth in both the 300-meter low hurdles (46.09) and the high jump (5-4).
In the girls 400-meter relay, Washington ran with Union teammates Ella Coppinger, Hailey Cloud and Sophie Eagan to place 14th with a time of 51.10.
St. Clair’s Alohilani Bursey claimed a spot on the medal stand by finishing fifth in the long jump with a distance of 18-1.5.
Pacific’s lone female representative, Casie Cullinane, tied for seventh place in the pole vault with a mark of 10-6.
“She jumped well, just not as high as she would have liked,” Pacific Head Coach Justin Perriguey said. “She worked extremely hard and improved a tremendous amount this season.”
Cloud was a state qualifier in three events and forewent the Union Lady ’Cats state soccer quarterfinal game to compete in the track championships. In addition to running the 400-meter relay, she placed fifth in the triple jump (36-9.5) and 14th in the long jump (16.3.25).
Coppinger also was a three-event qualifier. On top of the 400-meter relay, she took 10th place in the 100-meter high hurdles (15.97) and 13th place in the high jump (5-1).
From Washington, Reed also qualified in three different events Saturday. In addition to her medal in the 3,200-meter relay, Reed finished 11th in the 1,600-meter run (5:29.81) and 14th in the 3,200-meter run (12:33.79).
Also competing Saturday were Union’s Jaiden Powell (11th in the discus, 112-8), Washington’s Ingrid Figas (12th in the 100-meter high hurdles, 16.26) and St. Clair’s Desi York-Nunn (14th in the shot put, 34-9).