JEFFERSON CITY — The streets surrounding Dwight T. Reed Stadium in Jefferson City echoed with excitement during Saturday’s Class 3 and 4 state high school track and field championships.
Rock Bridge’s distance runner Caleb Wilfong, who medaled in three events, was inspired by the crowd’s energy.
“I’ve never run in front of a crowd that big,” Wilfong, 16, said. “It was definitely special.”
Spectators were everywhere Saturday – in the stands, in tents just beyond the stadium, even standing on their cars in the parking lot. Their cheers were at their loudest as pole-vaulters soared higher than 15 feet in the air or as runners streamlined down the crimson track in the closing moments of a race.
Wilfong had a successful two days at the championship placing in second, third and fourth in the 4x800-meter relay, 3200-meter run and 1600-meter run respectively.
“It was really cool for us (the other members of the 4x800 team) to be on the podium, in front of everybody getting recognized as second place. It makes it all worth it,” Wilfong said in reference to all the time and energy he’s put into training.
The sophomore was really pleased with the weekend, especially with the 4x800, which he said was the best part.
The other members of the 4x800-meter relay were A.J. Miller, Colin Sees and Chris Cornell.
Rock Bridge head coach Neal Blackburn was pleased with his team's performance noting that “Nobody on the team flopped.” The Rock Bridge boys team finished the state championship in ninth place with 23 points – 19 of those points coming from Wilfong.
For the Rock Bridge girls team, freshman Mallory Short placed eighth in girls 100-meter hurdles earning the team’s only point.
Hickman head coach Steve Kissane also spoke of the intense atmosphere.
“It can be an overwhelming environment,” Kissane said. “With the size of the crowd and especially with what’s at stake. You have to harness your nerves and channel them in the right direction.”
One of the athletes who took advantage of this situation was Hickman junior Sarah Hall.
Hall placed sixth in the discus on Saturday with a throw of 126-9. In addition to the three points from her finish in discus, Hall also added 10 points to the girls team after winning the state title for shot put on Friday.
Taalor Stevenson, Jamela Kimbrough, Justina Olisah and Darriana Wilson were the members of Hickman’s girls 4x100-team that finished fourth. Their time of 48.76 earned the girls team five points.
The Hickman girls team also got half a point from Galit Rudelson in the pole vault and one point from Victoria Jackson in the long jump. The girls team finished the day in 14th place with 19.5 points overall.
Hickman’s 4x200-meter relay team finished sixth, earning three points for the boys team. Wesley Leftwich, Evan Smith, Dominic Price and Marcus Whitt were the members of that relay time which finished the race in 1:29.08.
The Hickman boys team also got two points from Jimmie Garth. Garth finished seventh in the 800-meter run with a time of 1:57.25.