Ji-Ho Lee is a freshman at Rock Bridge High School. His photographer sister, Ji-Sung Lee, is a seventh grader and a member of the Track and Field team at Gentry Middle School.
If there is a continuing crosstown rivalry between Columbia’s Rock Bridge and Hickman High Schools, the Bruins win this contest, 5-2. That is, there are five Rock Bridge alumni on the current Mizzou track and field team roster, compared to two former Kewpies.
The Bruins’ contingent is comprised of sprinter Lauren Flaker, throwers Christina Oyelola and Nick Sublett, middle distance runner Jordan Cook and distance runner Sam Garrett.
The Kewpies are represented by freshman twins Bianca and Nicole Mello who both compete in the distance events. Coach Steve Kissane of Hickman emphatically stated, “The twins were so much fun … I loved their positive energy and passion for [the] sport.”
High school coaches do offer input to their athletes who look to compete at the next level. Coach Neal Blackburn of Rock Bridge said, “When it has come to college choices for my athletes, I try to give my athletes the best available options they have.” He went on to describe Mizzou’s proficient recruiting, and related how some athletes are intrigued by the idea of competing for the school that they grew up with as young kids.
Bianca Mello complimented the MU staff for helping her make the decision to remain in Columbia for her college studies and track competition. “I liked the coaches and the fact that Mizzou is a young team.” She added, “Everyone was really nice and I could see myself being teammates with them for four years.”
Although they once attended rival schools, the Rock Bridge and Hickman alumni at Mizzou have come together to form a team. Garrett voiced her affirmation on the team environment: “Once we’re all [on] the same team, there isn’t an emphasis on who went to what school. We’re all members of the Mizzou track team and we have that commonality.”
The home opener for the MU outdoor track and field team, where former Bruins and Kewpies will don the Tiger black and gold, is the Missouri Invitational, which takes place on April 11 and 12.
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