No one expected a freshman to take Derrick Peterson to the wire on the second day of the Tom Botts Invitational on Saturday, but Missouri’s Austin Kerkhover did it.
Peterson, a six-time All-American in his days at Missouri, edged Kerkhover by 11 one-hundredths of a second in the coed 7x400-meter relay, an unconventional race that was not on the schedule for the two-day meet at Audrey J. Walton Stadium.
The race was added late when the other schools at the meet, Notre Dame, Iowa and Iowa State, went home to get out of the rain. This left the Tigers with no one to compete against in the 4x400-meter relay. The meet could have ended there, but the Missouri coaching staff did not let that happen.
“Everybody left; obviously the weather was pretty miserable,” said Jared Wilmes, the Missouri men’s distance coach. “It wasn’t going to be fun just to run against ourselves, so we decided to do something different and make it fun for our kids.”
The Tigers’ coaching staff quickly rounded up as many willing athletes as it could to fill out the field. The result was an eclectic mix of sprinters and distance runners. Coaches joined in, such as Peterson, a volunteer assistant.
Before the race, the meet announcer let the crowd know that it was about to see something special, boasting that the next event was guaranteed to be a meet record, a school record and possibly a world record. It ended in dramatic fashion with Peterson coming from behind on the last lap to pass Kerkhover at the finish line.
The meet did have its moments of conventional competition, though.
Missouri sophomore Amanda Bales finished a close second to Iowa State’s Jessica Huff in the 1,500-meter run. Bales’ time of 4 minutes, 28.45 seconds, qualified her for the NCAA Mideast Regional. Bales made a late charge, but Huff held her off to win by one-quarter of a second.
Bales said she thinks a better time is in her future.
“It’s definitely different conditions out here today,” she said. “I think I raced a little bit tentative, and I would like to improve upon this next time out. It’s hard to say with all of the wind and rain how exactly I ran. Hopefully, next weekend when the conditions are a little bit better, everything will come together.”
Missouri’s throwers also did well. Janae Strickland won the women’s shot put with a 48-6 3/4 throw. Gary File, a Missouri senior, won the javelin Friday with a throw of 203 feet.
Also on Friday, Missouri senior Holly Scherder won the weight throw with a toss of 195-4, a foot off the school record she set a week ago at the Missouri Relays. Scherder was named Outstanding Female Athlete of the Meet on Saturday.
Several other Tigers also took event wins. Jesse Sims won the men’s high jump at 6-6 3/4 Jenny Bybee won the women’s high jump (5-2 ¼ ) and Brandon Goebbert won the decathlon with 6,305 points.