[Note: This story has been modified since its original posting.]
On a 45-degree night with scattered showers and chilling wind, Hickman held the fifth annual Hickman Relays, hosting Rock Bridge, Jefferson City, Helias, Mexico and Rolla. The meet turned individual events, such as discus and long jump, into relays by combining the top three scores from one school in each event. Medals were awarded for each event.
Hickman athletes had more than just the weather keeping them from gold. Standing in their way was long-time rival Jefferson City.
Hickman fans and athletes say that Jefferson City is the team to beat. The rivalry may even be stronger than the one between the Kewpies and the Bruins. Tuesday at Hickman’s only varsity home event of the season, the Jays proved why that is. Placing in nearly every event, Jefferson City didn’t give Hickman, Rock Bridge or the other three schools in attendance too many chances to win.
Despite Jefferson City’s prowess, Hickman was able to pull ahead in a few events. In the girls’ 4x200 meter relay, the Kewpies won in 1:47.99
Hickman’s Asia Walker said the most exciting part was hearing the variety of fans yelling her name during the race.
“I had Rock Bridge and Jefferson City friends cheering for me out there,” she said. “All I could think was, I gotta get her.”
The Hickman relay team won the distance medley relay two events earlier with 1:56.22.
“It was hard going back to back like that,” Walker said. “But we got a good adrenaline rush. The coach told us to stride and stretch in between, otherwise we would get tight because of the cold weather. So we did that, and talked a lot to stay warm.”
Hickman boys shot put placed 2nd at 129 feet, 9 inches.
Rock Bridge also took home some medals. Despite dropping temperatures, senior Paul Koch won the 300-meter hurdles late in the meet.
“It was a bit cold and a bit windy,” he said. “Around the first curve the wind is at your back sort of pushing you forward, but then when you turn it’s a force against you so you have to conserve your energy.”
The Bruins also won the varsity girls long jump, combining their three best scores for a total of 45 feet, nine and 3/4 inches. Rock Bridge was second in the girls 100 meter hurdles (61.02 seconds), the girls sprint medley relay (1:56.22) the boys long jump (55.5 feet) and the boys triple jump (110 feet)
The athletes weren’t the only ones receiving awards. Thirty minutes into the meet, all events were stopped and the entire Hickman track and field team lined up on the edge of the field to honor former head coach Steve Luetjen. Luetjen, who also coaches football, was presented with a plaque acknowledging his 15 years with track and field.
A letter written by Missouri athlete and former Kewpie Tim Cornell in honor of Luetjen was read at the ceremony. “Coach Luetjen is an extremely personable guy,” Cornell wrote. “He was one of those guys you run into who you always enjoyed being around because he brought out the best in everybody around him.”
Luetjen coached from 1990-2005 and was succeeded by Steve Kissane at the beginning of this season.
Junior JaBarbara Jennings said that though things are different without Luetjen, she thinks the team is adapting well.
“Our team has grown a lot this season,” she said. “We know what we want and we’re ready to focus.”