After a seventh-place finish in last year’s state meet, the Rock Bridge track and field team has set its sights a little higher for this weekend’s state meet at Lincoln University in Jefferson City.
“There’s a little bit more on the line and a little bit more desire,” Bruins coach Neal Blackburn said.
“Last year it was like, ‘Oh, hopefully we can finish in the top eight,’ and this year, it’s ‘Hopefully we can make a run at a title in something,’” Blackburn said.
With Rock Bridge’s track under construction, the team was forced to move to the MU practice field.
“You have your certain comfort zone at Rock Bridge and we have our markers and we have our routines, and it’s always a juggle when you take anybody out of their normal element and their normal routine,” Blackburn said.
Some of the athletes found the new location somewhat intimidating. Casey Dodam, a member of the 4x800 relay team, said that because some meetsthroughout the season are held at the same facilities, “It makes it seem more intense.”
Not all of the team sees moving to Mizzou’s facilities as a bad thing.
“It’s kind of cool because this is, like, where the college guys practice,” said Phillip King, a junior running in the 3200-meter race at the state meet.
Blackburn also expressed some excitement about the new location.
“I think the kids right now are just looking at it as a chance to practice at one of the nicest collegiate facilities in the Midwest,” he said.
Rock Bridge has been sharing facilities with its rival at Hickman since Hickman began its own construction on April 26, it hasn’t been an issue for the Bruins as they prepared for the state meet.
Blackburn said that since the district meet, when the teams for both schools became much smaller, it has been a very smooth experience.
“I think that our programs kind of, in a sense, only grew closer through that experience,” he said.
Some Rock Bridge athletes have been facing added stress from their schoolwork.
“It’s hard to be able to get enough sleep when I’m trying to stay up late to work on final projects and whatnot,” King said.
Even with all of these possible distractions, the team is focused.
“With a couple of the kids coming up close in events last year, they really want to go over the top and perform and do better this year,” Blackburn said.
King said he tries not to think about the meetdespite the confidence boost he received from placing third in the sectional meet.
“If I think about the meet, I’ll get too stressed out,” he said.