By Christopher Tenpenny
The Harrisonville boys’ 4×100-meter relay team ranked third in the state ahead of its race at the Class 4 State track meet May 28 in Jefferson City. The relay team, made up of Joseph Michel, Zachary Ridenhour, Russel Mason and Jace Reynolds, had set the goal of winning the state title, but had work left to do. The boys were able to accomplish their goal with a photo-finish win and a 43.55 time. They had won the state championship in the 4×100.
Reynolds anchored the relay and let out a yell as the final results flashed on the video board. Michel, Ridenhour and Mason came rushing in from their sections of the track to celebrate. Ridenhour lifted the state plaque into the air as the boys stood on the podium.
“It was great to see the work those boys have put in pay off for them in the form of a championship relay team,” head coach Brian Bliss said. “Winning the relay at state was a goal they set for themselves and it was amazing to see that goal realized for them at the state meet. As far as the experience of being there and winning, you could see on all of their faces after the race how much pride they had in being able to accomplish their goal.”
The 4x100m relay team was not the only team to have success at state. Michel competed in the boys 100-meter dash with Ridenhour. Michel had done well in the 100m all season, but still found himself in the first heat. The first heat typically consists of the eight slowest times at state. Michel did not seem to let this bother him as he ran a 10.95, good enough for second at state and a silver medal.
The junior was one of the unknowns for the Wildcats coming into this season. After the season was cancelled in 2020, many athletes had not competed since they were freshman. It was hard to predict who would take the next step from two seasons ago.
“Joseph seems to thrive on competition and has all season,” Bliss said. “He does not say much at practice, he does not complain, he does his work at practice and goes out and competes. Joseph has been a pleasant surprise this season and
his efforts in practice were rewarded at the state meet with how well he performed. It was great to see him compete there and I am looking forward to having him compete with us next year.”
The Wildcats had 10 athletes compete at state. Tommy Baker competed in the 3200-meter and the 1600-meter runs, Alex Barta in the 800-meter dash, Makiah Clark and Brayden Talley in the pole vault and Dawson Schrock and Noah King in the 300-meter hurdles. Schrock and King joined Mason and Reynolds in the 4×400 meter relay. Michel also competed in the 200-meter dash. The boys ended up finishing 17 out of 40 schools.
While the 4×100 and Michel were the only qualifiers to medal at state, Bliss said he was proud with their effort and success of making it to state.
“It was nice to be there with so many athletes, especially after not having a season at all last spring,” Bliss said. “Many of these athletes had not competed at all since their freshman year, but I was happy to see them rise to the occasion and do their best in their respective events.”
While the season has come to an end, Bliss said he will look back fondly on the 2021 season. After not competing in 2020, there were many things he took in from the first day of practice.
“There are many things I will remember about this season to be honest,” Bliss said. “I will remember how grateful I was on the first day of practice to be out on the track knowing that we would have a complete season. I was thankful that we had athletes who wanted to work hard at practice and competed even harder.
“I was pleasantly surprised that we were able to win several meets for the boys team and did not place lower than sixth in any of our meets on the girls side. I was very proud to see how well we competed and encouraged each other as a team at conference, districts and sectionals. I was blessed to be able to take 10 athletes to the state track meet and see them compete well.”