JEFFERSON CITY — Lutheran junior sprinter Maria Rains stepped to the starting line, closed her eyes, tilted her head toward nothing in particular and went into a brief yet deep thought.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
This is her routine before every race. She prays for strength, but most of all she asks for energy.
On this day, she needed an extra boost. Rains later referred to the final day of the Class 2 and Class 1 state championship track meet as the most exhausting afternoon of her life.
It was an equally satisfying one. Rains was crowned a state champion three times Saturday, winning the Class 1 100- and 200-meter dashes and anchoring a comeback in the 4x100 relay.
“I’m so happy to just win one, but to get three, I’m just really thankful for this day,” Rains said.
Considered the favorite in both the 100 and 200, Rains didn’t disappoint, winning both sprints with relative ease.
The relay, however, took some work. Lutheran was in fourth place when Rains grabbed the baton for the final stretch. She passed three competitors over the final 50 meters to win the race.
“I’m better at catching people — it motivates me when I see someone ahead of me,” Rains said. “Plus I really wanted to win for my teammates.”
Barstow senior is a champion again
As Barstow senior Deko Ricketts climbed off the podium Saturday inside Lincoln University’s track stadium, a group of his opponents offered congratulatory handshakes.
When Ricketts responded, he shook his head from side to side.
“Man, I didn’t even know I could run that fast,” Ricketts admitted.
In the final race of his high school career, Ricketts broke a state record while of winning the Class 2 800-meter race. He finished in 1 minute, 54.78 seconds.
The victory erased a bad taste from Friday when Ricketts placed 10th while trying to defend his state title in the mile.
“I was so close to the state record (in preliminaries), so I knew if I didn’t hit it, I would regret it the rest of my life,” said Ricketts, who won the Class 2 cross country title in the fall. “My last time wearing this jersey, I had to leave all my work out there.”
A decorated day for Cass Midway
On a day in which its boys and girls teams both finished second in the race for the Class 1 team championships, Cass Midway needed help from all its athletes.
None contributed more than senior Kathleen Yoakum.
Yoakum won the 400- and 800-meter races and was part of the 4x200 and 4x400 relay teams, both of which took first.
“I wanted to win the 400 really bad,” she said. “I don’t know what it was, but I think the competition made me better.”
The boys team had several top-five finishes, including a victory from its 4x200 relay team, which consisted of Dylan Wise, Bobby Zielinski, Conor Hayes and Shane White. Zielinski also placed third in the 200 dash.
Midway junior Megan O’Brien took third in the girls pole vault.
One last winner for St. Mary’s
St. Mary’s is going out a winner. In the final year before the high school closes its doors, junior pole vaulter Eric Andrews added one more trophy to the school’s collection.
Andrews topped a 16-participant field to win the Class 1 pole vault competition, setting a personal-best mark of 12 feet, 9 inches. Cass Midway junior Peyton Semsch finished second.
“I wanted to remember St. Mary’s with a state title,” said Andrews, who plans to attend Blue Springs South for his senior year. “I wanted to go out right.”
• A year after settling for second, a motivated Drexel group won the 4x800 relay race. Jacob Antley, C.J. Bolton, Cody Russell and Chase Reynolds combined to set a school record in 8:23.25.
• West Platte senior Spencer Hudson took second in the two-mile race.
To reach Sam McDowell, send email to email@example.com.