LSJ Sports

Gatorade track award winners hail from Lee’s Summit

Pole vaulter KC Lightfoot, the Gatorade Missouri boys track and field athelte of the year, cleared 18 feet seven straight weeks during his senior year at Lee’s Summit.
Pole vaulter KC Lightfoot, the Gatorade Missouri boys track and field athelte of the year, cleared 18 feet seven straight weeks during his senior year at Lee’s Summit.

Lee’s Summit was already home to the best big-class boys and girls track teams in the state. Now the city can lay claim to having the top individual athletes as well.

KC Lightfoot, the record-setting pole vaulter from Lee’s Summit High School, and Makayla Kelby, the four-time discus and two-time shot put state champion from Lee’s Summit West, have been selected the 2017-18 Gatorade Missouri Boys and Girls Track & Field athletes of the year.

The Gatorade Company made the announcement June 21 in its 33rd year of recognizing the nation’s best high-school athletes in each state. Lightfoot is the first Boys Track & Field winner from Lee’s Summit; Kelby is the first Girls Track & Field honoree from West.

Lightfoot, a two-time Class 5 state champion capped his senior year with an 18-foot vault that broke the all-class meet record at the Class 3-5 state track meet last month in Jefferson City. He set the all-time state record when he cleared 18-5 in the district meet two weeks earlier, eclipsing the previous state best of 18-4 ¾ set by Chris Nilsen of Park Hill in 2016 for the second-highest high-school vault in U.S. history.

At the New Balance Outdoor Nationals last week in Greensboro, N.C., Lightfoot placed first in the boys pole vault with a meet-record height of 18-0.5. He’s cleared 18 feet seven weeks in a row.

Lightfoot, who will compete next year for Baylor, maintained a 3.23 grade-point average at Lee’s Summit. He has volunteered locally on behalf of youth track athletes and the Chain of Hope animal rescue organization.

“KC Lightfoot is the most focused athlete I’ve ever coached,” said Todd Cooper, director of Just Vault, the Excelsior Springs facility where Lightfoot trains. “He’s a dedicated athlete who hones his craft six days a week.”

Kelby ended her high-school career by winning the Class 5 girls discus and shot put titles that helped West win a third-consecutive team title. Lee’s Summit North won the Class 5 boys team championship.

Kelby took the discus with a meet-record 166-8 toss for her fourth straight title in that event. She registered a 170-9 throw earlier in the season that set a state record and ranks as the fourth-best nationally among high school competitors this season. She won her second shot put title with a 46-7 ¼ mark.

Kelby, who graduated from West with a 3.48 GPA, is also an active member of her church community and has volunteered locally on behalf of flood relief efforts and Habitat for Humanity. She has signed to compete in track and field next year at the University of Washington.

“Makayla sets herself apart by approaching every day with a great attitude and desire to improve,” said West girl track coach Jesse Griffin. “She has been a great team leader.”

Kelby and Lightfoot are now finalists for the national girls and boys track and field athlete of the year awards, which will be announced later this month.

The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in each state and the District of Columbia in high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport.