Despite steamrolling through every meet the team entered this season, Lee’s Summit West girls track coach Jesse Griffin didn’t see a second state title as inevitable.
Griffin has been through this enough to know he can’t take anything for granted at the state track meet. Some athletes will step up and shine. Some might succumb to injury or pressure.
“You expect the unexpected at this meet and it’s very, very difficult,” Griffin said. “I’ve been on staffs where we scored zero points here.”
There were some surprises, and disappointments, for LS West’s girls during the two days at Jefferson City High School. But in the end, the Titans swamped the field again. They scored 109 points — most ever for a girls or boys team in a state meet – and easily defended their Class 5 state championship.
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LS West defended it the same way it dominated the competition all season — with sheer numbers. The Titans had qualifiers in all 17 events and scored points in all but one. Four individuals — Makayla Kelby (discus), Jessica Haney (high jump), Erin Sermons (400-meter dash) and Jana Shawver (800-meter run) — brought home gold medals, as did the 3,200 relay team.
What secured the victory, Griffin said, were the unexpected points. Junior Mariah Brackens-Smiley made it to the 100 final and ran a personal-best 12.44 seconds to place seventh. Haney, who barely made it out of sectionals in the triple jump, reached the final in that event and finished seventh.
“We had a couple of events we probably weren’t supposed to score in, and we had girls who stepped up and scored in those events,” Griffin said. “Those were a bonus.”
Shawver also anchored the Titans’ 3,200 relay, joining Hailey Hardin, Audrey Parson and Alex Marko to win in 9 minutes, 15.60 seconds. But the Titans fell short in the other relays, placing second in the 800 and 1,600 relays and fifth in the 400.
“We had to shift some people around on the relays because of injury,” Griffin said. “We did what we could in those relays.”
Still, it didn’t keep LS West from eclipsing the record of 107 points held by Rock Port’s boys, or the 96 the Titans scored last year in setting the girls’ record.
“It’s great,” Griffin said. “It’s hard to repeat, hard to win here. It’s a tribute to the girls, who really worked together.”