Marceline ekes out girls’ track-and-field conference crown by point

Lady Tigers nip Harrisburg with win in final race

As reported to LCL
Continuing their very fine season, the Marceline High School track-and-field Lady Tigers and head coach Dennis Becker are all smiles after winning the Lewis and Clark Conference Championships team title at Queen City last Tuesday.

QUEEN CITY — Anyone familiar with sports has heard repeatedly that every point or run or goal counts.

While a truism, often it’s an encouragement or prod from coaches urging better athletes or teams not to ease up or to keep developing or less-talented team members engaged in making what contributions to success they can, even on occasions when that single tally doesn’t actually impact the end result.

Sometimes, though, it’s meant as literally and urgently as it can be. That was the case in the Lewis and Clark Conference track-and-field championships hosted by Schuyler County High School at Queen City last Tuesday (May 4).

With three teams – Marceline, Harrisburg and the host Lady Rams – steadily racking up growing points totals as the action unfolded and then Schuyler County fading from title contention as the number of incomplete events dwindled, the results of the second-to-last girls’ race – the 200-meters dash – saw Harrisburg’s Lady Bulldogs have two top-8 finishers and gain eight points, while MHS’ Cassie Rodgers’ fifth place deposited only four in the Lady Tigers’ bank.

As a consequence, with only the 1,600-meters (4-by-400) relay remaining, the conference’s southernmost member inched ahead of Marceline 159-158.

That left coach Dennis Becker’s quartet of Sarah Kussman,  Ramzee Bruner, Lucy Moseley and Gracey Jordan with a simple mandate: Finish ahead of Harrisburg’s unit or see MHS’ pursuit of the league title come up agonizingly short.

With the meet “scoring” eight entries in each event, beating Harrisburg to the finish line while being either first or second would ensure at least a 2-points pickup over the Boone countians and put Marceline on the L&C girls’ throne. With only a single-point differential between the award for each lower finish from third through eighth place, if the best the Lady Tigers’ foursome could not finish in the top two, it would need to be somewhere between third and seventh and need Harrisburg to be at least two places behind it to flip the standings.

Given the quality the two teams have shown throughout the season and the meet, the most-likely scenario projected to be Marceline would need a first- or second-place finish. Only the former carried a guarantee of a championship.

Not surprisingly, considering the tremendous success MHS’ girls’ relay squads have had throughout 2021, less than five minutes after the blank in the starter’s pistol cracked the air, it was “mission accomplished.”

Jordan, Moseley, Bruner and Kussman – the latter two already having used performances in solo events to jack up the MHS points total – each took their circuit of the track in crisp, effective and mistake-free manner, allowing the final trip down the home stretch to have them perhaps 20 yards in front of Harrisburg’s anchor runner.

When the final stride across the finish line came after 4:28.99, Marceline had won the event by 3.09 seconds, outscored Harrisburg 10-8 in the event, and claimed the team title by that one oft-cited point, 168-167.

That razor-thin margin meant every single Lady Tiger who had contributed even one eighth-place finish – there were two of them, both by Ashlynn Skinner in the javelin throw and shot put, for two points – or provided a bottom-half placement in only one event – and there was one of those as Ireland Bloss took a sixth (three points) in the 3,200-meters run – had indeed been a major difference maker. Both were “an integral part” of the championship, Becker saluted.

While MHS’ Lady Tigers were “dueling to the death” to capture their gender division’s crown, the Tigers were finishing smack-dab in the middle of the 9-schools’ boys division with 64 points. Harrisburg was the overwhelming team champion among the boys with 204-1/2 points, 90-1/2 ahead of runnerup Fayette.

The highest event finish for Marceline’s boys came in the 3,200 relay when John Darling, Jacob Stallo, Jace Bixenman, and Hunter Nelson combined to place second with a time of 9:39.91.

For the girls’ battle to come down to the last event, it meant many outstanding performances had been delivered earlier and repeatedly through the afternoon.

That included winning four other events prior to the final coup de grace in the 1,600 relay.

Providing two of those four individual victories was Kussman, whose 28-1/2 points earned made her MHS’ top scorer.

She opened her day by winning the pole vault at an even 9’, a foot higher than teammate/runnerup Chloee Dorrell. Their showing there made the pole the MHS girls’ most-profitable event of the meet.

Shifting to the track, Kussman also began on the right foot, capturing the 100-meters high hurdles in 17.84 seconds. A while later, she placed third behind victorious teammate Payton  Weese in the 300-meters low hurdles before being part of a third win in the last event.

Weese’s win in the low hurdles came in a time of 51.23, almost a second ahead of her nearest pursuer and 2.2 in front of Kussman.

Rounding out the quintet of MHS event queens at Queen City was jumper/runner Ramzee Bruner. Before she also helped deliver the final blow in the 1,600 relay, she had taken sixth in the “open” 400, second in the triple jump at 32’2”, and won her top event – the high jump – at 5’1”. That left her total scoring contribution at 23-1/2 points.

In addition to the 18-points haul from the pole vault, MHS garnered 16 from the low hurdles with the Weese/Kussman combo, 15 each in the high hurdles, in which Weese was fourth to Kussman’s win, and the high jump, in which Aislinn Schick took fourth.

Other second- and third-place showings by Lady Tigers included seconds by the 400-meters relay group (55.15) of Kennedy Edgar, Rodgers, Weese and Jordan and 800 relay (1:54.57) of Ava Thornburg, Moseley, Rodgers and Weese and thirds by Rachael Cupp in the triple jump (31’8”), Jordan in the 800 (2:38.48), Dorrell in the javelin throw (96’3”/29.34m), and Kussman in the low hurdles.

Chipping in points with fourths, fifths, or sixths (in addition to Bloss and Weese) were Rhea Krumpelman (800, 1,600), Rodgers (100, 200), Avery Gillman (1,600), Edgar (3,200), Cupp (long jump), and Moseley (400).

For Marceline’s Tigers, while the relay had the squad’s highest finish, Nelson also was in the top three in the 800 with a third in the 800 (2:16.78).

He and Caleb Stallo were the team’s top scorers with 9-1/2 each.

Marceline’s – and Brookfield’s – track-and-field athletes began their quest for appearances in the upcoming Class 2 state meet by competing at this past Saturday’s Class 2 district meet at Monroe City.

Top-4 finishers in each event there will go right back to Monroe City this coming Saturday for the state-qualifying sectional meet. Once more, top-4 finishers will move on, this time to next week’s state meet.