Bruner title repeat highlights Marceline girls’ ‘medals for everyone’ show
Junior tops in high jump again at Friday’s state track, field meet
By PAUL STURM, LCL Sports Editor
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Qualifying for the state meet is a tremendous accomplishment for a track-and-field (and any sport, in fact) competitor. Winning a medal there is even-more exhilarating.
Being a state champion, of course, “takes the cake.”
Every Marceline High School athlete who advanced to last Friday’s Class 2 state meet at Jefferson City High School’s Dennis and Roberta Licklider Track Complex made the trip there with a smile and sense of accomplishment already on their faces.
The ride home, however, saw those smiles broader and pride in achievement even stronger. It also saw each and every Lady Tiger had a little something extra, something tangible in their possession – a state-meet medal.
Qualified in five events, MHS athletes posted medaling, top-8 finishes in four with the only “miss” being a near-miss by a Lady Tigers junior who’d already scaled the state summit a second time.
Champion in the girls’ high jump as a freshman in 2019 and idled by the COVID-19-caused cancellation of the 2020 meet, Bruner returned to JCHS’ Adkins Stadium/Licklider Complex and showed she’d lost nothing during that 2-years gap.
Although encountering a few isolated missed attempts of her own along the way, Bruner took the lead when she needed only two tries to get over the bar at 5’1-3/4” and, despite persistent challenges, held it the rest of the high jump competition.
When she, like the other two jumpers still going, missed all three tries at 5’4-1/4”, the outcome was decided on who had missed the least the latest and that tilted the result to the reigning champion.
At the last height all had cleared – what stood as the official winning height of 5’3-1/4” (1.61 meters), Bruner and Anna Thomason of Jackson: Saxony Lutheran each got over it on their second attempts, but the third had needed three, thus relegating her to third place.
Moving back down one height to 5’2-1/2”, the Marceline 11th grader had sailed above the bar cleanly on her first try, while Thomason missed once. That decided it, although Bruner also would have prevailed had it gone back to the height before that, at which the Lady Tiger had taken two jumps and the Saxony Lutheran jumper three.
“I was like, ‘OK, they’re not going to get this (height),’” Bruner recounted of her thoughts when she was clearing some of the later heights before the others, “and then here they would come in on the third jump (and make it).
“It was endless. It just kept going and going and going.”
Bruner’s victory became finalized after classmate Sarah Kussman had already claimed MHS’ first medal of the day, taking fourth in the 100-meters high hurdles.
Subsequently, the Lady Tigers’ 800-meters relay group of Cassi Rodgers, Lucy Moseley, Payton Weese, and Gracey Jordan seized sixth-place hardware in their race and freshman Weese closed the meet for Marceline participants with a fourth-place finish in the 300-meters low hurdles. All of the Lady Tigers qualifiers were non-seniors in the 2020-21 school year, so opportunities for more achievements figure to await in 12 months.
As a freshman in 2019, Bruner cleared 5’4”, while the other remaining contestant missed three times, giving the MHS youngster the top prize. Bruner attempted 5’5” two years ago, but missed three times and was done for the day.
She told the LCL going into last Friday’s competition with the defending champ’s “bullseye” on her back had amped up her nerves.
“Definitely extra pressure. I was very nervous. Very, very nervous,” she disclosed.
She didn’t really jump like it, though.
She cleared the first three heights she tried before missing her first attempt at 4’11-1/2”. That briefly left her trailing a couple of others among the nine jumpers still “alive,” a situation she quickly rectified at 5’1/4” by being the first over it.
She slipped back behind Thomason when Bruner missed on her first try at 5’1” and Thomason didn’t. However, when three jumpers went on to 5’1-3/4”, it again was Bruner showing the way, succeeding on her second attempt while the other two went the 3-tries limit before getting their “make.”
At 5’2-1/2”, the MHS standout’s first-try success hinted that it might be the knockout punch when the other two missed their initial attempts. However, Thomason cleared the bar on her second and the third girl – Laney Smith of Conception Junction: Jefferson – incredibly advanced on her last chance for a third height in a row and fourth time in the last five.
In her interview with the LCL after following her high jump win with a ninth-place finish in the triple jump – just over three inches shy of a medal in it, too, Bruner was asked how she revved her engine back up after thinking multiple times she might already have won.
“I just had to keep telling myself to ‘explode’ (at the takeoff point in her jump) and just think about who wants it more,” she shared.
With the bar up to 5’3-1/4”, all three survivors failed on try No. 1, but Bruner once more threw down the gantlet by getting a second-try “make.” Thomason quickly followed suit, but Smith missed, putting her back figuratively against the wall yet once more. Unbelievably, once more, all the pieces fell into place in her “do-or-die” try and she also advanced to another level.
As Bruner, first in the jumping order at each new height, dislodged the bar after each of her three attempts at 5’4-1/4”, it inched the door open for either Thomason or Smith to “steal” the title with more late-round heroics, but this time it didn’t happen for them. When Smith’s last try wasn’t close, the Marceline junior could fully exhale at last.
“It was a mixture of (excitement and relief),” she described the sensation when she knew the second-straight title finally was hers after several false alarms.
Bruner didn’t have time to really celebrate just then, however, since the triple jump was getting underway beyond the other end of the track.
After she – and Smith – reported in and took a couple of practice attempts each, they joined the fray in that event and Bruner quickly put herself in the top eight with a first distance of 32’11-1/4”.
On attempt No. 2, she fell a couple of inches short of that, but remained comfortably in the medaling picture in sixth.
Then, in her third jump, she popped on 33’5-1/4” (10.19m) to seemingly solidify her grip on a medal, even though she slipped to seventh.
However, a final attempts were made, Smith, who had scratched on her first two attempts and then had a middling distance on her third try, got her steps and rhythm right and leaped from around 10th place into sixth with a 34’9-1/2” jump.
Additionally, another competitor who, like Smith, had been only around 32’6” with her best through three rounds, sailed 33’8-1/2” on her last try, sending her past Bruner, as well, by just over three inches.
When Bruner’s fourth jump carried her only 32’3-3/4”, she was shut out of the medals in her second event, placing ninth.
As noted previously, by that time, Kussman, whose second cousin Gus won two hurdling medals for Brunswick in the Class 1 meet the following day, already had snagged a medal in her lone event – the high hurdles. Her 16.14 seconds time was solid, although it paled against the glare of the blazing 14.49 winning time by a St. Louis runner.
When the hurdles were back on the track later Friday afternoon, this time at their lowest height for the 300-meters race, Weese represented the black and gold and did so equally well.
The ninth grader closed her heat strong from the inside lane and was clocked in 47.33 seconds, giving her a fourth-place state medal just like S. Kussman.
Prior to getting that individual hardware, Weese had joined her three teammates in running the 800-meters relay (4x200) in 1:50.01, putting them sixth. Had they taken a second longer, Moseley, Jordan and Rodgers would have left empty-handed.