Jays want to keep one streak going, Lady Jays want to start another

Jefferson City’s Kezia Martin, shown competing in the 100-meter hurdles at last year’s state meet, qualified in two additional events and returns to lead the Lady Jays this season.

Jefferson City’s Kezia Martin, shown competing in the 100-meter hurdles at last year’s state meet, qualified in two additional events and returns to lead the Lady Jays this season. Photo by News Tribune.

The Jefferson City Jays track and field team would like to continue the momentum it built last season.

The Lady Jays, meanwhile, are anxious for a fresh start.

“It’s time to start a new streak on the girls side and keep the streak going on the boys side,” Jefferson City coach Dan Ridgeway said as the Jays and Lady Jays prepared to open their season against Helias at 4 p.m. today at Adkins Stadium.

The Jays are coming off their first district championship since 2007, while the Lady Jays missed out on a district title for the first time since 1997, giving both teams something to shoot for this year.

Bringing the hardware back to Jefferson City won’t be easy for either team, but the Jays and Lady Jays are up for the challenge.

The Lady Jays return most of their state qualifiers from a year ago, but so does Rock Bridge, the team that edged Jefferson City in districts last season.

Having their streak snapped wasn’t a result of the Lady Jays having a down year or a bad meet. The Bruins were just a tad better.

“We scored 145 points, which would have won any other district in the state by 20 — they just scored 160,” Ridgeway said. “They had a phenomenal team.”

Jefferson City and Rock Bridge likely will be going head-to-head again this year when the teams meet in May.

“We want to compete for that title,” Ridgeway said. “Last year was the first time in 16 years we didn’t win one and we want to get that back. It’s going to take a total team effort to make that happen.”

There are 70 Lady Jays on the team, which is led by three-time all-stater Kezia Martin.

Last season, Martin took second at state in the long jump, set a school record in the triple jump and was also a state qualifier in the hurdles.

The Lady Jays also return state qualifiers Alexis Roberson, Haley Watson, Tori Bonnot and Louisa Nylander.

Roberson, a sophomore, qualified in the discus and will join forces with seniors Mallory York and Ellaine Jamison in throwing events this season.

“Our throwers are very competitive,” Ridgeway said. “You have to be pretty good to throw for us in the varsity meet on the girls side.”

Bonnot, a junior, will compete in distance events after being part of the Lady Jays’ 4x800-meter relay team at state last year. Senior Emily Deeken will also run distance events, while senior Madison Deatherage is one of the Lady Jays’ most experienced sprinters.

Watson, a sophomore, was an all-stater in the 300-meter hurdles last season, while Nylander, a junior, was a state qualifier in that event. Nicole Martin is one of the top newcomers for the Lady Jays and will compete in jumping events and relays.

Ridgeway said he also expects good things from the Lady Jays’ pole vaulters.

“I’m really excited to see who are pole vaulters are going to be,” he said. “That’s kind of a strong suit for us.”

The Jefferson City boys are in a slightly different situation than the Lady Jays after graduating most of their state qualifiers last season. Rideway isn’t sure what to expect from the Jays — not yet, anyway.

“The good thing about having an inexperienced team is, everybody is competing for a spot,” Ridgeway said. “There’s nothing set in stone. Every day in practice, they’re being evaluated and I hope they understand spots are wide open.

“It will be nice when we start having meets. The cream will rise to the top.”

Seniors Mervyn John, Austin Chiagrom, Jeremiah Streeter and Lucas Theroff are expected to lead the Jays this season.

Junior Elijah Pittman has emerged as one of the fastest athletes early in the season and will compete on several relay teams. Also looking to make an impact for the Jays is junior Rahae Scott, along with freshmen Jackson Schwartz, Rashaun Woods and Carson Ridgeway.

“We’re going to be inexperienced to start the year,” Dan Ridgeway said. “Last year we kind of knew who was going to be out there. This year, it’s wide open as far as who’s really going to be out there because we graduated so many of the state-level kids.”

The Jays and Lady Jays have a combined 160 athletes competing this season, a number Ridgeway said is on the high side during his five years at the helm.

“As far as just getting on the track and using Olympic-quality speed, that’s not how we’re going to win track meets,” Ridgeway said. “We’re going to win track meets by our depth and by our technique, and just day-to-day hard work.”

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