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story.lead_photo.caption Devin Roberson of Jefferson City prepares to make a throw during the shot put competition last year in the Class 5 state championships at Adkins Stadium. Photo by Jason Strickland / News Tribune.

In the past two years, the Jefferson City boys track and field team has caught up to and passed the girls.

The Lady Jays haven't placed better than 20th in the Class 5 state meet since taking home the third-place trophy in 2016.

Meanwhile, the Jays have earned top-10 finishes in back-to-back years.

Jefferson City coach Melvin Myers said he's seen signs of the Lady Jays making it back to that 2016 level.

"Usually they are our strong suit," Myers said of the girls team. "I don't know if they are there yet, but I'm preaching to them that should be their goal, that we both be at the state meet at the same time."

The girls have one returning state qualifier in senior thrower Carlee Brehe, who earned her first state medal with a seventh-place finish in discus last season.

Another senior leader for the Lady Jays is Zaryn Kamara, who was eighth in the long jump and 11th in the 300-meter hurdles at the district meet last season.

Cailin Mooney, a high jumper, is another experienced Lady Jay returning to track and field. The junior placed eighth in the sectional meet last season.

"She should be stronger this year," Myers said. "I expect her to jump better than she did before."

But there's plenty of underclassmen and inexperienced Lady Jays on the team this season.

Kiara Strayhorn, a freshman, has had success at Thomas Jefferson Middle School and on the AAU level.

"She's a really good jumper and hurdler," Myers said. "She's going to really help us out."

Sophomore sprinters Rhakala Blackmon and Dijonay Dawson are among the returners for the Lady Jays.

"She's worked really hard in the offseason and I think she's going to have a good year," Myers said of Dawson, who also competed in high jump and long jump last season.

Ezinne Opara, a sophomore, returns after taking fifth in the triple jump at districts last season.

Annabelle Maassen, a junior, will compete in track and field for the first time.

Addison Morgan is another freshman Myers said already has shown good signs.

"She had a really good time trial," he said. "I'm expecting her to be a strong contributor."

On the boys side, senior throwers Devin Roberson and Corey Suttle lead the way after helping lead the Jays to a 10th-place finish in the state last year.

"The offseason was just about getting them healthy," Myers said. "Now they're healthy and cleared. They both decided where they are going to school so they can relax and just think bout how track season is going to go this year.

"They've been out working so I'm expecting them to pick up where they left off last year."

Roberson is coming off a state championship in the discus and a third-pace finish in shot put. Suttle was seventh in the discus last season.

Fellow senior Maleek Jackson hopes to stay away from injuries this season after one slowed him up during sectionals, eliminating his chance to advance to state in the 100 and 200.

"It'd be nice to have him back healthy this year," Myers said. "He's hungry right now and hes been working."

Other than Roberson and Suttle, the other returning individual state qualifier is junior hurdler Andrew Dyer.

"He's one that's probably going to do a lot of things," Myers said. "He can run in our 4x800, he can run in our hurdles. We're just looking to see where he's going to fit at."

Dyer was part of the 4x400 team that placed 16th at state last season. Also returning from that team are Ryan Brooks and Khalil Foster.

"He's another one I expect big things out of this year," Myers said of Foster.

Brooks will also continue competing in the hurdle events and pole vault.

"He had a really good football season and basketball season," Myers said. "I'm hoping that momentum carries into track this year."

The Jays will have their 4x800 group of Thomas Nield, Ben Krause, Andrew Nield and Deaken Walker back that was two spots from qualifying for the state meet a season ago.

"Last year that was one of our strongest parts of our team and I think again this year it's going to be a strong part of our team," Myers said. "Our middle distance group is going to be something we'll count on to get points for us throughout the year."

An athlete Myers said he expects to have a strong senior season is sprinter and jumper Jonathan Gant.

The Jays will also have a senior newcomer in Michael Appiah-Brefo, who moved in from Aurora, Colo.

"I'm thinking he's going to be able to step in and help us out," Myers said.

The postseason may begin a little tougher for Jefferson City this season with the move to District 6.

Lee's Summit North, Rock Bridge and Blue Springs took the top three spots in the boys state meet last season.

On the girls side, Blue Springs South was third.

Also in the district are Hickman and Lee's Summit.

"It's pretty rough," Myers said. "I'm excited about our boys. I think that we definitely have the ability to compete with everyone in our district."

Jefferson City will gets its season started today by hosting Helias at 4 p.m. today at Adkins Stadium.