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Jefferson City track and field returns 11 state qualifiers

by Trevor Hahn | March 20, 2023 at 12:16 a.m.
Jefferson City’s Josh Wilson competes in the 4x200-meter relay during last season’s Class 4 track and field state championships at Adkins Stadium. (Julie Smith/News Tribune)

The Jefferson City track and field teams return 11 state qualifiers from last year’s boys and girls team and are looking to take another leap this year.

The Jays and Lady Jays will take that first step at 4 p.m. today when they open the season in a triangular with Helias and Rolla at Adkins Stadium.

After missing the state podium by such a small gap, the Lady Jays feel they can jump into the top four and reach that goal this year.

“Last year, with our girls sitting ninth and missing fourth by a point and a half,” Jefferson City coach Marshall Talley said, “we would really love to break that barrier and get us some type of plaque up there.”

Jefferson City will be led by seven returning state qualifiers on the girls side -- seniors Emmarie Graham and Saleena Morris, juniors Cheria Galbreath, Riley Schonhardt and Emerald Okpodighe and sophomores Stevenette Samuels and Lyric Hearn.

Graham will be returning to compete on the 4x100-meter relay team, in the 100-meter dash, long jump and triple jump -- where she finished second at state last year.

Her leadership might be her most important role on the team, though.

“Excelling in her areas, maybe not even being the best, but just giving her leadership in all those different areas,” Talley said. “It will really help those juniors and sophomores get to the next level.”

Samuels will be looking to build off an impressive freshman campaign where she finished fourth at state in the discus.

With all of the top talent coming back from last year’s state meet in the discus, Samuels will have to be at her best again.

“The leap she made from eighth grade to her freshman year to finishing fourth in the state was really impressive,” Talley said. “… I can definitely see the same top four competing one through four again this season.”

Samuels will help out sophomore Kaylee Redcay and freshman Jaela Nickerson on the throwing side, as Talley mentioned the two as possible breakouts this season.

Galbreath and Morris each competed on the state-qualifying 4x200- and 4x400-meter relay teams last season and will be major parts of the team this season.

“Saleena had a great season last year,” Talley said. “… She’s been working so well throughout all offseason training, through her AAU season.

“Same with Galbreath, she’s been working on her hurdling throughout the offseason. We are hoping she can bring another dynamic this year and maybe become a champion in hurdles this year.”

Schonhardt joined Galbreath and Morris on the 4x400-meter relay team that finished second last season while also just missing out on qualifying for state as an individual.

Hearn, a participant on the 4x100-meter relay team, and Okpodighe, who ran on the 4x200-meter team, round out the returning athletes from last year’s team.

On the boys side, the Jays are looking to reload on some of the talent lost from last year’s team.

With athletes like Tommy Roehl, Parker Gourley and David Bethune not around anymore, there are large shoes to fill.

“We don’t rebuild, we always reload for the next year,” Talley said. “It’s the next person up. You have a sophomore or junior and you see that senior leave, one of those guys want are hungry for that next position.”

There will be four returning athletes from last year’s state meet, as seniors Rodney Wilson and Josh Wilson plus juniors Jacob Wilson and Collin Ice are all back.

Jacob Wilson and Rodney Wilson will play big roles in leading the sprinters this season.

“Jacob and Rodney will hopefully be big leaders this year, those two will probably be our two strongest sprinters,” Talley said. “They are really pushing these juniors and seniors to the limit.”

Kris Scott, Jaiden LaViolette, Josh Wilson, Kendric Johnson, Alex Wilson and Zachary Barnes were also names mentioned that could have big years in sprinting races this season.

Stepping up to fill the gap Roehl left in distance races will be senior Bradyn Maupin and junior Seth Stumbaugh.

Maupin has taken a big leadership role, while Stumbaugh is looking to make the leap into the state meet this year after narrowly missing it last year.

“Bradyn brings great leadership, just been here for awhile and knows how to lead the young guys,” Talley said. “Seth barely missed qualifying for state last year but I think that experience is really going to help him out this season.”

Figo will be leading the pack of throwers this season after also just missing the state meet last season.

Senior Jordan Garth, junior Jayden Roling, sophomore Julius Lowery and freshman Victor Azuara are also expected to make an impact in throwing this season.

“I am hoping these seniors can lead our sophomores and juniors in the right direction to bring our throwers where it was back in the 1990s and 2000s,” Talley said.

Talley is hoping his team can make the leap from 19th in the state meet last year into the top 10 this year.

“Last year, we were sitting 19th out of 56,” Talley said. “I would love to try and crack the top 10. Boys and girls Class 4 are very competitive, so top 10 would be great.”


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