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story.lead_photo.caption Jefferson City's Rhakala Blackmon gets over the final hurdle of the 300-meter hurdle race Friday in the Russellville Summer Series at Russellville. Photo by Colin O'Brien / News Tribune.

RUSSELLVILLE — Runners of all stripes usually have two goals in mind when they're in season: running faster times and setting personal records.

But the reasoning behind them is often different.

Russellville track and field coach Sean Lovelace created the Russellville Summer Series, which hosted its second of three meets Friday, to give runners, throwers, jumpers and multievent athletes a chance to compete in a slightly more laid-back environment that has nevertheless been very popular across Mid-Missouri.

Jefferson City soon-to-be senior Rhakala Blackmon, for example, played volleyball in the fall, basketball in the winter and then switched her focus from basketball to track once the weather got warm enough, only for the coronavirus pandemic to cancel the spring season.

She was trying to PR to pay off all the work she did in preparation, and took part in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and 300-meter hurdles, the last of which she won.

"I knew I was going to run," Blackmon said. "I had kept on running, even after (the season was canceled) because we were hoping for our season to come back, at least run districts or state. That didn't happen, so I found out about this, I was like, 'Yeah, I'm going to run.'

"The first week I was pretty nervous. At practice, it's usually just me, so it's been a while since I competed. So my first week, last week, I was really nervous, but I still ran well."

Blackmon was joined by Jefferson City teammates Friday at Russellville, including soon-to-be junior Zaliah Dunbar, who had her own reasons for wanting to PR. Dunbar also ran in the 100 and the 200.

"I just wanted to PR to get some times in, to have anybody that wants to come look at me look at me," Dunbar said. "So that's really it, getting what I can get. For the 100, I want my PR to at least break 13 (seconds), like get to 12.9, at least. I don't know if I did that yet, I haven't been able to look at my times, but hopefully."

Unlike Blackmon, Dunbar said she didn't immediately make up her mind to join in on the Summer Series, and didn't compete in the first event last week.

"I wasn't sure at first because the whole corona stuff was kinda scaring me, it's scary for everybody," Dunbar said. "I was kind of nervous at first, but then I feel like, not having any times for sophomore year, I needed to come out and do something this summer.

Dunbar also ran in the 4x100-meter relay with an impromptu team including Blair Oaks' Kaelin Forck, who also ran the 100. Helias soon-to-be sophomore Schyler Phillips ran in the 100 and joined a team for the 4x100, and also competed in the pole vault. The Lady Falcons also had Ansley Casey run the 800-meter and 1,600-meter runs and Chelsi Forck ran the 400-meter dash.

Dominic Crisostomo competed in pole vault for Helias, Jefferson City's Brendan Rozier threw javelin and Blair Oaks' Maddie Twehus threw shot put.

The match-in-the-bullpen relay teams were just one example of the friendliness of the competition at the Summer Series. Since there were only two teams for the girls' 4x800-meter relay, and not enough runners for boys' teams, the race was run mixed-gender.

Russellville's Summer Series concludes with its final meet next Friday.

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