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story.lead_photo.caption Emmarie Graham of Jefferson City sprints across the track while competing in a relay event during a track quad earlier this season at Adkins Stadium. Photo by Liv Paggiarino / News Tribune.

Step No. 1 was win a district title. The Jefferson City Lady Jays got that victory by 15 points ahead of Capital City in the Class 5 District 5 meet at Waynesville. The second step was to win sectionals. They accomplished that last Saturday by scoring seven more points than Nixa at Carthage.

"I think if we just keep rolling then good things will happen," Jefferson City track and field coach Melvin Myers said as the Jays and Lady Jays get set to compete today in the Class 5 state track and field championships at Adkins Stadium.

The Jefferson City girls team qualified in 11 events, while the boys have two individual qualifiers in three events.

Two years ago at Battle High School in Columbia, the Jays captured the fourth-place trophy and the Lady Jays finished 20th.

Today, the Lady Jays will go for their first state trophy since a third-place finish in 2016.

"If we have a really good day I think we can," Myers said.

The Class 5 state meet makes its return to Jefferson City after tornado damage caused a venue change in 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 season.

The opening ceremonies will begin at 9:30 a.m., running events will start at 10 a.m. with the 3,200-meter run and field events are set for an 11 a.m. start.

It will be an all-finals meet, an adjustment to the modified one-day event held two years ago.

"It's better than the last time we did this because they aren't trying to have prelims," Myers said. "I think last time the prelims made it a little harder on everyone."

The Lady Jays will run in three of the four relays, starting with the 4x200-meter relay at 2 p.m. The 4x100 is scheduled for a 3:10 p.m. start and the 4x400 relay will be the final event at 5:45 p.m.

At sectionals, Elicia Theroff, Emmarie Graham, Bryla Taplin and Ezinne Opara won the 4x100 with a time of 50.22 seconds.

Taplin, Riley Schonhardt, Rhakala Blackmon and Dijonay Dawson were runner-up in the 4x200 with a time of 1:43.85, while Blackmon, Dawson, Elicia Theroff and Seleena Morris placed second in the 4x400 in 4:06.68.

Blackmon, Opara and Dawson will also compete in two individual events.

Blackmon will run the 100-meter hurdles at 1 p.m. before competing in the 300 hurdles at 4:10 p.m.

"I would say she has a good chance to PR and get a medal," Myers said. "She worked really hard. When we didn't have a season, she continued to work. When I wasn't even getting out of the house, I was sending her workouts and she was doing stuff on her own. Dijonay was the same way and it's paid off for her."

After a pair of runner-up finishes at sectionals, Dawson will be in the 400-meter dash at 3:40 p.m. and the 200-meter dash at 5 p.m.

Opara will begin competition in the triple jump at 1 p.m. before heading to the track for the 100-meter dash at 1:30 p.m.

She placed second in both events at sectionals, clocking in at 12.97 seconds in the 100 and leaping 37 feet, 1.25 inches in the triple jump.

"She was able to get one good jump to get herself here," Myers said.

The first field events for the Lady Jays are the high jump, which Theroff will compete in thanks to a fourth-place finish at sectionals, and the discus, which Anna York will throw in after winning sectionals with a toss of 111-9. Both events start at 11 a.m.

"She's worked really hard," Myers said of York. " She did surprise me with winning last week, but I knew that she was coming along."

Sprinting in two events for the Jays will be David Bethune, who was second in the 100- and 200-meter dashes at sectionals. The 100 is scheduled for 1:40 p.m. and the 200 is set for a 5:10 p.m. start.

Jefferson City's Parker Gourley will be in the pole vault competition at 11 a.m. Gourley cleared 12-7.5 at sectionals to win.

"He's had a really good junior year," Myers said. "I expect big things out of him next year. In the pole vault, he's gotten better each meet."

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