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story.lead_photo.caption Natalie Heckman holds up the first-place plaque as she and her Blair Oaks teammates teammates Emily Sporleder, Kati Schoeneberg and Ansley Casey are recognized for their win in the' 4x800-meter relay Saturday in the Class 3 track and field state championships at Adkins Stadium. Photo by Liv Paggiarino / News Tribune.

With only the 4x400-meter relay to go, it was time for Blair Oaks girls track and field coach Marc Keys to do some quick calculations.

Blair Oaks was in seventh place in the girls team standings with 27 points, so the Lady Falcons needed a strong showing in that relay to win a state trophy.

They got a strong showing, all right, and it nearly catapulted them to a state championship finish.

Blair Oaks won the 4x400, and with the 10 points, the Lady Falcons finished the day with 37, just one point behind the team state champion, Ste. Genevieve.

"It went perfect," Keys said. "Pretty much, we did what we usually do, and maybe a little bit better."

Blair Oaks came away with state titles in the 4x800-meter relay and the 800-meter run, in addition to the 4x400.

The Lady Falcons and Ste. Genevieve were the only two teams to win state titles in three events Saturday. However, Blair Oaks senior Emily Sporleder was the only athlete between the two teams to have a hand in all three state championships.

"I wasn't expecting it, I don't think our parents were expecting it," Sporleder said. "It means a lot to the whole community, not just our team.

"It'll carry on throughout the next few years after I'm gone."

The second-place finish gives Blair Oaks its first state trophy since 2012, and the Lady Falcons nearly captured their first state track and field team title since winning in back-to-back years in 1998 and '99.

"Everyone stepped up, everyone had a big part in every point that we got," Keys said.

Blair Oaks defended its 2019 state title in the 4x800, opening the day with a winning time of 9:59.54. It's the Lady Falcons' sixth straight all-state performance in the relay.

"There is definitely a lot of pressure, you always have that target on your back going into every meet," said Natalie Heckman, who ran the opening leg of the relay. "I definitely wanted to get this win for me and my girls."

Kati Schoeneberg, who started her season with a stress fracture, ran the second leg for the Lady Falcons, who were in second place at the halfway point. But it was Ansley Casey's third leg, which she ran in a time of 2:29.86, that boosted Blair Oaks into first place by eight seconds when she handed the baton to Sporleder to finish the race.

"Sometimes on the curves, I try to look at shadows to see how far they are behind me, but that didn't work today," said Casey, a sophomore who was the only non-senior on the relay. " I'm the baby of the group, but I just try my best and I hope I don't let them down."

Sporleder finished fifth in her next event, the 400-meter dash, with a time of 59.08 seconds. After that, she claimed the Lady Falcons' next state title with a time of 2:20.62 in the 800-meter run.

Earlier in the week, with Blair Oaks qualifying for state in six of the 19 events, Keys showed his athletes what it would take to come home with a state trophy.

"He made a little board at practice and he said, 'We need these points,' and it was the 4x800 and then me," Sporleder said. "I was like, 'Oh boy.'"

It also helped to get crucial points from Payton Mitchell in the girls 100-meter hurdles and 300-meter hurdles.

Mitchell earned her first state medal with an eighth-place finish in the 100 hurdles, crossing the finish line in a time of 16.40 seconds.

"I was racing to get on the podium," Mitchell said. "I always want to have a fast time, but today, I just really wanted to be all-state."

As a freshman, Mitchell missed all-state honors in the 300 hurdles by 0.18 seconds. But on Saturday, she made the podium, placing seventh with a personal-best time of 47.16 seconds.

"The points we got in the 100 hurdles and the 300 hurdles, it makes all difference in the world," Keys said.

Aubrey Hardwick also ran in the 300 hurdles for Blair Oaks, finishing in 11th place with a time of 48.77 seconds.

"She almost had a PR by two seconds," Keys said. "She was seeded 14th and got 11th. That's outstanding, being here for the first time."

In the 4x400, Kaelin Forck ran the first leg and Casey ran the second, keeping Blair Oaks in the top three of the faster heat.

Mitchell — who came away with three state medals Saturday — took the baton next and handed off to Sporleder, who put the Lady Falcons in the lead and raced across the finish line with a winning time of 4:08.91.

"They ran wonderfully," Keys said.

Blair Oaks entered the 4x400 as the No. 6 seed and knocked more than four seconds of its sectional time. The Lady Falcons became state champions in the relay for the first time since 1999.

"Winning the 4x800, winning the 4x400 is always special," Keys said. "The first event, the last event, you always have good thoughts about that."

Ste. Genevieve finished eighth in the 4x400, using that one point to clinch the team state championship.

"Good for Ste. Genevieve, good for us," Keys said.

Southern Boone was third in the team standings with 33 points, scoring 18 in the opening event of the day, the 3,200-meter run. Pleasant Hill claimed the last team trophy with just three athletes, placing fourth with 32 points.

Five teams from the Tri-County Conference finished in the top 15 of the girls team standings. Hallsville tied for sixth with 29 points, School of the Osage tied for eighth with 28 and Eldon tied for 14th with 20.

"Our conference teams, we see them week in and week out," Keys said. "It prepared all of us for this stage, when you come here and it's the same people you've seen all year."


Luke LePage came to the Class 3 state track and field championships as the only state qualifier for the Blair Oaks Falcons.

LePage finished in ninth place in the boys pole vault, clearing a height of 12 feet, 7.5 inches, missing his first all-state medal by one spot.

In the Class 3 boys team standings, El Dorado Springs won the team state championship with 43 points, one better than MICDS. Centralia was third with 41 points and Lutheran: St. Charles finished fourth with 38 points.

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