KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Reese Pickett didn’t necessarily put pressure on herself across all three events.
Yet, Platte County’s senior star provided a sense of symmetry with a pair of third-place finishes and a fourth Saturday in the Class 5 Sectional 4 meet at North Kansas City District Activities Complex. Pickett earned qualification to the Class 5 Missouri State Track and Field Championships in the long jump, triple jump and high jump — possibly a first in program history while facing a level of competition only seen during the past two seasons. Even with a bit of disappointment, she navigated the busy second weekend of the postseason in a much different fashion from last spring.
As a junior, Pickett won a pair of district titles but then only advanced to state in the triple jump.
“I wasn’t necessarily focused on that,” Pickett said. “I wanted to go in something, but it just happened to work out where I had a chance to go in all three. It all worked out, and I’m really grateful for that, but I wasn’t specifically looking to go in all three.”
Platte County will send five total field events to state with senior TK Lawson (shot put) and sophomore Addy Schlake (discus) both first time qualifiers in the throws. In addition, the Pirates’ 4×800 team of juniors Sisely Mitchell and Carmen Gentilia, sophomore Madison Palmer and freshman Addie Ayers posted one of the best times in program history to grab fourth place and extend their season with the third-fastest time in program history.
Besides Pickett, only Mitchell brings past state experience.
“Everybody that’s going is amazing,” Pickett said. “I’m just really excited to get to spend time with them, and I’m very proud of everybody for everything they did today.”
Pickett took a unique path to the final meet of her career. After the COVID-19 pandemic canceled her freshman season, she qualified for statute in Class 4 as a sophomore in the high jump and long jump while still experimenting with hurdling.
The big change came in 2022 when Pickett started triple jumping, nearing a school record in her very first competition. She ended up only going to state in that event as a junior after Platte County moved up from Class 4 to Class 5 for the first time ever.
“I think being a senior, having more experience, I was less nervous,” Pickett said. “This year, we did a real good job of preparing and keeping everything the same before every meet. I just felt confident coming in today. It felt different than last year.”
Pickett finally broke the school triple jump record earlier this season and went into Saturday’s Class 5 Sectional 4 meet after winning a second straight District 8 title in the triple jump — giving her five total in her career (long jump and high jump as a sophomore and long jump as a junior the other three).
On Saturday, Pickett opened her busy day in the triple jump, and with only four attempts she ended up hitting 10.82, just one centimeter off of her district mark, and placed a solid third. A year earlier, Pickett came in 12th at state and outside of the top-nine spots, which advanced to finals.
Pickett’s career-best and school-record distance is 11.23 meters.
The biggest scare for Pickett ended up being a few hours later in the long jump where third-place through sixth-place jumpers were separated by just 2 centimeters. She wound up on the right side of the mix in third at 5.29 meters, while Belton’s sophomore Amaya Crowder did not advance despite being at 5.28 meters after losing out on a tiebreaker of second-best distance to Liberty North junior Mary Kimmerle.
As a sophomore, Pickett came out of preliminaries 10th in the long jump and just missed one of the nine spots in the finals.
Last spring, Pickett seemed to tire out during a busy day and faded in both the long jump and high jump while also dealing with a sore ankle. This year, she admitted to more difficulty in capping her day in the high jump but cleared 1.55 meters to finish alone in fourth with the final spot.
Pickett’s only prior state medal came in the event to conclude the 2021 season when she cleared a personal-best 1.58 meters to finish fifth. She has not hit that height again.
“(Another medal) would be amazing,” Pickett said, “and it would be full circle because I’m going back in all the events I’ve been in in the past, so I’m just really excited. Obviously, the competition is really hard in Class 5, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Schlake, a sophomore with a unique mix of throwing and jumping events, also competed at sectionals in high jump but placed eighth (1.48 meters).
However, Schlake and Lawson benefitted when the District 7 discus and shot put champion from Raytown South did not compete at sectionals. Schlake set a personal-best for the second straight week — this time at 36.80 meters for the second-longest distance in program history behind only Kylie Guthier (2013). Schlake threw 36.17 a week an earlier to place fourth and take the final sectional spot out of District 8 and then moved up to third on Saturday.
Lawson threw a career-best 11.35 meters at districts to place third — a mark now third-best in program history behind only Guthier (2013) and Liz Peterson (2017). On Saturday, Lawson wound up at 11.02 meters to finish fourth and advance well in front of fifth–place Raymore-Peculiar junior Sarai Turner (10.66 meters).
While the field event schedule will be busy for Platte County this weekend in Jefferson City, the 4×800 will be the only girls’ running event to compete. The Pirates faced a difficult road.
Platte County finished third a week earlier at District 8 and cut more than 17 seconds off the previous season-best time in the process. The Pirates took almost 9 more seconds off Saturday to place fourth in 9:51.65.
A state qualifier each of her first two seasons, Mitchell ran the lead leg in an effort to put Platte County into the mix. The strategy worked with Ayers and Palmer holding position for the Pirates before turning the baton over to Gentilia in a pressure situation. Far from a sprinter, she trailed Raymore-Peculiar going into the final 100 meters of the race for the final state spot, and the long-distance specialist but former soccer player showed off some seldom-used sprinting ability to track down and pass the runner in an exhausting final stretch.
“I felt like I was throwing every limb I had at the finish line,” Gentilia said.
Raymore-Peculiar placed fifth in 9:52.41 — less than a second behind Platte County.
“I knew it was going to be really close,” Gentilia said. “I just knew I had to go out really hard and somehow just stay in the race. We came around that second lap, and Park Hill South passed me and I was right behind Ray-Pec. I was right behind, and I was so close. I was just telling myself, ‘I’m so close to her. If I don’t pass her, I know I’m just going to be so disappointed in myself, and I’m just going to know I could have done it,’ because it was so close. She was right there.
“I just had to do it, and I felt the pressure. I felt like I’d be a failure if I didn’t (take fourth).”
With three of four runners in their only race of the day, Platte County turned in the third-fastest time in program history — about 10 seconds off the mark Lexi Elmore, Jessica Clark, Isabelle Geddes and Rebekah Geddes set at state in 2017. Mitchell, Gentilia, Palmer and Ayers will all only have Friday’s 4×800 race on their schedule this weekend.
“It’s really exciting,” Gentilia said. “Just finding out that we knocked another 10 seconds off almost is just kind of insane because we started at, what, 10:30?”
Mitchell placed seventh in the 1,600 (5:37.35). She started in a pack near the front but faded well out of contention in the conclusion to a frustrating individual season.
After enduring a hip injury early in the year, Mitchell never regained form from her sophomore season when she won District 8 titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 and went to state in both events, as well. She placed 13th in the 3,200 and 16th in the 1,600.
Mitchell also went to state after earning a spot on the 4×800 late in her sophomore season, running the second leg and helping Platte County to a fifth-place finish in Class 4.
Platte County junior Ava Filger also placed seventh in the 100 hurdles at 17.79 in an off race. She advanced past districts for the first time, placing fourth a week earlier.
In the final race of an accomplished career, Platte County senior Hannah Mand placed eighth in a fast 100 field. She kept her career alive with a fourth-place showing at District 8, setting a career-best at 12.96.
Mand nearly matched that but pulled up ahead of the finish line at sectionals, resigned to the finality of the sprint. She ended up at 12.98.
A relay specialist for most of her three years, Mand ran on Platte County Class 5 state-qualifying 4×200 team as a junior, and the Pirates placed 14th overall in preliminaries. She also ran on school-record 4x100s as a sophomore and senior.
Platte County’s 2021 team reached state in Class 4, setting a program-best in the process. The Pirates just missed the finals that year and fully rebuilt this spring to make another push. Mand combined with sophomore Haley Barlow and freshmen Charley Sims and Rylee Carr to run 50.50 last week at districts. The school-record time was only good enough for fifth, leaving Mand with only the one individual race in what ended up the final competition of her career before moving on to run at Park University in Parkville next year.