Carter Salzman, Trevor Scott, Garrett Smith and Victor Sewankambo have felt fast at times this season. On Saturday, the quartet of underclassmen knew they were turning in a special performance.
Platte County’s 4×100-meter relay blazed to a 43.57-second finish in the Class 4 Sectional 4 meet, finally taking down an elusive school record and finishing second to Harrisonville (43.29). The Pirates now take the fifth-fastest time into Friday’s Class 4 Missouri State Track and Field Championships in Jefferson City with a team still improving.
After missing out on the record by just .03 of a second in winning the Class 4 District 8 title a week earlier, Platte County had to have a school record just to advance out of a highly competitive field.
“It felt good,” said Smith, who ran the third leg and handed off to Sewankambo for the anchor. “I thought we were going real fast. By the time Vic got (the baton), he was going to be able to go fast because the person by him was a little ahead and that makes you go faster. I thought we had a good chance of winning but still got second, and we still have state.
“The school record felt great, but we want to win. That’s what it’s all about.”
Sewankambo and Scott are juniors, while Smith and Salzman are sophomores.
All four are essentially in their first season for Platte County due to the cancellation of the 2020 spring season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pirates’ only returned one state qualifier from a fifth-place state team two years ago, and senior Blake Bjustrom’s role was as a leg on the 4×800 relay.
Platte County battled inexperience most of the year but will take the 4×100 and 4×800 relays along with individual qualifiers Sewankambo (long jump), junior Cade Fowler (javelin), senior Joey Schultz (high jump, triple jump) and junior Andrew Early (3,200). The Pirates placed fourth in the Sectional 4 team standings with 78 points.
Kearney ran away with the unofficial team title at 145 points with Harrisonville and Smithville in second and third.
“State medals are the goal,” Smith said.
The 4×100 received an inside lane thanks to the district title but knew handoffs would be critical to staying in the race.
Platte County uncharacteristically dropped the baton three weeks earlier in the Suburban Conference Blue Division Championships but recovered with last week’s performance. Salzman started out of the blocks and handed off to Scott, who qualified for sectionals in the open 100.
“We agreed if we didn’t get (the school record) this year, it’s definitely going to be next year,” Scott said. “But it came a little early at sectionals, and hopefully, we beat it again at state.”
Fowler continued his recent and sudden ascension in the javelin to earn Platte County’s only sectional title. He set a personal best on his third of four attempts but sat in second at that point.
On the final try, Fowler uncorked another personal-best, this time at 49.60 meters to easily win the competition. Warrensburg senior Reese Tayloe ended up second at 45.81.
Fowler’s previous best was 44.42 meters from the conference meet, and his winning effort easily best his 38.99 last-ditch mark to sneak into the sectional field. He also somewhat unexpectedly came within 7 inches of Dakota Schmidt’s school record of 163-4 with Fowler’s new best translating to 162-9.
Schultz competed in districts two years ago as a sophomore and would have been a top candidate to take a big step forward in 2020. Instead, he went into Saturday with only one real chance to reach state.
In both the high jump and triple jump, Schultz responded.
“It was definitely hard to prep without a year before, so my junior season that we missed,” Schultz said. “It was definitely harder to prep coming into the season, but in the postseason, the coaches are the same. They push us to peak here in the postseason, and they’ve done a really good job of that this year.”
In the morning high jump, Schultz came in just 1 centimeter off of his season-best, clearing 1.92 meters to finish alone in third. He then went into the triple jump and came up with some dramatic theatrics to become Platte County’s only state qualifier in two individual events this season.
Schultz sat in fifth entering his fourth and final attempt and responded with a 13.02-meter leap that pushed him into third. He gave a huge pump of his fist as the distance was read out loud.
“Getting through in both was big for me,” Schultz said.
Sewankambo set a personal best in the long jump at District 8 (6.38 meters) to sneak into the sectional field with a fourth-place finish. He didn’t quite hit that mark Saturday but a 6.33-meter jump again claimed him fourth and squeezed out junior teammate Cole Rhoden by just 2 centimeters for the final state spot.
Rhoden had set a season-best at 6.55 meters at districts to place second and went 6.31 meters at sectionals. He hadn’t gone that far prior to the postseason.
Early opened the meet in his best event and immediately punched his ticket to state. He again pushed Ruskin senior Kayden Crigger, who wound up second in 9:58.22. Early was comfortably in third in a career-best 10:00.19, nearly going sub-10 for the first time.
With a difficult 1,600 field looming, Platte County also decided to sub Early into the anchor leg of the 4×800 to give the long-distance team the best shot at a state berth. The move worked with the team of Bjustrom, senior Andrew Plymell, Bjustrom and Early putting in a season-best 8:41.66 despite a heavy downpour that eventually led to a lengthy weather delay.
Early faded to sixth in the 1,600 (4:45.36) but will now bolster the 4×800 at state, as well.
Platte County’s 4×200 team of Salzman, Rhoden, senior Jaden Burnett and Chandler Steinmeir finished eighth, while the 4×400 quartet of Bjustrom, Steinmeir, senior Jaxon Crowley and senior Luke Filger fell out of contention early and came in seventh to finish the day. Despite those disappointments, the Pirates built a lot of experience for the future while also having a few seniors see their individual careers come to an end.
Rhoden (fifth, long jump), Steinmeir (fifth, 110 hurdles) Scott (sixth, 100) and Salzman (sixth, pole vault) were all first-time sectional qualifiers. Only Steinmeier ran at districts two years ago, just missing a sectional berth as a freshman hurdler.
“When you’re younger, everything is a learning experience that you can build off of,” Schultz said.
Scott and Salzman’s seasons will continue in the 4×100, as will Bjustrom’s with his second state qualification as part of the 4×800. He finished sixth in the 800, his only individual event, coming in at 2:09.28.
However, Platte County seniors like Burnett (sixth, 200), Crowley (fifth, 400) and Kevin Hughes (seventh, triple jump) saw their careers end after successful district meets.
Burnett came out for track for the first time and excelled in the 200 and as part of a promising 4×200 team that fizzled late. Crowley missed all of football season with a torn hamstring that slowed the start of his spring but he eventually cut his personal-best down to 53.00 before coming in at 53.51 in his final race, a full second out of fourth place and a state berth.