JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — All season, a team trophy in the Class 4 Missouri State Track and Field Championships seemed attainable for Platte County, but prior to the final race of the season, seniors Abbie Schwieder, Bryn McGehe, Aly Anderson and Haley Luna knew the exact stakes. The Pirates needed to finish first or second in the 4×400-meter relay to vault into fourth place Friday at Pete Adkins Stadium.
Platte County’s senior quartet of leaders certainly delivered under pressure.
Luna passed four runners in the final stretch of her anchor leg to finish second behind St. Teresa’s Academy and secure the best finish at state in program history. The looks on their faces at the finish line were a perfect mix of elation, relief and astonishment.
In the stands near the finish line, Platte County coaches and teammates shared in the moment, applauding the gutsy effort to secure the fourth-place state trophy and cap the historic season with another memorable moment.
“I think it was in the back of all of our minds,” Schwieder said.
“It’s definitely not what I was expecting,” Luna added.
During the day-long meet, the pieces fell in place to give Platte County a chance to make the top-four finish a reality.
Most importantly, Raytown South’s high-powered 4×100 relay dropped the baton and didn’t place, and Marshfield senior Brianna Utecht slightly underperformed her seed in the race preceding the 4×400, finishing third in the 200. Platte County’s 4×800 of Anderson, McGehe, senior Jenna Jurgensmeyer and freshman Sisely Mitchell (fifth place) and 4×200 of Luna, junior Riley Smith, junior Molly McBratney and sophomore Meah Salzman (sixth place) scored important points, and sophomore Reese Pickett earned all-state honors in her first state event, finishing in a tie for fifth in the high jump.
Those points put Platte County in 13th until late in the meet. The big push for the Pirates came with junior Maya Sullivan and senior Abbie Schwieder finishing first and second in the pole vault. Sullivan became just the third individual state champion in program history, joining Elizabeth Robbins (2000, 800 meters) and Rebekah Geddes (2017, 800 meters).
Prior to this meet, Platte County never had a state medalist in girls pole vault.
“I knew Abbie and I were both going to be really competitive at this meet, and we just had to trust in our training and what our coaches have done for us,” Sullivan said. “You know, the support from the community has been great so we just did our best today.
“We did our part to score some points today.”
Sullivan and Schwieder actually tied for the top spot at 3.47 meters but Sullivan prevailed on tiebreakers.
Schwieder passed on two heights but had been perfect before needing her third and final attempt to clear that bar. Sullivan missed once at 3.26 meters and twice at 3.40 meters, only staying in the competition on her final try.
However, Sullivan cleared 3.47 on her second attempt before both missed all three attempts at 3.54 meters.
“We’ve gone back and forth the whole season. We really pushed each other,” said Sullivan, a Class 5 state qualifier as a freshman at Park Hill South who held that school’s record in the event until this season. “It’s meant a lot to me to have a teammate that close, and we’ve done good this season so that was a good finish.”
The ending seemed fitting if not difficult for Platte County’s high-flying duo. Sullivan ended up with the Suburban Conference Blue Division and state titles, while Schwieder finished her career as the District 8 and Sectional 7 champion while also owning the school’s record at 3.53 meters, having set the mark five times in her career and having raised the bar by nearly 2 feet.
Sullivan finished with a season-best of 3.51 meters and will now have another year to improve on Schwieder’s school record height.
“I don’t think 10 years from now I’ll think like, ‘Dangit,’ but I’m happy we were able to share that moment together because we both earned that together. We worked for that,” said Schwieder, a three-time state qualifier and first-time medalist in the event signed to continue her vaulting career at Northern Iowa. “Obviously, I wish we could’ve shared, but that’s the fun of sports. You can’t share.”
The points from the pole vault pushed Platte County to fifth and 6½ points out of a trophy position behind Marshfield, which only stayed within range after Utecht finished behind Raytown South sophomore phenom Zaya Akins (state champion in the 100, 200 and 400) and Parkway Central’s Kayelyn Tate in the 200.
Raytown South likely would’ve won the 4×100 with Akins and finished fourth as a team if not for the dropped baton in that race.
Aware of the significance of those results, Schwieder, McGehe and Anderson put Platte County solidly in third in the first three laps of the 4×400, and Luna took the baton with some work to do. However, the difficulty of the task increased when she fell back as far as sixth while definitively in a pack of contenders.
“I was just like what is happening?” Luna said. “I came around the last stretch and pass like all of them (back). It was awesome.”
Luna made that move in the final 200 and passed up everyone except St. Teresa’s anchor Sydney Swan.
Platte County entered with the No. 5 seed time out of sectionals, and the time of the race ended up being irrelevant. The Pirates were off of their performance a week earlier by about 3 seconds and 8 seconds behind the school record Luna, McGehe, Schwieder and Isabelle Geddes set in 2019.
However, Luna ran the second-fastest anchor split (59.27) to bring Platte County in at 4:09.33 — a full second ahead of third place. The Pirates had been second place at District 8 and Sectional 4 in the 4×400, and four of the top five in the event at state were from the recent competition (St. Teresa’s first, Platte County second, Kearney third and Lincoln Prep fifth).
“It felt so good to win for our team,” said McGehe, who only ran in two relays after qualifying for state in the 800 as a sophomore.
Schwieder endured a quick turnaround from receiving her second-place pole vault medal to being ready to run the key opening leg of the 4×400.
“It was more hectic than I thought it would be,” Schwieder said. “I thought I’d have like an hour between, but honestly, I think not having that break helped me more because I had less time to think about the pain I was about to be in.
“But it means so much to me be here with them. They’re like my best friends.”
The 4×800 also outperformed seed with a slightly revised lineup. Anderson, a two-relay specialist in the postseason, took over the first two laps for state and put the Pirates in seventh place out of the gate.
Mitchell, the previous opener, then turned in an impressive 2:27.66 split to move Platte County up one spot. Anderson found herself boxed in some on her leg, while Mitchell was able to run in a more organized fashion — exactly what the Pirates expected.
“I think Aly could throw some elbows if she needed to,” McGehe joked.
“Yeah, Sisely’s too nice,” Anderson joked with a laugh.
Jurgensmeyer moved Platte County up one more spot, and McGehe closed with a 2:26.71 split to hold the spot, despite taking the baton and immediately having to maneuver around a Kearney runner on the ground in the middle of lanes 3 and 4. The Pirates finished in 9:54.01, just off their season-best.
“At first, I was like, ‘This is a great start.’ I’ve got to go around someone,” McGehe said. “I forgot about it right after.”
McGehe and Jurgensmeyer were on a 14th-place 4×800 team at state two years ago, but Platte County medaled for the first times since the school-record fourth-place team of 2017 (Isabelle Geddes, Rebekah Geddes, Lexi Elmore and Jessica Clark, 9:41.44). The Pirates tried not to focus on matching that quartet.
“Just compete. Not worry about time, just go out there and compete with others,” McGehe said.
“Definitely just happy with a medal,” Jurgensmeyer added.
Platte County’s 4×200 made it three medal relays despite being almost 2 full seconds off the season-best time from a week earlier, as well. The slower runs were consistent on an unseasonably cold and windy day, and the Pirates team of Luna, Smith, Salzman and McBratney came in at 1:48.34 — sixth in the fast heat and overall.
Smith, Salzman and McBratney were all first-time state qualifiers and medalists.
The 4×100 of senior Zaya Dove, sophomore Hannah Mand, Salzman and Smith nearly added another medal, finishing third in the first of two heats at 51.47. However, Raytown South’s dropped baton and a disqualification for Lutheran South left the Pirates one spot out of a medal. They had set the school record two weeks earlier, breaking a mark that had stood since 1983 (Georgette Horn, Cheryl Walker, Sissy Pepper and Jan Herndon).
In addition, Smith placed 15th in the 100 but posted a personal-best of 12.86 — the fourth-fastest time in school history.
“I’m really proud of us regardless of what (place) we got,” said Smith, also the leading scorer on Platte County’s Class 3 quarterfinalist in soccer. “We did our best, and that’s all we can really do because times don’t lie.”
Pickett went 1-for-2 on all-state finishes in her state debut. Like all sophomores, she missed out on a potential freshman campaign due to the cancelation of the spring season in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Excelling all year, Pickett eventually gave up her hurdling duties and focused on the high jump and long jump. She high jumped in the morning, passing on the opening height and then clearing the next three on the first attempt.
Pickett cleared 1.58 meters, matching her season-best.
“There’s a lot of people here so it’s a little more intimidating, and there’s a lot of good girls (in the event),” said Pickett, who ended up 10th in the long jump at 4.89 meters — 15 centimeters off of her season-best which would’ve placed 10th.
After earning her first career state medal in the 4×200 and before the 4×400, Luna ran the final individual race of her accomplished career. She faced a difficult task in the 400, being placed in the first of two heats with the No. 12 qualifying time.
Luna placed second in the state as a sophomore in the event but had struggled to regain the form that led her to a school record 57.95 finish in the 2019 state finals. She dipped under 1 minute just once this season and won her heat Saturday in 1:00.10 before having to wait to see the result of the faster heat.
In the end, Luna wound up sixth and collected her second medal in three tries at state in the 400. And in the end, every point mattered, and the individual finish was secondary to the team achievement after the 4×400.
“I was so glad we finished this way. That was the best feeling ever,” said Luna, who leaves with three school records (1:44.41 for the 4×200 in 2018) as one of the best and most-decorated athletes in program history.
Luna’s other state medal coming into the weekend was the fourth-place showing for the school-record 4×400 group in 2019.
Platte County didn’t beat that group’s time but bettered the place in what will be a memorable state runnerup showing. The Pirates added the program-best fourth-place state finish to the first conference title since 1992 while still in the KCI Conference and the District 8 team championship — the first-ever for the girls.
Trinity Catholic won the Class 4 state championship with 59 points, Parkway Central was second with 54 and St. Teresa’s third with 53. Platte County totaled 39½ points, just 1½ in front of Marshfield.
“It’s awesome,” Anderson said. “We’re all seniors so this is our last time on a track together, and it was just a really great way to end the season.”
Other qualifiers for Platte County at state this year included senior Taylor Giger in the 3,200 and junior Kenzie Palmer and senior Olivia Minter in the triple jump. Giger faded to 15th in her only event, finishing in 12:34.68 — more than 35 seconds off her season-best from a week earlier.
Giger was also a state qualifier in the event as a sophomore (11th) and has signed to continue her track and cross country career at Missouri State.
Palmer was 14th at 10.19 meters — 40 centimeters off her season-best from districts — and Minter 15th at 10.10 meters, 31 centimeters short of her state qualifying distance at sectionals. Both appeared at state for the first time.