Platte County senior Connor Currence leans for the line at the end of the 4x400-meter relay race during the Class 5 Sectional 4 meet Saturday at William Chrisman High School in Independence. ROSS MARTIN/PC Preps Extra

Platte County’s 4×400, 4×100 set school records on day of mixed results at Class 5 Sectional 4

With 3 relays in contention for state spots, only 1 advances along with returning all-state long-distance senior star Andrew Johnson in the 1,600, 3,200.

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Connor Currence emphatically leaned toward the finish line, not taking qualification for granted and likely knowing in the back of his mind history could be at stake.

Platte County junior Josh Fraker takes the baton in the 4×400-meter relay race during the Class 5 Sectional 4 meet Saturday at William Chrisman High School in Independence.

In an incredibly fast finale to the Class 5 Sectional 4 meet, Platte County’s senior 4×400-meter relay anchor tried but came up just short of second place in a photo finish, but a quartet also including juniors Brayden Eschliman and Josh Fraker and sophomore Jackson Goodale set a school record, bettering a mark the latter three set a year earlier. The Pirates advanced to state in the event for a second straight year with a better outcome in mind.

Currence and Fraker overcame disappointment from earlier in the day.

Platte County ended up with limited qualifiers for this weekend’s Class 5 MSHSAA Track and Field Championships at Jefferson City High School. The Pirates brought three relays to sectionals, two set school records but only one advanced on to state.

In addition to the 4×400 team, Platte County senior long-distance star Andrew Johnson pulled an impressive double in the 1,600 (second) and 3,200 (first) races and has a chance to add to his all-state credentials. The Pirates were potentially going to use him in a third event, but the 4×800 team of Currence, Fraker, senior Kade Meinke and sophomore Blake Herron ended up disqualified as part of a bizarre outcome in the morning, while the 4×100 of sophomores Adam Gisler, Braiden Stevens, Adeboye Akande and Ty Christopher finished sixth despite setting a school record at 42.56.

Platte County sophomore Ty Christopher takes the baton for the anchor leg of the 4×100-meter relay during the Class 5 Sectional 4 meet Saturday at William Chrisman High School in Independence.

Platte County’s 4×400 team continues to push toward full strength and followed up the District 8 title with another impressive performance. Eschliman, Fraker, Goodale and Currence ran together for just the second time this season, knowing a school-record might be needed just to keep the season alive.

Out of the blocks, Eschliman ended up with the “slowest” split, running a 50.8 on the opening leg.

Platte County never fell out of the top four with Fraker, Goodale and Currence all turning in 49-second laps. Lee’s Summit North’s anchor passed three runners on the final lap to take first place, while Currence brought Platte County across the line in 3:18.92 with Lee’s Summit holding on for second by .01 of a second.

However, Platte County’s previous school record sat at 3:21.62, meaning this group went nearly 3 seconds faster than last year’s state qualifying group at the same meet.

Eschliman, Fraker and Goodale were on the 2023 4×400 in the postseason, while Currence rejoined the preferred lineup to provide a solid replacement for graduated senior Aaron Cordova. Currence missed most of last season due to a stress fracture in his foot, giving the Pirates a seemingly easy rebuild.

Platte County junior Brayden Eschliman starts the 4×400-meter relay race during the Class 5 Sectional 4 meet Saturday at William Chrisman High School in Independence.

Instead, Goodale missed the majority of the season due to an abductor muscle injury. He has now run just four competitive 400s this year — the open 400 plus the JV 4×400 in the Suburban Conference White Division Championships to earn the trust of coaches for districts and sectionals. He rewarded the faith a weekend earlier with the Pirates running a 3:21.76 and just missing the school record.

Goodale continues to run the third leg after anchoring last year during an impressive breakout freshman campaign with Platte County posting three of the four fastest 4×400 times in program history at conference with freshman Jack Johnson joining Currence, Eschliman and Fraker plus districts and sectionals.

A year ago, Platte County went into state looking to reach the finals and become the second relay to medal in Class 5 (4×100, sixth in 2022). However, the Pirates fell off the pace in Friday’s preliminary and did not recover, posting a 3:28.24 and seeing the season come to an end.

This will again be the only event for all four due to the 4×800 results.

Platte County entered as the District 8 champion in the event and ran nearly an identical time at Sectional 4. However, Fraker ended the opening leg in fifth, and the Pirates were never able to move up and ultimately finished fifth, unofficially with the third-fastest time in program history at 7:54.00.

However, final results were delayed, and Currence’s late sprint to finish ahead of Lee’s Summit suddenly seemed relevant.

Platte County senior Kade Meinke takes the baton in the 4×800-meter relay race during the Class 5 Sectional 4 meet Saturday at William Chrisman High School in Independence.

Instead, a judge disqualified both fourth-place Lee’s Summit West and Platte County for the anchor runners repeatedly running inside the inner line of the track despite warnings. Both teams protested the ruling, only to have the games committee uphold the decision and send Lee’s Summit to state as the fourth-place team.

Platte County had beat both Liberty North and Liberty at districts, but those teams finished second and third behind Rockhurst. The race brought an end to the career of Meinke, an all-state cross country runner who served as an alternate on a Class 4 state qualifying 4×800 team as a freshman who showed incredible development in a short period of time and came back from offseason surgery on a broken collarbone just to find a way to put in strong contributions this season.

Andrew Johnson could have been an option to run a leg on the 4×800 this weekend with distance events spread over the two days, but he put his focus on individual events Saturday to impeccable results. Already one of only two state medalists for the Pirates in the first two years since moving up to Class 5, he ran patient and effective races in the morning 1,600 and the afternoon 3,200 contested in warm conditions the runners had not encountered yet this season.

In the 1,600, Rockhurst junior Henry Acorn went to the front on the final lap and pulled away for first.

Platte County senior Andrew Johnson wins the 3,200-meter race during the Class 5 Sectional 4 meet Saturday at William Chrisman High School in Independence.

Andrew Johnson took the lead from Acorn late in the second lap but didn’t try to chase when this positions flipped early in lap three. Instead, Andrew Johnson put his focus on holding a top-four position in a crowded top six, and he placed second in 4;23.38 — about 8 seconds off the school record he set earlier this year.

Also the school record holder in the 3,200, Andrew Johnson didn’t press that number with the weather clearly a factor. He didn’t lead that race until the end of the seventh lap and then pulled away to finish in 9:22.66 with Raymore-Peculiar sophomore Gabriel Voelker the runnerup about 4 seconds back.

Andrew Johnson had never advanced past districts in an individual event until his junior season when he went to state and placed sixth in the 3,200, joining Chandler Steinmeir (300 hurdles, 2022) as the only Class 5 medalists for Platte County since moving up from Class 4 in 2022.

Platte County hoped to advance a larger contingent with three relays at sectionals, and the most unexpected almost came up with the performance needed after the 4×800 disqualification.

The 4×100 team of Gisler, Stevens, Akande and Christopher knocked a little more than a quarter of a second off their previous season-best from conference and finished in 42.56. The Pirates sneaked into the field with a fourth-place district finish and then ran into even stiffer competition.

Platte County sophomore Braiden Stevens runs int he 100-meter race during the Class 5 Sectional 4 meet Saturday at William Chrisman High School in Independence.

The top-four teams all ran 42.17 or better.

Platte County’s previous school record came from the 2022 Class 5 state-medal winning group of Trevor Scott, Cole Rhoden, Victor Sewankambo and Nate Walls. Last year’s group threatened to better that but saw the postseason end due to an injury mid-race during the District 8 meet.

Gisler, Stevens, Akande and Christopher found form late in the year and posted a 42.90 to win conference then coming up with the record-setting performance that will likely build momentum for the future of a youthful group.

Stevens also competed in the 100 after a fourth-place District 8 finish and finished sixth in Saturday’s race. One of only five in school history to run a sub-11-second time in the event, he cross the line in 11.15 and was 0.15 out of fourth place and a state spot as a first-year runner. His PR sits at 10.89, hit on a wind-aided day at the conference meet.

Jack Johnson, an alternate for the 4×400, made his sectional debut as well in the 300 hurdles but found himself with a difficult assignment in Lane 1. He ended up in sixth at 41.28 — part of a consistent final three meets that also included marks of 41.17 (conference) and personal-best 41.16 (District 8).

All four qualifiers in the event came from District 7 with Johnson the second-best finisher out of District 8 after placing third the previous weekend.

Platte County senior Kevin Taylor also competed in his first sectional meet and saw his career end after placing eighth in the pole vault. He cleared the opening height on his third of three attempts to stay alive but ended up with a mark of 3.65 meters — off the PR of 3.97 meters he set late last month in the Platte County Invitational.

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