Deja Vu for Hannah Long & Lots of State #1’s at loaded Festus Early Bird


Deja Vu for Hannah Long & Lots of State #1’s posted at loaded Festus Early Bird Invitational

Festus High School girls head track and field coach John Crites and staff brought together an amazing amount of talent to compete at the fourth annual Festus Early Bird Invitational, held March 27-28th.  Schools from the St. Louis metro area and south along the eastern side of the state were there as well as ones from central Missouri and some from Kansas City. For the second year in a row the meet included events on Friday as well as Saturday, and for the first time a 5k was contested, also on Friday.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

Déjà Vu for Hannah Long

While there were excellent athletes all throughout the meet’s entries, the best gathering of talent came in the girls distance events. The girl’s 1600-meters featured 10 of the top 12 finishers from last November’s Missouri Class 4 State cross country championship race, as well as two of Class 3’s best runners. The field stacked up to likely be the best-ever talent and depth wise for a regular season 1600/mile competition in state history, much less one before the beginning of April.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

While the girls 1600-meter was loaded, that doesn’t mean it was a close race for first. That’s because Eureka senior and All-American Hannah Long was in the race. Long is a 10-time state champion in cross country and track, a three-time Foot Locker Cross Country Nationals qualifier, and ran a 4:44 full mile at last June’s Adidas Grand Prix Dream Mile in New York City, placing fourth in the invite only event. Long is one of the best high school distance runners in the country and one of the best ever in Missouri. The University of Stanford signee has the next few months to show why she might be the best ever in Missouri.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

For those who were there Saturday and at the Early Bird meet last year, they saw Long almost exactly repeat what she did at last year’s meet this year. In the 1600-meters, Long blasted off the starting line at the gun and never looked back. At 100-meters, Long had almost a 10-meter lead. At 800-meters the lead had expanded to 70-80-meters. Down the home stretch, Long powered toward the finish line with no one in sight. Just after she crossed the line, Blue Springs South’s Grace Klausen finally came into view from the finish line, 110-meters back.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

Long’s time in winning last year: 4:45.84. Her time Saturday: 4:45.67. Long was .17 seconds faster than her winning time in the event last year, and set a new personal record. The time put Long atop the MileSplit.com national performance list. Klausen finished second, 20-seconds back in an excellent early season 5:05, Lafayette’s Anna West was third in 5:07, just ahead of Marquette’s Hannah Pierson, also in 5:07. In total, 10 girls finished under 5:20, including Lutheran South freshman Riley Schelp, who ran 5:17 by herself in the slower of the two sections. Thirteen runners ran sub 5:25. Long’s amazing performance was nearly matched by the number of quality performances that happened behind her.

Two and a-half hours later Long returned to the track for the 800-meters. She captured the 2014 event title in 2:11.38. Just like the mile, Long was off with the gun, blowing by the competition. Just before the 100-meter mark Long had a five to six meter lead over Festus’ Carolyn White and Rock Bridge’s Faramola Shonekan, as they gave chase. At the half-way point a slew of more than 10 runners spread across the first three lanes about 35 meters back chasing Long and fast times.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

Just like most races, Long wasn’t pushed by the competition, but by her own will and by Coach Kaly Fischer, who yells out advice like to stay focused and keep pushing herself, helping Long overcome of the tendency to relax with no competitors in sight. Long crossed the line with her shadow below her on the track, finishing in 2:11.36, .02 seconds faster than her winning time last year. This time, the competition was visible from the finish line as a battle down the homestretch included ten ladies spread over three lanes, just like the first lap. Jackson’s All-Stater Chelsea Drum won the race for second, finishing in 2:24.36. Drum led the charge of 8 girls finishing between her 2:24 to 2:26, and three more under 2:29.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

Hannah Long interview

West, Jerman, & Klausen go Sub-11

In the girls 3200-meters, another strong field took to the track. From the first lap it was a two-girl race. Ste. Genevieve junior Mia (My-Uh) Jerman took the lead on the first lap and took off, pushing the pace almost the whole race. The only girl to follow was Lafayette junior Anna West. Jerman and West had a 10-meter lead as the chase pack hit the 400-meter mark. There was no change in the order throughout nearly the entire race as Jerman was happy to lead, and West happy to sit behind her.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

Despite her efforts though, Jerman couldn’t hold off West’s kick and surrendered the lead on the last lap. West blazed down the final straightaway, lapping others, and crossed the finish in a new personal best and a new Lafayette school record 10:46. Jerman held on for a 10:50, a seven-second personal best. Blue Springs South senior and Arkansas signee Grace Klausen was the third finisher under the 11-minute barrier, clocking a 10:57. St. Teresa’s junior Ann Campbell was fourth in 11:02. Fatima High School freshman Brianna Haller, the Class 2 State Cross Country Champion last fall, posted an impressive 11:34, finishing seventh. That time would have put her second in the Class 2 State Track meet last May.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

 Anna West interview

Cody in control of sprints

The girls sprints were dominated by Lutheran South senior Maya Cody. The Mizzou signee captured 100, 200, and 400-meter dashes, posting the fastest times in the state in the season’s second weekend. Cody won the 100 in 12.17, while taking the 200 crown in 25.12. McCluer South Berkeley’s All-Staters Kamira Franklin and Octavia Cato took second and third in the short sprints behind Cody. That pair helped the Bulldogs take the 4×100 title over Hazelwood Central, while Central captured the 4×200 title. In the 400, Cody won by nearly a second, clocking a 57.60.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

Berkeley and Lutheran South will be looking to improve on last year’s Class 3 state finishes of second and fourth, and with reigning champ Grandview losing one of their state champions, their chances are improved. Ashanti Hutton skipped her senior season, graduating early and now competing at Northern Illinois University.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

Besides Cody in the sprints and Riley Schelp in the distance events, the Crusaders have two of the top throwers in the state, and they showed that Saturday. In the discus, Cecilya Johnson won by nearly ten feet, with a mark of 143-07. In the shot put, Emily Eller took second with a toss of 43-08.75. East St. Louis’ Aaliah Herron had the country’s sixth-best mark with a 45-8 for the victory.

Dexter High School’s MaKayla Waldner had an impressive meet. Waldner won both of the hurdle races. The junior took the 100-meter hurdle race in 15:54 and the 300-meter hurdle race in an excellent 44.65.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

In the girl’s pole vault, last year’s Class 4 runner-up Nicole Kallenberger, a Lee’s Summit West junior, won with a clearance of 11-0 on the cool and windy day. Kallenberger did so without the help of her coach, who couldn’t be there Saturday, but Festus Coach Michael Reed was there to lend a hand. Kallenberger has put in the work, but also has good genes, her sister Brittany set the state meet record with a 12-10 clearance in 2012.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

Nicole Kallenberger interview

Lee’s Summit North posted one of the best performances of the meet with their state #1 time of 3:59 in the 4×400. With two months to go until state, the Lady Broncos should be able to shave quite a few seconds off that time and be a contender at state.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

In the team battle, 31 teams scored in the meet. It was a good showing for new Jefferson City head track coach Melvin Meyers. The former Jeff City Sprinter and boys sprints coach helped lead the Lady Jays tie East St. Louis for the team title with 63 points.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

Three distance stars just watching

Three Missouri distance running standouts were on hand to witness the action Saturday, all three though are sidelined by injury or still recovering. University of Missouri freshman Jamie Kempfer has struggled with injuries most of this, her freshman season. The somewhat fragile Kempfer did a lot of cross training and only ran about four days a week last year when she was tearing up the track for Festus, including her 10:23 3200-meter race a year ago at the Early Bird meet. Kempfer is looking forward to staying healthy and being a part of a young and talented group for Mizzou and Coach Marc Burns.

Nerinx Hall’s Sophia Racette’s senior track season was over before it even started. The second best Missouri prep behind Hannah Long, Racette’s doctors discovered some of the bone in her knee was degenerating over the winter. The only real solution was to drill holes in the bone to increase blood flow to the region. Racette was using crutches to walk while supporting her teammates at the meet Saturday. Racette’s high school career is over, but she says she’ll be back and ready for college competition when she heads off for USC in the summer.

All-American Taylor Werner was on hand to support her Ste. Genevieve teammates, but the junior wasn’t racing. Werner has had injury issues since last summer. What was first thought to be just growing pains, turned in to possible over stretching aggravation, and other possibilities. However in December a scan revealed a bone chip in her pelvis. There was no word on when she might return.

Festus’ Karls & Gillam take 1600/3200

Festus seniors Michael Karls and Tyler Gillam have rarely been seen more than a few meters apart for most of their careers for the Tigers. The talented pair finish in consecutive order of finish more often than not, and it happened Saturday. The duo went 1-2 in the 1600 Saturday with Karls winning in 4:21.96 with Gillam just behind in 4:22.38. The pair out ran Lafayette junior Alec Hines who was third in 4:24.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

Gillam returned to the track for the 3200 for his chance to win a race at the meet. Gillam cruised to an easy victory in 9:30 while Jefferson City sophomore Jackson Schwartz impressed with a 9:40 for second. Potosi’s Caleb Gaylord was third in 9:42 while Whitfield’s Class 2 cross country state champ Nate Gelber was fourth in 9:45.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

Meyrer wins 5k in 15:28

The 5k was added to the schedule of events at this year’s meet and was held on Friday. In the boys race, Lafayette junior Devin Meyrer ran an impressive 15:28. Meyrer won by nearly a minute over St. Charles All-Stater Alfred Chan and six other competitors.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

McCluer dominates boys sprints

Hazelwood Central and CBC have had the top boys sprint corps in the St. Louis the last few years, but it looks like this might be McCluer’s High School’s year. The Comets had a dominating performance at the Early Bird meet for first-year head coach Tim Levine.

Raequan Stallings got things started for the Comets with his win in the 100-meter dash in 11.35. Stallings edged 10 others who were under 11.70 in the cool conditions, including Battle’s reigning state champ Ben Brooks.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

McCluer blew away the field in the 4×200 relay. The Comets won in 1:30.30 to win by more than 2.5 seconds. In the 4×100, McCluer beat Jefferson City and the field by more than a second for the win in 43.61. In the 400-meters, future Howard University decathlete and CBC senior Jerrick Powell won in 49.68. McCluer’s Asa Mcfadden, Kevin Spraggins, and Chris Murray went 4-5-6. Then came the 200 where McCluer swept the top three spots with Spraggins winning in 22.28 while McFadden was second  in 22.52 and Henry Jones third in 22.54, giving the Comets 24 team points.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

McCluer then rolled to victory in the 4×400 to close out the meet. McCluer cruised to an easy win, running 3:32.37, winning by exactly five seconds.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

Ganahl runs 1:57 for top time in state

Marquette’s Kevin Ganahl looked like he was on track to be the one of the state’s best distance runner, the third straight consecutive Mustang boy to have a great high school career after Adam Roderique and Noah Kauppila. Ganahl led off the Marquette 4×800 squad that took second in the Class 4 meet in 2013 and was 2nd in the 1500-meters at the 2013 USATF Youth Outdoor Championships. Ganahl followed with a  17th-place finish at the 2013 Class 4 State cross country championships as a junior. However an injury interrupted his high school career a year ago when Ganahl suffered a foot injury. He was banished to wearing a boot and using a scooter to get around. The scooter left Ganahl with his leg resting on a cushion while he pushed himself around with his good foot. The injury cost him the 2014 track season and the ability to train with Marquette senior star Noah Kaupilla.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

Ganahl has bounced back nicely. He kept progressing throughout the cross country season, finishing 34th at the state meet and leading a young Marquette squad to an impressive eighth-place finish. And now the Saint Louis University signee is running better than ever. Ganahl left little doubt who was going to win the 800 at the Early Bird Meet. He got out quick and had a more than 10-meter lead at the 400-meters and came down the homestretch with a nearly 20-meter lead. Ganahl finished in 1:57.33, to win by 4.5 seconds. The mark gave him fastest time in the state with two months left in the season.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

Cummings and Goddard duke it out in throws

In the boys throws, two shined the brightest on the back throws fields, a couple hundred meters away from the track. In the discus, Kirkwood sophomore Reece Goddard posted 155-03 mark that beat out  Festus All-Stater Nathaniel Cummings and his 151-09 toss. Cummings got revenge though in the shot put. Cunnings won by two-feet over Eureka’s Tanner Sobotka, 54-01 to 52-01. While Goodard took third with a best toss of 51-09.

In the end it was host Festus who piled up points in the distance relays, the distance races, and in the throws to win the meet with 103 points. McCluer’s sprint domination led them to a 90 point total to take second. Jefferson City was third with 55 points, while Lafayette, competing without a pair of their top distance stars edged out St. Charles for fourth place, 51-48.   32 team scored points at the big invitational.

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

2015 Festus Early Bird Track & Field Invitational

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