Versailles track and field athletes bring home four medals from state meet
As the afternoon wore on Saturday at Adkins Stadium in Jefferson City, Versailles senior Max Coleman took in the sights and sounds of the best Class 3 athletes in the state competing and celebrating their achievements.
His own race in the 300-meter hurdles finished about two hours prior, but he had to wait for a run-off between two of his fellow competitors at the end of the meet to find out if he would place after some interference took place in one of the heats.
That was just fine with Coleman, though, considering the COVID-19 pandemic took away his junior season. So, being his senior season and last time competing for the Tigers, he soaked it all in.
“It was cool to be able to actually spend more time here since it was my last time,” said Coleman who actually got some good news and learned that he would be taking home an eighth place medal and All-State honors after finishing eighth in the race with a time of 42.15 seconds. “I’ve only been here twice so I actually got to look around and see what state is all about.
“It was nerve-wracking,” the senior said of waiting to learn his fate,” because I had to wait seven hours to run and two more hours to find out what place I got.”
Coleman’s finish among Missouri’s best encapsulated a day where Tiger athletes medaled in four different events. He was joined by fellow senior Michael Bell who finished second in the triple jump and juniors Justin Hamrick and Maris Ollison who finished fifth in the high jump and sixth in the javelin, respectively. After all 19 events were scored at the Class 3 state meet, the Versailles boys tied for 21st in the state with 13 points among the 73 schools represented. Ollison, being the lone girl to represent the Tigers on Saturday, had the Tigers tied for 48th with three points for her efforts in the javelin amongst 74 schools.
Ollison said there was some pressure as the lone athlete to represent the girls program, but she felt she performed well in some great conditions that made her role a little easier. Taking on 15 of Missouri’s best by reaching state, she finished sixth with a throw of 109 feet and nine inches, or about 33.46 meters.
“It is a hard journey, I’ll tell you that. I put in a lot of work during practice, after practice and my coaches are great and are a great support system along with my parents,” Ollison said of reaching state and medaling. “I would not be here without them. A lot of hard work, dedication and great people to surround you and support you, that is just how it gets done.”
Originally seeded 10th in the event, the junior’s finish did not surprise Coach Aaron Allen because he knew how competitive Ollison is by nature.
“She makes her teammates and everyone around her rise up to what she is doing and doesn’t really care what everyone thinks about that. That is why she is really good and is an All-State softball player and now, an All-State track athlete,” Allen pointed out. “Her family was there, there were lots of tears of excitement and she deserves it.”
Now, the work for senior year begins and the junior has a few ideas on how to improve upon what she already achieved.
“Just be fast, plant good and sometimes, you have to yell and make it go farther,” Ollison said jokingly about the javelin.
“Just keep doing what I’ve been doing- work on technique a lot, release point and just keep on that grind.”
That is precisely what Bell found that allowed him to be successful and rise to a second place finish in the triple jump competition- a focus on technique and grinding through drills where all those little things pay off in the end. In his final outing as a high school athlete, he turned in a jump of 43 feet and six inches, or 13.26 meters, that was only bested by Evan Bruenderman of Notre Dame (Cape Girardeau) who cleared 45 feet and 8 1/2 inches, or 13.93 meters.
“It is exciting, especially only getting to do two weeks of last year,” Bell said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic that robbed him and many other athletes of their junior seasons. “Plus, all the hard work I did, even when there was no practice, it is very exciting.”
Bell was actually sitting in first place after his first jump and watched the other competitors give it a shot. Allen said that is precisely how the senior liked to do things, sitting back and finding out how far he needs to jump the next time. It was nearly good enough for a state title.
“It was really fun and a great experience for Michael. He has worked hard in a lot of different areas and could not be happier for that kid,” Allen stated. “I’ve had only one state champion in my coaching career and I thought I was going to have a second one. I would’ve given him the biggest hug possible because that kid deserves it.”
Now that his time as a Tiger officially came to an end, Bell said a lot of friendships and bonds were created and he implored those coming back to not take anything for granted.
“Be smart- grades are first- and work on the little things,” the senior said. “Enjoy your track season while you have it. It is crazy to think about how I won’t have another high school practice ever.”
One athlete who certainly enjoyed having Bell around at practice was a fellow jumper in Hamrick, who pointed out that the seniors helped him with his technique. It set up a fifth place finish for the junior in the high jump with a height of six feet and 3 1/4 inches, or 1.91 meters.
“It definitely feels really good. I made it here freshman year, but did not medal, so it was nice to finally be able to do that,” Hamrick noted.
“It was probably just my focus. I was a freshman the last time I made it and was really nervous. This year, I came in and was a lot more confident and that helped a lot.”
And, just like any coach would like to see to wrap up a season, Hamrick set a personal record in his final meet of the season. Allen said his kids have been in the zone all week getting ready for state and Hamrick was one of them.
“I’m very pleased with Justin and his mindset, especially since he was a dual-sporter,” the coach said of the junior who also spent time playing baseball this spring. “He was with us about half the time between baseball games and what time he was getting home. Justin really persevered in school work and keeping his grades up and I am very, very proud of him.”
The boys 4x800 relay team also competed on Saturday where the team of Seth Newton, Zach Radefeld, Dagan Haggerman and Allan Rhorer finished 13th in the state with a time of 8:38.78.
“Our 4x8 performed the best they could and the fastest entry time was an 8:27. One through nine, nobody finished over an 8:27,” Allen pointed out. “Our kids performed really well and I’m very proud of that group, where they came from and the group of kids we put together for that.”
For the first full track and field season in two years, it was a season Allen was pleased with overall. He noted that having the numbers to compete allowed the Tiger boys to win multiple meets, including a conference championship, and that is no small thing.
“It was just a special group, but it was not just the kids we have at state. There is power in numbers and I truly believe that,” the coach said. “When you have the depth we have and a 43-kid roster, can stack up kids and score points from anywhere, it does not matter if you don’t get a medal. You earn your team points for that plaque and they have a part in all of that.”
Coleman saw that firsthand this season and was just as happy for his teammates on Saturday as he was for himself.
“Everyone here was able to cheer each other on, and this year especially, we learned that track is not just an individual sport. We realized that if you work together, you can actually take plaques home,” the senior said.
“It has been a lot of fun. I don’t really just look at medals, but all the experiences I made.”
There was also a junior and freshman on hand as alternates for the 4x800 relay team on Saturday and Allen said they were hungry. It may provide a decent recruiting tool going forward.
“You get the best out of that because you give them a little piece of that candy. Both kids came up to me and said, ‘Coach, this sucks,’ and that is a good thing because that tells me they want to run in it next time,” Allen said. “They can recruit, get some more people out, take care of business and we’ll have another successful year. But, you are going to have to work to be successful and I think our kids figured that out. The end result is very nice when you get to stand on that medal stand.”
So, that is the goal going forward- build the program and get even more kids standing on podiums with Missouri’s best.
“There are some kids out there who didn’t run and wish they would have. It is a lot different from what they’re thinking,” Allen remarked. “We train you the right way and if you want to be successful, come out and run because we have the staff that can take care of you and our coaching staff has done a great job. They are very knowledgeable and we treat the kids the right way and hold them to a high standard. Do the little things and it pays off here at the state meet.”
Michael Losch is the Sports Editor at the Lake Sun. He can be reached at email@example.com or 573-346-2132