Track and Field dominates competition, wins district championships

Allison Kim, Op/Ed Editor

RBHS hosted the 2022 Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) Class 5 District 4 track meet May 14, with both the boys’ and girls’ teams coming out ahead of eight other teams and winning two district championships to take into the remainder of the postseason. 

The boys executed a divisive victory, amassing 161 points over the second-place team’s 142 points. The girls narrowly defeated Blue Springs High School with 141 points, only a one-point difference from second place. 

This district meet marks the official start of the postseason, and with only the top four places in each event qualifying to the next round. Head Coach Neal Blackburn said the main goal of the RBHS track team was to get as many athletes through to sectionals, as more athletes competing meant better chances for the team doing well in the postseason. 

“We just focused on executing in our respective events. We didn’t really pay attention to seeds or team points or anything like that. We just focused on doing our best without distracting ourselves with everything else,” Blackburn said. “Our athletes executed really well in most of the meet situations. Many, if not most, of our kids outperformed their seeds and let the points they accrued add up to their respective team titles.” 

Blackburn said he saw these goals manifest into results for many on Saturday. RBHS ended up placing first in 13 of the 24 final running events.

We just focused on executing in our respective events. We didn’t really pay attention to seeds or team points or anything like that. We just focused on doing our best without distracting ourselves with everything else.””

— Neal Blackburn, Head Coach

Senior Maci Steuber said she thought the team’s performance as a whole was well-rounded, with each athlete going into their respective events and stepping up to do their job. She said seeing the success of her teammates helped in her own performance.  

“Some specific things I saw go well were the [boy’s 800-meter relay] as the guys took home first, setting the tone for the whole meet. I witnessed the entire stadium get electric over them,” Steuber said. “Right after was our girls [800-meter relay], which also took home first, crushing any prior doubts competitors might have had.” 

Boys’ track team member, junior Casey Hood, agreed with Steuber. He said, collectively, the team raced well this past weekend, with Hood meeting all of his pre-meet goals individually as well. 

“Our main goal was to win Districts for both boys and girls. Another goal was to break our men’s [200-meter relay] record, which we did. With that, we now have the state record for [ the 200-meter relay],” Hood said. “Our performance as a whole was great. Everyone on the team ran super well, and it was definitely one of the best performances as a team in school history. I liked how everyone on our team really pushed through the 90 degree heat and the non-stop action.”

Despite the team’s strong showing, all athletes still had to work against factors such as strong competition and heat throughout the day. Blackburn said he saw the heat affect his athletes in both negative and positive ways.

“Our in-meet warming up and cooling down still need to get better. I believe the heat played a negative role in some of our pre and post-race preparation,” Blackburn said. “[Still], our competitiveness was outstanding throughout the long day. To maintain that desire and focus is difficult. The athletes that had multiple events over the course of the long, hot day really had to eat and hydrate carefully, which always poses a struggle, and some athletes are a bit more prone to struggling in the heat than others as well.” 

Steuber said it was crucial for the team to execute their events despite these factors because districts land at such a significant time within the season. 

Coming out on top, both girls and guys, it allowed us to check our marks throughout the state and reassure our ranking, along with sending a message to surrounding competitors.” ”

— Maci Steuber, senior

“[The team strived] to set the tone of the postseason,” Steuber said. “Coming out on top, both girls and guys, it allowed us to check our marks throughout the state and reassure our ranking, along with sending a message to surrounding competitors.” 

Additionally, Hood said RBHS was able to command the field because of the depth that exists in the track program, with talented individuals helping the team to rise above their competition throughout both running and field events.   

“We have people who dominate in every single event there is,” Hood said. “Other schools don’t have that.”

Throughout races, Steuber said the trust she’s developed running alongside her teammates and the values Blackburn and other coaches uphold during practice motivate the team to fight through adversity and perform to such high standards. 

“We have an expectation we bring forth amongst ourselves. With a heavy senior class, we carry the weight of ending careers. As a whole, the elite mindset we’ve acquired from cross country allows us to dial in and assess throughout any point in the race,” Steuber said. “We have the accountability of our coach, Blackburn, along with our teammates. [When] you have a stadium of individuals cheering for your individual success, in [those] moments, you don’t dare to disappoint.”

Did you get to see the track team’s district meet? Let us know in the comments below.