Carthage will send two seniors to the Class 4 State Track and Field Championships this weekend in Jefferson City in Stefan Stokes and Kaylee Morgan.
Stokes, who will compete in the 110 hurdles, is the only Tiger crowned sectional champion at last week’s Sectional 3 meet at West Plains, while Morgan, who at times scored 40 points per meet for Carthage, goes to state after finishing fourth at sectionals in the 100 meter dash, third in the long jump, third in the 4x100 relay and second in the 200.
Needless to say, the Tigers and coach Andy Youngworth will have a difficult time replacing that much production.
Morgan has been to state before, and competed in four events last year, while Stokes is making his first trip.
“It’s been chill and mellow, but also serious,” Morgan said of workouts this week. “We’ve got to be serious. Like coach Youngworth said, there’s nothing we can improve on, we just have to stay in shape and keep doing what we’ve been doing. It’s all up to us now.”
Stokes said he’s anticipating an “insane” experience at the meet, which will be held on Friday and Saturday at Lincoln University.
“I’ve been running track for four years, and this is the first time I’ve made it to state,” he said. “It’s kind of unbelievable. On state day it’s going to be quite an experience.”
Morgan jumped 17-00 in the long jump at the sectional meet, despite entering with a seed distance of 18-06, her personal record for the event. She finished the 100 in 12.83, and completed the 200 in 26.67. The 4x100 relay team, which Morgan anchors again this year, finished in 50.47 with sophomores Amy Keller, Sierra Barrett and Amanda Shannon joining her.
Since she’s been to state before, Morgan has been able to tell her teammates about what to expect.
“I just tell them to relax,” she said. “People are fast up there. It’s just an experience. It’s a good time. It’s something you can look forward to it. It’s a lot of fun. People are serious up there, too. You’ll come here and have our home track meet and people are just goofing around, talking and having a good time, but you get up there and there’s no talking. Everyone is so serious.”
Stokes, who won the 110 hurdles at sectionals in 15.03, said he’s not nervous heading into his first and final state meet.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I seldom ever get nervous before a race. If anything, I’m down in the blocks playing games with the other guys and just messing around.”
Both have mixed feelings about ending their high school careers. Morgan, who will continue her track career at Missouri Southern, said it’s both exciting and sad.
“I’m going to miss everybody,” she said. “All the coaches, they’ve been so good to me and I love them all. I’m going to miss seeing them every day at practice and joking around with them. I’m sure I’ll see them around. I’m still living at home down the street, so I’m sure I’ll see them, just not at practice anymore.”
Stokes said he’ll miss his coaches, too, among other things.
“As weird as it sounds, the insane workouts, the coaches yelling at us to go faster, just the everyday routine,” he said.
Morgan said one of her favorite moments of the season was setting her personal record in the long jump.
“That was a big deal,” she said.
She also enjoyed placing first in districts, and competing at the KU Relays in Lawrence, Kan.
“I’ve loved it all,” she said. “This has been a really good season for track.”
Stokes said his highlights include winning at conference and almost setting a conference record, as well as being crowned district and sectional champion, qualifying for the KU Relays and winning at the Pitt State Relays.
“Seeing as I had never been to sectionals before this year, the sectional win was kind of a big one for me,” he said. “Obviously, state is going to be a big one too.”
Youngworth said he hopes Stokes’ only trip to state is a positive one.
“If he runs his time from districts, he’s got a chance to get to the finals,” Youngworth said. “He’s going to be missed. He’s a hard worker and a very-talented individual.”
As for Morgan, Youngworth said he hopes to replace her with four or five others improving to help pick up the load.
“She’s never been hurt, never missed a day of practice,” he said. “To have a girl who’s gotten faster over four years is a testament to her work ethic. It’s been a pretty stress-free four years coaching her. I’m looking forward to her getting to the next level. I don’t know how good she can be at the college level. I’ve seen our kids go over there to Missouri Southern and get a lot better. I think she’s going to have a great college career. I think she’ll be pretty special.”