It had been more than 20 years since Carthage High School had a male athlete win a state championship in track and field, and the girls squad has had just one state champion in that time span.

But Friday and Saturday at the 2018 MSHSAA Track and Field Championships in Jefferson City, the Carthage boys brought home championships in three events and the girls won one. It all culminated in a Class 4 title for the Carthage boys, the first track championship in school history.

It had been more than 20 years since Carthage High School had a male athlete win a state championship in track and field, and the girls squad has had just one state champion in that time span.

But Friday and Saturday at the 2018 MSHSAA Track and Field Championships in Jefferson City, the Carthage boys brought home championships in three events and the girls won one. It all culminated in a Class 4 title for the Carthage boys, the first track championship in school history.

The win marked the end of an impressive two-year run for the Tigers, who won every meet they entered the last two seasons except for one when the boys placed third at last year’s state meet.

With two events remaining on Saturday, another third-place finish was already locked up. Junior Dylan Pruiett had already won the high jump and senior Arkell Smith had won the triple jump. Carl Junction and Grandview remained in the hunt for first place.

Carthage then won the 4x400-meter relay, and Smith earned fifth in the long jump to lock up the championship.

“I always tell our kids at the beginning of the year that there’s nothing better than a meet coming down to the mile relay,” head coach Andy Youngworth said. “You want to have the baton to finish the race and win for the team. I really don’t want it to come down to the mile relay, especially at the state meet. It would have been better if we’d had a cushion, but as far as pure excitement it was awesome.”

Senior Corben Pugh, junior Jayden Morgan, senior Clay Stout and then Smith turned in a time of 3:18.62 to win the relay, besting Rockwood Summit and Carl Junction.

The Tigers trailed Grandview by four points and Carl Junction by one with those two events remaining. Grandview still had a long jumper, Carl Junction had a long jumper and a 4x4 entry and the Tigers had smith in the long jump and the 4x4 relay.

Just before running the relay, Smith scratched in his first two long jumps.

“He tried to hide the nerves but I think he was pretty nervous,” Youngworth said. “He got a really good jump at 22–01 which put him in second and then he could go run the mile relay.”

Carthage trailed after the first few exchanges, and was still tied for second when Smith took the exchange for the final leg, with Carl Junction’s relay ahead by five meters.

“It was hard to tell what Arkell had left, but he got to the kid’s shoulder at the 200-meter mark and was able to pass him on the turn and hold off the Rockwood Summit kid,” Youngworth said. “That was a huge win for us. The first relay victory for us in school history.”

“Before the race the coaches talked about how it’d come down to that race and we needed to win,” Smith said. “That was the most challenging event.

“Going into that race we just talked as a team and we decided that we weren’t going to lose no matter what,” he added. “We were going to put it all on the line and give it everything we had.”

When Smith returned to the long jump, three jumpers in a row surpassed his distance to leave him in fifth place. Fortunately for Carthage, neither Grandview’s Tre’ Manning (sixth) or Carl Junction’s Aaron Ludders (seventh) could pass Smith.

When the final scores were tallied, Carthage led with 62 points, Carl Junction had scored 57 and Grandview 55. Webb City was fifth with 33.

A solid start Friday

Youngworth tells his athletes that the first race on the track sets the stage for the rest of the day, and that was certainly the case for the 4x800 relay on Friday morning. Last year’s Carthage 4x8 was seeded No. 1 but finished sixth. This year’s relay was seeded 12th, but managed to score two points by placing seventh in 8:05.26 with junior Clayton Whitehead, junior Christian Talamantez, sophomore Noah Talamantez and senior Clay Stout running.

Senior Dillon Lancaster then qualified for the finals in the 110-meter hurdles and each of the team’s relays qualified for Saturday’s finals.

In the triple jump, Smith won with a distance of 47–01.50 and sophomore Taris Jackson placed second at 45–10.
Clayton Whitehead finished seventh in the 3200 with a time of 9:27.91, finishing just two seconds away from a school record set in 1985 by Jon Murray, who is now the head cross country coach at Texas Tech University.

“He had a really good college career and has been an outstanding distance coach in college at Abilene Christian and now at Texas Tech,” Youngworth said. “For Clayton to come that close to a record set in 1985 with all the good distance runners we’ve had was amazing.”

The Friday performances gave Carthage 22 points, but Carl Junction had also qualified everybody for the Saturday finals.

Pruiett started things off Saturday by winning the high jump after clearing 6–07. Lancaster then went from the eighth seed to a third-place medalist in the hurdles with a time of 14.89 seconds.

Carthage’s 4x200 relay earned third place in 1:28.98 with Pugh, Morgan, Smith and Pruiett running. Carl Junction and Grandview were first and second, respectively. Carthage took sixth in the 4x100 with sophomore Marcus Huntley, Morgan, Pugh and Pruiett finishing in 43.06 seconds.

Pugh earned eighth place in the 400-meter dash with a time of 49.71 seconds.

In the 800, Stout placed 15th in 2:04.04 after being pushed off the track with about 200 meters remaining.

Sophomore Oscar Campa finished 13th in the discus with a distance of 131–04. Morgan was 10th in the 400 preliminaries.

“Jayden Morgan was really close to qualifying in the 400 and Oscar Campa had a good year for us,” Youngworth said. “I’m glad to see those two guys get a chance to compete individually and they’re both back next year.”

Schriever wins gold for girls

Freshman Grace Schriever provided a big highlight for the Carthage girls by winning the high jump at 5–03 and scoring all 10 of the team’s points.

The high jump was interrupted on Friday morning with a rain delay, and with the 4x8 relay getting started Youngworth wasn’t able to watch the high jump until later in the event. When he arrived, he saw Schriever was one of six competitors remaining and told himself it looked like she’d be earning a medal.

“One at a time these girls took their third attempts and sat down and I kept waiting for Grace to get up and jump and all of a sudden nobody was left but her and she was a state champion,” he said. “I’m sure she was pleasantly surprised. It doesn’t happen very often. We’ve had a lot of medalists but not too many state champions.”

Junior Sierrah Negrette finished 10th in the long jump at 16–09 and 11th in the triple jump at 34–09.50.

Junior Shyann Sturgeon was 16th in the discus with a distance of 104–01.

Sophomore Alexa Boyle placed 13th in the javelin with a distance of 109–03.

Senior Addison Theil earned 11th in the 400-meter dash prelims with a time of 1:01.01.

Sophomore Paige Schrader was 10th in the 300-meter hurdles prelims with a time of 47.49 seconds.

“We had some good performances on the girls side,” Youngworth said. “Addison ran a solid race and finished 11th. She’s a four-year qualifier and it says a lot about her that she was able to still make it as a senior all the way through. Paige Schrader ran a good race in the hurdles. Both Shyann and Alexa have time left in the future to make it to state again and possibly medal. Sierrah Negrette had a solid day, just not quite the jumps she wanted but for a girl who didn’t make it her sophomore year after qualifying as a freshman, she has to feel pretty good about it. All these girls are back except for Addison so we’ve got something to build off we just need to keep working at it and pushing through.”

‘It’s a dream’

When Youngworth got up on Sunday he walked downstairs, saw the trophy and thought, “Wow, we really did win.”
“It’s a dream and you wake up and it’s still there,” he said.

Youngworth is retiring as Carthage athletics director this summer, and his future in coaching remains up in the air.

“I really haven’t put it all into context yet but certainly as I kind of wind down my career without 100 percent knowing where things land at the end of the summer, it’s a neat way to kind of close things out in this case,” he said.
He said he’s mindful not to let things get bigger than they really are, and tells his athletes that even the state meet is “just a track meet.”

“Obviously it’s an important meet, it’s the state meet and there’s a lot of pressure but there are a lot of more serious things in life they’ll have to tackle and this is something that will hopefully prepare them a little bit,” he said. “I’ve been involved in coaching track and field at various levels since 1984 and a lot of great coaches go through great careers and never win a state championship, and there are some like West Plains that win cross country state championships it seems almost every year. It really all goes back to the kids and their efforts. There’s a lot of pressure on them and it’s sad to say but I think if we wouldn’t have won the state championship they would have viewed the season as a failure which would not have been the case. The worst we could have done was third place no matter what happened those last two events and third place would have been a great achievement for a school with only one state trophy.”

Youngworth said he appreciated the support of everyone who attended the meet, and Booster Club members for putting on a “great” reception for the team at the Carthage square when the Tigers arrived back home on Saturday night. As many as 200 people gathered to welcome the team back.

“This trophy is going to be in the case for a long time, the banner in the gym, that stuff is permanent,” he said.

“Being a part of this team is just indescribable,” said Smith, who finished first, first, third and fifth in his four events. “The character every performer has, the bond we have as a team just makes it more special.”

“To be on the state championship team and bring it home was a really, really great experience and I couldn’t be more blessed to be on such a great team,” said Pugh, who medaled in four events.

“It’s definitely something the town’s going to talk about for a while,” he said. “It’s something amazing.”

“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Stout, who was on two relays, including the winning mile relay. “After last year’s loss when we took third, we all put in offseason work and it’s a great feeling our hard work paid off.”

Lancaster, who medaled in the hurdles, said, “I’m super excited about it and it’s exciting we got one for Andy and for the team. We all worked hard for it.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “Something he’ll remember forever and it’s great for him.”