By Max Goodwin
The Grandview boys track and field team will finally have the chance to defend its 2019 Class 4 state championship on Friday, May 28th in Jefferson City.
On May 22nd, at the state sectional in Odessa, five Grandview Bulldogs qualified to move on and compete in seven events at the state championship meet on the 28th.
Senior Rayvon Epperson qualified in the 800-meter run. Junior Cartez Phillips qualified in the triple jump, finishing first at sectionals. Freshman Griouard Weddington qualified and won the 100-meter dash at sectionals last Saturday.
Senior Vincent Wilson made a personal record of 11-feet-6-inches on pole vault at districts, hosted at Grandview’s home stadium on May 16th. “I’ve been working for it all year, but this isn’t the end. Next week I’m hitting 12-feet,” Wilson said looking ahead to the Odessa sectional meet. He did what he said he would, clearing 12-feet at sectionals last Saturday, finishing second, and qualifying for state championships.
The Bulldogs are led by senior Jalen McGee, who was the only Grandview athlete to qualify for the state championships in multiple events. He will compete in the long jump, triple jump, and 110-meter hurdle race in Jefferson City. McGee had one of the fastest 300 meter hurdle times of the year in Missouri Class 4 but clipped a hurdle in the district meet two weeks ago at Grandview ending his bid to qualify for state championships in four events.
Grandview will need all qualifiers to finish the year strong to have any chance at another state championship. To win as a team at a track and field meet requires finishing highly across as many events as possible, as a team gains cumulative points in the standings based on how individuals perform in their events.
If Jalen McGee can win any of his events, and finish near the top in each event, he’ll provide a solid foundation for Grandview in hopes of winning the team state title.
It has been a decade since Grandview began what developed into a full-fledged track dynasty. Grandview won six state championships in a row from 2011 to 2016 and added their seventh of the decade in 2019.
All seven banners and another from 1990 hang on the fence that surrounds Grandview’s track at its home stadium. The girls team added a state title in 2014. This year, on May 16th, with the divisional meet of the state playoffs being hosted at Grandview, that tradition was on display as the Grandview boys won the 10th divisional meet championship in the last 11 years, dominating track and field in this division of the state.
“It’s always our goal,” Head Coach Jeremy Wardlow said as his team moved toward the state championships. “It’s tough to walk around here and wear the Bulldogs gear and not look at the history on that fence and want to add to it.”
Jalen McGee says there’s pressure that comes with competing in track and field at Grandview, as he hopes to live up to the tradition that’s been established. He was growing up in Grandview while the Bulldogs built the state title run. He started running track when he was eight years old and says he would walk to Grandview High School to watch the track meets as a kid. Seeing the success those athletes achieved motivated McGee to build himself towards the same goal.
“There were just certain guys I watched,” McGee said. “They made me want to take track seriously.”
Now, McGee heads to Jefferson City, with a shot at winning state titles in three events, and the track community of Missouri is taking him seriously.
More than anything, McGee wants to make his family, friends, and city of Grandview proud by winning a state title. He knows how state championships can inspire a community.
“It would be great,” McGee said, “knowing that I did something to bring Grandview some pride. The state championships aren’t just for the kids, it’s for the city of Grandview.”
The Grandview girls track and field team will also hope to add to the Bulldogs trophy display.
The Grandview girls team consists almost entirely of athletes competing in their first year of high school track meets, with no seniors and just one junior, but coach Dana Bedwell is excited about the potential the young group has.
Both 4×100 meter and 4×200 meter relay teams qualified for the state championship meet. Freshman Kamryn Williams qualified in the high jump and triple jump. Junior Jha-di Weston qualified in the 100-meter dash. Sophomore Alejia Maxwell qualified in the pole vault.
“We’re just trying to help them understand that we know what we’re doing, trust our coaching, and you’re going to be successful because we see the potential. They don’t know what their potential is yet,” Bedwell said.
“We have been around for some state championships if you know our history.”
(Update: Grandview was not able to defend its state championship title. At the May 28th state track meet, the boys team finished tied-15th. Jalen McGee was third in triple jump, third in long jump and ninth in 110-meter hurdles. The Grandview girls finished tied-40th.