The Stockton High School girls track and field team is mostly bringing its same cast of characters to the state finals this weekend to defend its Class 2 title.
And its most-decorated athlete is mostly trying to replicate her performance from a year ago.
Stockton needed just five competitors to score in last year’s meet, and will likely have just five compete this year in the two-day meet, which begins today at Lincoln University in Jefferson City.
Stockton coach T. Jay Sanderson is bringing nine athletes to state, but a few of those are alternates. Seniors Emilyn Dearman, Josie Pyle and Rachel Wheeler are expected to lead the team, and junior Alexis Smith and sophomore Jordan Thomas also are being tabbed to contribute.
“It was surprising (last year) because you only have so many girls and you’re making all those points,” Sanderson said. “There are a lot of races where teams are going to go in and get ninth or worse, and not get points, but everything we did was pointing. That should be the case this year.”
Dearman, who signed with Pittsburg State in February, took first in the 300-meter hurdles, second in the 100 hurdles and seventh in the 400 last year. She also helped her team to a fourth-place finish in the 1,600-meter relay, which sealed the championship.
This year, Dearman will compete in the high jump instead of the 400. She has cleared 5 feet, 2 inches this year and said she hopes to clear 5-4 this weekend.
She wanted to broaden her events going into next season, where she hopes to compete in the heptathlon for the Gorillas.
Dearman has competed in a handful of the seven heptathlon events, but said the javelin will be new to her next year.
“We don’t have javelin in Missouri, and the shot put is going to be kind of new for me,” she said. “I don’t know where I’m going to start off in those events.”
This year at state track, she also hopes to win the 100 hurdles after losing by two-hundredths of a second last year.
“I lost my concentration (last year), and now I’m really hoping to pull first,” she said. “I worked really hard to get where I am now, and I’m really excited about it.
“Last year, when I got second, I was just edged out.”
Sanderson said Dearman and her teammates have times that are about on point with last season, which bodes well for their chances to repeat.
He said today’s first race — the 3,200-meter relay — could play a huge part in the meet’s outcome, as team favorites St. Peters Lutheran and Herculaneum join his Lady Tigers as teams expected to finish near the top of the podium.
“We’re just going to do what we do and hope it’s enough,” Sanderson said. “I really think that’s the race that’s going to set the tone for the meet.”