Truman sophomore Colton Rockhold had Saturday’s date marked for quite some time.
Seven months ago, he underwent surgery to remove a benign tumor from his spine, a procedure that limited his movement for 10 weeks. Soon after beginning his rehab, Rockhold set May 19 as his target date for returning to form as a distance runner.
He can check that goal off his list with pride.
Rockhold won the 3,200-meter Class 4 Sectional 4 race Saturday at Raymore-Peculiar High School to secure his spot in next weekend’s Missouri track state championships in Jefferson City. The top four place-winners in each event qualified for the state meet.
“It’s an awesome feeling today,” said Rockhold, a sophomore. “I’ve made it. I’m back.”
Rockhold was greeted at the finish line with a hug from running partner Justin Brown, who won the 1,600 earlier in the day to give Truman a clean sweep of the boys distance events.
Liberty won the boys event with 87 points, five points ahead of Blue Springs. Lee’s Summit West took the girls event with 81 points, edging Lee’s Summit North by one point, and the Titans have Brittany Kallenberger to thank for it.
Kallenberger capped a historic day by breaking the state record in the pole vault, the day’s final event. She cleared 12 feet, 9 inches, which was 4 inches higher than Tara Diebold’s mark with Branson in 2007.
And she even surprised herself.
“Wow,” Kallenberger said with a smile as she turned toward her cheering section.
She added later: “Success is a state of mind. I live by that. I visualized being successful today, and I was.”
The leap was merely the ending to an already successful day. Kallenberger, who has signed on to compete for Central Missouri next year, also won the high jump and will defend her state championship in the event next weekend. She placed second Saturday in the 100 hurdles.
Kallenberger was one of four girls to win multiple individual events. Jazmin McCoy, a junior from North Kansas City, will have a busy slate in the state capital next weekend. She won the 100 dash and long jump and was part of two relay victories.
Fort Osage sophomore Asia Cole won the discus and shot put throws.
Blue Springs South distance runner Samantha Nightingale took first in the 3,200 and 1,600, and she made it look easy. Nightingale, a two-time state cross country winner who will attend Oklahoma State, crossed the finish line more than 10 seconds before the second-place finisher in both events.
Perhaps even more impressively, she was hardly winded as she walked off the track.
“I promise you I’m tired,” Nightingale insisted. “My body just recovers quickly.”
The boys meet finished without a multi-event winner, though Ruskin’s DeMonte Pearson came close.
A year after academic issues relegated him to a spectator role for track season, Pearson was motivated Saturday. He took first in the 110 hurdles and placed second in the 300 hurdles.
“That was a wake-up call,” Pearson said of sitting out last season. “I learned that academics come first. I wouldn’t have won out here today without first doing what I’m supposed to do in the classroom.”