Pictured: Jayson Ashford '17 shows his strength after breaching the laser first in the 100-meter dash final during the 39th annual Dale Collier Invitational track and field meet on April 15 at Kirkwood High School. Photo by Ben Loewnau (STLhighschoolsports.com). Story by David Kvidahl (STLToday.com).
Jayson Ashford will lay down anywhere.
On the hot, plastic grass. On the track after a race. If there's space to crash and burn count Ashford in.
The one place he won't lie down?
When it's a competition.
A senior sprinter for the St. Louis U. High track and field team, Ashford electrified Kirkwood's Dale Collier Meet at Kirkwood High on Saturday. Ashford delivered a scintillating anchor leg in the 1,600-meter relay as he made up a nearly five-second gap to win the race in 3 minutes and 24.09 seconds. He slipped past Rock Bridge sophomore Eli Darrough at the finish line to make the Bruins the runner up in 3:24.24.
"Absolute craziness," Ashford said. "I didn't know at all (how far behind I was). I didn't care. I just wanted to catch him."
Ashford made up the gap step by step on the back stretch, but didn't actually get in front until the final few steps. It was a herculean performance for Ashford, who spent a hot Saturday dominating his open events. Ashford took top honors in the 100 (10.65), 200 (21.49) and 400 (49.21).
"It was a completely hard day," a gassed Ashford said after the meet.
Ashford provided the fireworks in the end, but the day belonged to Kansas City area powerhouse Blue Springs. A perennial Class 5 contender, the Wildcats trekked across the state to run with some the area's best and dominated in the process.
On the boys side, Blue Springs scored 173 points. SLUH was the runner up with 120 followed by Rock Bridge (101.33), Kirkwood (87.33) and Battle (75.33).
The Blue Springs girls team took top honors, too. The Wildcats scored 154 points followed by Battle (127), Kirkwood (95) and Incarnate Word (59.5).
"I've got a lot of respect for (Kirkwood coach) Roberta (McWoods) and these St. Louis schools that we see at these meets," Blue Springs coach Joe Cusak said. "That's one of the reasons we come over. It's good competition and they run a class meet."
The Blue Springs boys team got a monster performance from junior Victor Mugeche, who won the 3,200 in 9:28 and was part of the 3,200-relay team that finished in 7:59 to eke past SLUH, who finished in 8:00.
"It was the first time we stacked it," Mugeche said. "I was excited to run that. We barely got under 8. I was happy about that."
Senior Darius Clark won the long jump (23 feet, 1.5 inches) and triple jump (47-9.5). Junior Daniel Parker won the discus (157-11).
"A lot of good things. Some big-time (personal records)," Cusak said. "We've got some young kids trying to figure some things out, but making this trip you always get some questions answered and we know what we need to go back to work on."
The victory could have been even bigger had Hazelwood Central's young stunners not delivered a pair of clutch performances. Sophomore Kemeric Winston anchored the 400 and 800 relays to narrow victories over the Wildcats.
The Hawks' 400 relay won in 43.05 ahead of the Wildcats at 43.11. The 800-relay was even closer as Winston pushed his chest across the line by the slimmest of margins. Central finished in 1:29.43 ahead of Blue Springs at 1:29.44.
"It was a big competition. I know it's not me running, it's my whole team," Winston said. "We have a goal and that's to get gold. I know my team is counting on me, so I can't let them down."
Joined by sophomores Imon Bell, Corrion Matthews and junior Jordan Duval, the Hawks showed they are a force to be reckoned with and they've only started to scratch the surface.
"My guys are pretty young so we're getting it together. This was the first week we really had our guys healthy and together. I knew we had this in us," Hazelwood Central coach Ken Turner said. "Today I'm happy we got the baton around the track. That's my thing. The finish was a bonus."
An interesting subplot to the track meet carried over from football season. Kirkwood beat Blue Springs to claim the Class 6 title. Many of the players on both teams were at the track meet. Kirkwood senior thrower and linebacker Ivan Barnett and Blue Springs senior thrower and quarterback Dylan Cowling tied for top honors in the javelin with throws of 182-4.
"Dylan is the quarterback over there and I was a linebacker so we saw a lot of each other during the game," Barnett said with a laugh. "We're just out here having some fun now."
Barnett sat atop the state leader board at 183-11. Poplar Bluff junior Logan Bell is right behind him. Barnett is excited to see what he, Bell and Cowling can do down at the state meet. It could be a good, old-fashioned free-for-all.
"State is going to be crazy between me, him and Logan Bell of Poplar Bluff. There's going to be three 200s that day," Barnett said. "I know so."
Missing from action was Kirkwood's standout thrower and star quarterback Reece Goddard. He spent the weekend at Western Michigan where he signed to play football. Western Michigan had all its incoming recruits on campus and Goddard wasn't going to miss it. That left Barnett to carry the flag for Kirkwood's throwers.
"I did an OK job," he said.
De Smet senior Joseph Reed had himself an OK day, too.
A senior distance runner, Reed powered his way to victory in the 1,600 in 4:30, just ahead of Washington's Clayton Duchatschek, who finished in 4:31. On hot, sunny day it was a hard race for Reed, who had to rally himself for his open 800.
"After the 1,600, I threw up a little bit," Reed said. "I was not happy at all. I didn't want to run (the 800)."
Reed was buried a bit and sat in seventh place and as the pack finished the first lap in 61 seconds. That did not sit will with Reed and he dug in and found his second wind.
"We went through in a 61 and I got really mad," Reed said. "I'm not losing with a 61 first lap."
He won the race in 2:01.17 with SLUH freshman Lazarus Williams right behind him at 2:01.57 and SLUH senior Roman Lipinski at 2:01.99.
Kirkwood received championship performances from senior pole vaulter Will Drury (14 feet) and junior Jordan Knudsen in the 110 hurdles (15.47).
Hazelwood Central senior Ed Beckton won the shot put (55-0.25).
Kirkwood's senior girls put their talents on display. Sprinter Hava Turner won the 100 (12.09) and 200 (25.33). Kara Steele won the triple jump (39-4.75) and 400 (58.74). The duo were part of the 800 and 1,600 relays. The 800 was the runner up to Battle and the 1,600 took third as Nerinx Hall rolled in 4:03.
The Markers also claimed the 3,200 relay championship in 9:48, 10 seconds better than runner up Blue Springs.
Washington star junior Mikayla Reed won the 1,600 (5:10) and 3,200 (11:25). Cor Jesu junior Olivia DuCharme won the high jump (5 feet). Incarnate Word senior Jade Gates won the shot put (38-4.75).
Blue Springs junior Reagen Kanagawa won the discus (114-6) and javelin (146-11). Kanagawa's javelin toss is the best in Missouri by nine feet.
Blue Springs senior Elyse Valdivia won the 800 (2:26). Sophomore Cori Davis won the 300 hurdles (47.23)
Battle's sprint corps was strong. The Spartans won the 400 relay (49.84) and 800 relay (1:45). Freshman Paige Magee won the 100 hurdles (15.76). Senior Jerrica Key captured the long jump (18-5).