JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — If there is ever a time to shatter a personal-best, it is in the finals of the state meet your senior season to win the state championship. That is a dream for most — it became South Holt/Nodaway-Holt senior Olivia Richards’ reality on Saturday morning in Jefferson City.
With a triple jump of 35-foot-10 being the mark to beat at the Class 1 State Championships, it looked like Richards was going to end her career without that ultimate prize of gold at state.
“I remember last year, I had a great season, but the end was kind of disappointing for me because I knew I could do better,” Richards, who took fifth last year, said. “This year was just a great year to get some redemption.”
After all, she has held the Spartan triple jump record ever since she entered the program as a freshman and the furthest she’s ever jumped is 35-foot-5.25 — to think she was going to increase her all-time best by five inches was pretty inconceivable.
Richards didn’t increase her mark by five inches — she increased it just short of a foot on her fifth jump of the day.
With her previous longest jump of the day being 35-foot-1, Richards pulled out her best for the biggest moment with a jump go 36-foot-5. The Spartan senior knew she had a good jump, but was surprised with the distance was posted.
“It was absolutely unreal,” Richards said. “I didn’t even know if they measured it right because I have not even dreamed of jumping that far. It was honestly just surreal for me.”
On her second jump of the day shockwaves went through the crowd when she jumped and a 44-foot-1 was posted. MSHSAA quickly corrected its mistake through and posted a 34-foot-1.
This time, there was no mistake. Olivia Richards was a state champion at last.
“It means the absolute world to me,” Richards said. “I could have only dreamed of coming home a state champion, which was of course the goal, but just having it come true is absolutely unbelievable. I have goosebumps, even still.
The jump would end up being her final as a Spartan after she scratched her final attempt. Storybook ending complete.
The triple jump was the busiest event of the day for the Nodaway County athletes as North-West Nodaway senior Kristin Herndon and Platte Valley freshman Stephanie Turpin joined in Richards in the field.
Herndon also joined Richards on the medal stand. Coming in seeded ninth, the Musket senior knew she was going to need something strong to climb onto the podium. She answered the bell in her first jump of the day with a 34-foot-1 and that mark held up for the entire competition and earned her seventh.
“I knew I had something to work towards,” Herndon said. “I knew I had it down in me, I just had to go out, run it, hit the board right and get my steps.”
Turpin was happy to get the experience of a state meet, despite her top jump of 32-foot-7 not being enough to earn her a finals spot. She finished 12th overall — the third highest finish for a freshman in the event.
“I was super disappointed, but my coach came up and said, ‘You are top-16 in the state which is a big accomplishment especially for being a freshman,’” Turpin said. “I’ve gained two feet on my jump this year so imagine the next three years how much I’m going to gain.”
Boys 110-Meter Hurdles
While Richards was making her last jump as a Spartan count, Taran Clark was making his final race as a Spartan memorable as well.
Clark qualified on Friday in eighth place — sneaking into the finals field. Clark came out ready to out-perform that seeding on Saturday and roared to a 15.76 to take fifth.
“I was determined to at least get on the podium, that was my goal going in,” Clark said. “It means a lot.”
It was a photo finish at the line with Clark being edged out by a hundredth of a second for fourth and another hundredth of a second for third, but there was absolutely no disappointment to be found with Clark as his state medal was hung around his neck on the podium.
“My goal has been accomplished so I am pretty stoked about it,” Clark said.
Girls 1,600-Meter Run
There are few things that Platte Valley senior Ashley Riley hasn’t accomplished in her high-school running career, but on Saturday she crossed another off the list.
The three-time state champion (2017 cross-country, 2018 1,600-meter run and 2018 3,200-meter run) was not able to repeat any of those titles as a senior, but she walked away from Saturday’s competition with three 2019 state medals — the most she has ever won in a single meet.
“It just shows to me that you can keep setting goals that you don’t think you can accomplish at first, but just keep working towards them no matter what obstacles come in the way, no matter what other people may say or do, you just have to keep pushing yourself to be as good as you can be,” Riley said.
With a second-place medal in the 3,200-meter run and a sixth-place medal in the 4x800-meter relay already secured, the senior finished the final race of her Platte Valley career — the 1,600-meter run — in sixth place and completed the medal trifecta.
The tears flowed on the podium following the race.
“For track, I’ve worked so hard for so many years, had such a great support system for so many years from so many people,” Riley, who was still shaking, said. “To finish it off with the best mile that I could put together today, just constantly doing my best through the years and having that all come to a culmination at the end of high school — learning so much through this sport about myself and what I could do — it brings out a little bit of emotion.”
Riley will continue her racing career at Creighton University next season.
“I just hope people remember how hard I worked to get to where I am,” Riley said when asked what she hopes her high-school legacy is. “And remember that they can get to those places too with a drive, a lot of internal motivation and the support of those in the community.”
Girls 400-Meter Dash
Senior Sydney Billings added to the Platte Valley medal count in the next race as she finished sixth in the 400-meter dash with a 1:01.74.
After qualifying with the third fastest time on Friday, Billings was admittedly not completely happy with her Saturday time.
“I think my nerves kind of got to me in the finals and I started off too strong and kind of burned myself out,” Billings said.
Billings, who finished with three total medals (4x400-meter relay and 4x800-meter relay), was still pleased with how her high-school career concluded in Jefferson City.
“I’m really happy with my senior year,” Billings said. “I finally made it to state track and I was able to come with my amazing team.”
Girls 300-Meter Hurdles
North-West Nodaway senior Kristin Herndon enjoyed her first taste of a state meet as she finished two-for-two in podium trips for her events.
“I was really happy,” Herndon said. “I PR’ed in both events and this was definitely the meet to do it in.”
After taking seventh in the trip jump Saturday morning, she finished her Musket career with a 48.7 and fourth-place finish in the 300-meter hurdles.
After qualifying in eighth-place on Saturday, Herndon was happy that she was able to climb higher on the podium.
“I had something to work towards,” Herndon said. “Making top-eight, that is great, but I knew that I could do better.”
Herndon’s athletic career will continue this fall when she joins the Knox College basketball program.
Girls 4x400-Meter Relay
The Platte Valley girls were Nodaway County’s most involved team at the state meet so fittingly they finished the final race of the meet in the same fashion that they did the first race of the meet in the 4x800-meter relay — with a state medal.
With senior Sydney Billings and freshman Madeline Ferguson teaming up again from a sixth-place finish the day before in the 4x800-meter relay, Sophomore Malia Collins and freshman Stephanie Turpin joined the fray for the 4x400-meter relay and ran a 4:20.95 to take seventh overall.
“People don’t normally think of track as a team sport, so the fact that I have these other three girls here to do this with is just spectacular,” Collins said.
With the team containing a pair of freshmen and a sophomore, the returning trio is thrilled about what they could accomplish in the future.
“I am super excited,” Turpin said. “I think we have a lot of room for growth.”