JEFFERSON CITY – The list of things the Blue Eye High School girls’ track team doesn’t have is a significant one.
A home track, for one. The Lady Bulldogs sometimes run in the school hallways. Sometimes in the parking lot. Other times at the tracks at Hollister and Reeds Spring – generous rivals willing to help.
Another is a long history. Blue Eye started the program only in the spring of 2018, during which time it had only two runners and three throwers out for the team – not even enough runners to field a relay team.
Respect from some opponents is another thing that has been lacking. A new program with past struggles with numbers and facilities needs to fight to earn its place.
After Saturday’s final day of competition at the Class 1 state track and field championships, there’s one thing Blue Eye does possess that every other program in Missouri would love to have.
A state championship.
Blue Eye completed its inspirational run to the Class 1 state title – the school’s first state championship in any sport – by outlasting Worth County, claiming the title by a single point.
“We have to make it work,” Kenzie Hobbs said, clinking as she talked with an assortment of medals hanging around her neck. “A lot of people look down on us because it’s only our second year and we don’t have a track. To be able to come out here and do this, it’s exciting.”
Hobbs then gestured to the big first-place trophy that was just presented to the team: “It’s like, ‘Well, look at this.’”
The team title wasn’t clinched until late in the afternoon at Adkins Stadium on the Jefferson City High School campus, when Worth County – the defending team champions in Class 1 – finished one-two in the pole vault.
That gave Worth County 67 team points, one shy of Blue Eye’s 68.
Hobbs was the only full-time runner on last year’s team, which started with five individuals and was whittled to four by season’s end because of injury. One of last year’s runners split her time between track and softball.
To go from that – when Hobbs qualified for state in the 100 meters but didn’t make it out of the prelims – to now is a surreal feeling for the senior standout.
“It doesn’t seem possible at all,” she said. “To see the success we had today, and how good it feels, is so exciting.
“To be able to do this in my last year is amazing.”
Ironically, it was Blue Eye’s performance in the relay events – a year after not having enough athletes to enter even a single relay – that keyed the weekend.
Blue Eye won championships in the 4x800 relay on Friday, followed up with titles in the 4x100 and 4x200 relays on Saturday, then ended the meet with a third-place finish in the 4x400 relay.
The relay events scored 36 of the Lady Bulldogs’ 68 team points.
The tight-knit nature of the student-athletes in the Blue Eye girls’ program helped make this season possible. Hobbs was joined on the team this season by standouts in other sports like senior Taylor Arnold, junior Maddie Box and junior Kohnnar Patton.
“When we started this year and had other girls come out for track, we really wanted to challenge each other,” Hobbs said. “I think originally we did it because we all played basketball together and had a lot of success and we all enjoy it a lot.
“They are all my best friends, and we all come out and really support each other. That’s very cool.”
Freshman twins Riley Arnold and Avery Arnold, plus fellow freshmen Braylynn Siercks and Kyla Warren, provided an invaluable spark.
Riley Arnold was first and Avery Arnold finished second individually in leading Blue Eye to a second-place finish as a team at last falls Class 1 state cross country championships.
The freshmen dominated the distance events all season, and they came up big at the state meet, in both relays and individual events.
Blue Eye’s foursome of Siercks, Taylor Arnold, Riley Arnold and Avery Arnold won the 4x800 relay, with a time of 10:02.46 nearly six full seconds ahead of the second-place team from Kansas City Lutheran.
The 4x200 relay included Warren, Box, Patton and Hobbs, outlasting a team from Salisbury to win by about a half-second, in 1:48.36.
That same foursome made up the 4x100 relay team, which won in a time of 51.73 seconds.
“Coach (Kyle Turner) said we had the potential to do it, but a lot of coaches say that,” Patton said “I didn’t think we were going to get first in state.
“When the girls won the 4x8 (on Friday), we talked about how they set the tone, so the rest of us need to pick it up.”
Box also was skeptical at the notion of the team having this much success at the state level.
“I hoped it would happen, but I never could see it happening, because a lot of us had never done track before,” she said.
Hobbs finished that 4x100 relay, then went straight to the finals for the open 400 meters, where she collected a team point with an eighth-place finish.
Riley Arnold and Avery Arnold picked up some valuable team points in the 1,600 meters. Avery Arnold finished fourth, with Riley Arnold rallying in the final 10 meters to overtake Claire Hemry of Gallatin for second place.
Riley Arnold’s time of 5:25.69 was just .09 seconds ahead of Hemry, and gave Blue Eye an extra two team points.
“I didn’t know if I could do it, mentally, but I just sprinted as hard as I could,” Riley Arnold said. “It is really awesome for our relay teams to get those points for us.
“We were just really hungry to get first place, after taking second at cross country.”
Avery Arnold admitted it was a little intimidating, to be in that big a pack of talented runners jostling for a high finish.
“Everyone is all up there, it was a big pack of eight for the entire race,” she said. “It was crazy how close everyone was.”
In the 800 meters, Avery Arnold finished fifth, in a time of 2:26.78, and in the 3,200 meters, Riley Arnold was fourth (12:06.44) and Siercks finished sixth (13:03.05). Warren finished third in the 200 meters, with a time of 26.20 seconds.
The meet ended with Blue Eye’s title-clinching, third-place finish in the 4x400 relay, with a time of 4:17.87 from the foursome of Hobbs, Box, Taylor Arnold and Avery Arnold.
For Taylor Arnold, it was the perfect ending to a school year where she was able to compete alongside her freshman sisters on the volleyball court and basketball court – where Blue Eye was able to win district championships in each – then to win district, sectional and state titles in track and field.
She is headed to Evangel University next year, to play basketball.
“It’s unbelievable,” Taylor Arnold said. “This year has been so much fun, I will definitely miss playing with them and seeing them every day, but it’s been an awesome opportunity, to be able to play sports with them.”