South Callaway squads confidently 'expect to get to state'

Will compete in 23 events combined in Class 2

— South Callaway’s emergence at the state track and field championships over the past two years is a product of an acceptable amount of boldness.

A year removed from qualifying in 17 events, South Callaway will compete in an amazing 23 — 12 in the girls’ division and 11 on the boys’ side — when the Class 2 state championships commence late this morning at Lincoln University’s Dwight T. Reed Stadium in Jefferson City.

South Callaway co-head coach Bill Frazee noted that advancing to the state meet is becoming habitual for both the girls’ and boys’ squads, who charged to Sectional 2 team championships at Linn last weekend.

“They kind of expect to get to state now; we’ve got kids now that are thinking the right way,” Frazee said after Wednesday’s practice. “… We’ve got an attitude that, ‘Hey, we expect to do this, we’re going to be at state.’

“It’s not cockiness, I don’t think, even though you kind of want them to have a little bit of that. Their goals are to where that’s just what we’re going to be doing, it’s just going to happen.”

Tim Rulo — who shares head coaching duties with Frazee — was still trying to wrap his head around the surplus of success.

“We’re a little overwhelmed, honestly,” Rulo said. “It’s such an amazing thing to be a part of, and we feel really blessed about it. I think at the beginning of the season, I don’t know if we ever sat down and thought we’re going to take all of those kids (to state). We felt like we had some really good athletes.

“I think we’ve just been overwhelmed with the abundance and how things, again, seem to be funneling to this point. We feel so thankful and blessed that the kids are healthy, which is huge in track, and being as close to optimal performance.”

South Callaway will get the chance to defend state titles in two events starting today — senior Garner Rudroff in the boys’ long jump and the girls’ 400-meter relay. Rudroff will jump at 11 this morning, while the Lady Bulldogs’ 400 relay will run in the preliminaries at 3:05 this afternoon. The 400 relay finals are scheduled for 1:55 p.m. Saturday.

Rudroff easily captured the state championship in the long jump last year with a distance of 21 feet, 11 1/2 inches. He secured his return to the state meet with a first-place leap of 20-7 1/2 at sectionals.

Rudroff will continue his jumping career at the college level after signing with NCAA Division II Missouri Southern State University in Joplin.

“Last year it was completely new to him, so he was … a novice jumper,” said April Holzem, who coaches the jumping events at South Callaway. “He had not had any experience, was kind of just flying by the seat of his pants, honestly.

“This year, he’s been dead-set focused on it since basketball season came around. … He’s kind of struggled this year with just not having a whole bunch of people (challengers) that have really pushed him. I think we’re really excited because there are some pretty good jumpers showing up (at the state championships). I think he will rise to the occasion.”

The Lady Bulldogs’ 400 relay will be seeking a second consecutive state title after prevailing last year with a time of 49.63 seconds. The unit is coming off a sectional triumph in :51.05.

“One, they need to take care of their bodies now that they’re in more individual events and they have to be ready to go,” Rulo said. “Number two, it’s going to come down to great work with the baton. You want to make sure you secure those handoffs.

“And then three, it’s about having fun. How many times do you get the chance to repeat as a state champion, let alone be a state champion once? Now you get a chance to repeat, which is just phenomenal. So to do that is pretty darn special.”

Junior Hannah Oberdiek — a four-time state medalist last year — qualified for state in the long jump, 100 and 200. Oberdiek was part of the state champion 400 relay in 2013 and also medalled with third-, fifth- and sixth-place finishes in the long jump, 100 and 200.

Other state qualifiers for the Lady Bulldogs include the 800 relay and senior Taylor Howard, who medalled with a fourth-place finish in the 400 last year and is back in that event, while also competing in the pole vault and 100. Senior Bailey Ward advanced in both the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles, junior Sarah Jennings qualified in the high jump and triple jump, and senior Karli Leeper will compete in the shot put.

Rudroff will be joined from the Bulldogs at the state championships by junior Mason Shoemaker in the 100 and 200, senior Josh Brooks in the discus and shot put, junior Terry Miles in the 800 and high jump, junior Cory Hanger in the 400, and the 400, 800 and 1,600 relays.

“I’ve seen a lot of times, situations, when you get to this point, that some kids — they’re going to the state track meet — but they’re already kind of done with school, they’ve graduated, maybe, at this point,” Frazee said. “This group is anything but that.

“They’re so excited and can’t wait. … We want them all to PR (set personal records); if they all PR, then we’re going to be in really good shape. It’s keeping me young, being around these kids that are so excited and hungry for whatever happens.”

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