• Missouri adds fifth class, javelin to 2015 season
    Wells carries the torch for Cleveland

    14 hours ago  •  By David Kvidahl | STLhighschoolsports.com

    Michael Wells of Cleveland NJROTC won both the 100 and 200-meter dashes at the Missouri Class 2 Boys Track and Field Championships on Saturday, May 18, 2013 at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo. Rick Graefe, STLhighschoolsports.com

    The member schools of the Missouri State High School Activities Association approved a measure that adds another classification to track and field. The 2013-14 school year will be the last of four classes. Starting in 2014-15, a fifth class will be added.

    “We’ll put the top 64 schools by enrollment in track and field and they will be in Class 5. Then in Classes 4, 3 and 2 we will put 92 in each of those,” MSHSAA spokesman Harvey Richards said. “The catch-all will be Class 1. From our projections right now it would be about 130-133 schools which is the same number they have in Class 1 right now.”

    The biggest change will come at the state meet. Currently the Class 1 and 2 state meets are held on the third weekend of May. The Class 3 and 4 state meets are held on the last weekend in May. The new plan is to keep Class 1 and 2 together and add another class to the second set of meets. This will require shifting the meet schedule around, but Richards is confident it should be manageable.

    “The last weekend in May will be the Class 3, 4 and 5 championships at Lincoln University. We’re going to be revamping the schedule. There will no longer be a noon start for the running races. We’re going to start much earlier in the day,” he said. “We might start the pole vault as early as 9:30 in the morning. We’re going to move the schedule up and move some things around.”

    There has been a push throughout the track community, especially in St. Louis, to add a qualifying standard for the state meet. Instead of the top four competitors advancing from each event at district and sectional meets, a qualifying standard would allow any number of competitors that finished in a certain time or cleared a certain distance to advance. To make that happen, though, it would require a change in the postseason format and that requires two-thirds of the member schools approving the measure on the annual ballot. Every attempt to do that has failed.

    Adding a fifth class, however, was a bylaw change and only required a simple majority vote by the member schools. It passed overwhelmingly. One of the reasons for that is the manageability of a set number of heats during the first day of qualifying.

    “The difference is we still have just two heats of everything," Richards said.

    When you’re talking about a state qualifying time that’s thrown out the window,” Richards added. “Now you can end up with three heats, you can end up with four. That’s the difference.”


    Starting in the 2014-15 school year Missouri track and field teams can compete in the javelin. The event will be added as an experimental event and could find a permanent home if all goes well.

    “We voted in the regular javelin. And what we’re going to do is a two-year experiment. We’ll keep data on the schools that use it and how they perform, similar to 10 years ago when we did girls pole vault. We’ll just track it and see how it goes,” Richards said. “If it has a backing and a place in our sport we’ll be adding it to our state championship series.”

    Richards said MSHSAA waited a year to add the event in order to allow the schools and teams to prepare themselves. Because it’s an experimental event, meets during the season will be allowed to use it as a scoring or nonscoring event.

    “We put it off for a year to let the athletic directors and the schools make sure they have the proper equipment, make sure they have the coaches that are properly trained. We also wanted them to have a year to get the word out,” Richards said. “Some of them will do it as a point-scoring event, some will not use it as a point-scoring event.”

    The area does boast at least one elite javelin thrower in Brentwood sophomore Sophia Rivera. She finished second in her division at the AAU Jr. Olympics last summer.


    Michael Wells can feel the pressure. A six-time state champion including four at last year’s Class 2 meet, the Cleveland NJROTC senior sprinter understands expectations are sky-high this year for him. And there’s a part of him that worries about that.

    “There’s a lot of pressure put on me. Everyone is expecting me to do big things,” Wells, 18, said. “This year I’m trying break the state record.”

    An Oklahoma recruit, the 5-foot-8 Wells is among the hand full of national elite talents to call St. Louis home. Last year he won the 100- and 200-meter state titles despite running on a hamstring that was not fully healthy. When he did get closer to healthy, Wells ran a 10.43 in the 100 at the Festival of Miles summer meet and went 21.13 in the 200.

    Wells feels as if he’s running for more than himself. He understands that Cleveland and the Public High League do not garner the attention of years gone by when they were powerhouses. Instead, it’s up to Wells to carry the banner.

    And it’s something he does with pride.

    Wells is hoping to push through this season and avoid injury like last season’s hamstring pull that hurt him early on in the spring. A fully healthy Wells will be a sight to behold this spring.


    Ja’Mari Ward was destined to jump. The Cahokia sophomore has it in his blood. Ward started jumping in middle school as his brother, LaDerrick, was an outstanding leaper in high school. The 21-year-old LaDerrick, a junior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville just qualified for the NCAA Indoor National Championships in the long jump.

    “They saw what my brother did in the jumps and they wanted to see what I could do. So ever since then I’ve been jumping,” Ja’Mari said.

    What he can do is reach unprecedented heights. A 2A state champion in the long jump and third-place finisher in the triple jump as a freshman, the 5-foot-10 Ja’Mari is just scratching the surface of his talents and abilities.

    “Ja’Mari is a very hard worker. He has big goals for himself. Ever since he was a young kid I’ve been telling him he’s going to be the first Olympian out of Cahokia and he believes it,” Cahokia coach Leroy Millsap said. “He just has to do what he does and he trains hard for it.”

    The goals are lofty ones. He would like to jump 25 feet in the long jump and 52 in the triple jump. Both would be among the best in the country.

    Ja’Mari, who carries a 4.0 grade-point-average, feels he is better prepared for the varsity track season this time around. With a year of high school track under his belt, he has a better understanding of what it takes to be successful.

    “I wasn’t used to running with guys older than me and better than me. I had to get used to running against people that have more experience,” he said. “Practice a lot harder than I did last year. Keep my mind focused and not let anything distract me.”


    Marquette standout Noah Kauppila surprised many last spring when he decided against defending his Class 4 3,200-meter state championship in order to run the 800 and 1,600. The move, made out of concern the schedule was too tight to make a good effort in all three events, proved to be a wise one. Kauppila, a Princeton recruit, went on to win titles in the 800 and 1,600. A year later, Kauppila, now a senior, believes he can make a run at all three events. The state meet schedule has been tweaked this year and he’s confident he will be able to give it a go.

    “Hopefully, I will be able to do all three,” he said after being named the Missouri Gatorade Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year. “I know it’s a lot, but it would be cool to do all three at the state meet.”