By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
He already has seen most of the competition, so Joplin track and field head coach Kasey Pliler said he knows what to expect at the Class 4, District 6 meet Saturday at Ozark.
“It’s a tough one,” said Pliler during practice this week. “Some of the things that would have got us out (of the district) easily are now like fifth and sixth.
“In fact, our district is stacked up tougher than our sectional across the board,” he said. “That meet is going to be tough.”
Joplin’s boys were fourth in the Ozark Conference meet at West Plains, but only three conference opponents — Glendale, Kickapoo and Parkview — are in Joplin’s district.
Instead, the Eagles will be up against Central Ozark Conference Large Division champion Nixa, along with second-place Ozark and challengers from Webb City, Carthage and Neosho.
“You can look at their best efforts versus ours and you can look at averages,” he said. “This is a testament to what we’ve preached all year. If you want it, you’ve got to earn it.”
The Eagles’ leaders include hurdler Colton Simmons, sprinter Chris Payton-Barba, distance runners Matt Riechman-Bennett and Ryan Davidson, Cord Franks and Toby Clemons in the 400, Ryun Snyder in the high jump, and Aiden Shipley and Lucas Waltz in the pole vault.
Webb City, led by its sprinters, was third in the COC Large Division and also knows what to expect at the district meet, said head coach Mike Smith.
“There are no surprises,” he said. “It’s just put up or shut up.”
The Cardinals are led by sprinter Jarvis Jones, hurdler Logan Williams, jumpers Alex Christian and John Roderique, pole vaulter Alex Harmell and their 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400 relay teams.
“Everybody knows exactly what they’re doing,” Smith said. “During the week, we taper down (during practice) so their legs will be ready and fresh.
“We’ve been going to two meets a week at the end of the season to prepare for a two-day extravaganza,” he said. “Will it work? We don’t know.”
Defending Class 3 district champion Carl Junction was making final preparations this week for its district meet at Carl Junction.
“They’re all battle tested, from the seniors right on down to the freshmen,” said Carl Junction head coach Mark Robertson. “I have full faith and confidence that they will perform to the best of their ability.”
Leaders for the Bulldogs include sprinters Matt Magee and Nick Thompson, hurdler Derek Hively, thrower Jacob Wall, pole vaulter Christian Repsher and their sprint relay teams.
“We have two great seniors (Jesse Kinzer and Megan Barnum) who are leading us,” Robertson said. “It’s not by word of mouth, either. It’s by how they act. I expect them to lead us again Saturday.”
Carl Junction’s Big 8 Conference champion girls include hurdlers Brittney Rose and Hope Joyner, middle distance runner Emily Keeter, pole vaulter Mary Goodson and sprinter Sydney Koch.
Webb City girls head coach Jeremy Butler said he hopes to see a season’s worth of improvement continue at the district meet.
“We’ve seen continued growth,” he said. “We try to stay focused, take care of yourself. If we continue to improve as we have been, we’ll have a chance to advance some athletes.”
Joplin’s girls are led by jumper and hurdler Miriah Johnson, pole vaulters Mariah Sanders and Holly O’Dell, and sprinter Makayla Tillman.