By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
Joplin High Schools’ Matt Riechman-Bennett started his junior season with a bang Thursday night by winning the 1600 and 3200 meters at the Carthage Invitational track and field meet at K.E. Baker Stadium.
Riechman-Bennett won the first event in 4 minutes, 30.8 seconds, far ahead of cross country rivals Ben Southwick of Carthage and Garrett Wood of Neosho.
“It felt good. The last 600 meters felt really good,” said Riechman-Bennett. “I surprised myself. I was thinking maybe under 4:40.”
About an hour later, Riechman-Bennett, who placed 19th in the Class 4 state cross country championships last fall, won the 3200 meters in 10:05.
“I was trying to go under 10, but I’m perfectly happy with 10:05,” he said. “It’s hard to complain about.”
Joplin’s coaches had no complaints, either.
“We didn’t know he was going to run 60 (seconds) on the last lap,” assistant coach Jason Riddle said after the 1600.
“I think he’s in 9:40 shape right now,” said assistant coach Dustin Dixon after the 3200. “We haven’t done any speed work yet.”
Most of the teams were competing in their first varsity event of the season after an extended period of cold weather limited practice time outdoors.
Carthage captured the Carl Lewton Award, which goes to the school with the highest combined point total from its boys and girls teams. Carthage won both the boys’ and girls divisions. Neosho’s boys placed second.
“Winning the Carl Lewton Award, it’s good to have it back home,” said Carthage head coach Andy Youngworth. “Webb City won it last year. Carl Lewton was a big presence in our program.
“We had E.J. Morgan break the meet record in the triple jump. Our sprinters had a pretty good day. Eli Seay won the 100 and our distance kids ran well. Bubba Burns won the shot and discus. All in all, it was a total team effort.”
The other major award went to Reichman-Bennett for winning the annual “Eric’s Mile,” an event named after former Carthage and Southeast Missouri State distance runner Eric Grove.
Joplin’s success spilled over into the girls’ division, where the Eagles were second in the team standings, led by a second-place finish in the 4x200 relay with freshmen Katie Roy and Monesha Sherrick and juniors Leah Rader and Shelbie Dewitt.
“Leah Rader had a great time of 27.2 (seconds),” said assistant coach Jennifer Vieselmeyer. “Katie was a little nervous, but I thought she got off fast. Dewitt wasn’t far behind (Carthage at the finish), maybe three steps, so I was excited about that. Early on, I’m really pleased with our effort.”
Rader won the high jump, and another freshman, Marley Robeson, won the 300 hurdles just ahead of Brittney Rose, a Carl Junction senior who has signed to run at Missouri Southern next year.
“It’s good to see where we’re at, get the first-meet jitters out of the way,” said Joplin head coach Kasey Pliler.
Emily Sorrell, a freshman at East Newton, shattered the meet record in the 1600 with a time of 5:25.9. The old record was 5:26.2 set by Allison Medlin of Carthage in 1996.
“It was new for me,” said Sorrell, who placed 11th at the Class 2 state cross country meet last fall. “I like Chloe (Andrews of Willard, a freshman who placed second). She’s really nice and she ran really hard. Definitely, without her, I wouldn’t have broken the record.”
Among other highlights, Carl Junction’s girls won the 4x800 in 10:43 with a team of JeLynn Tatum, Jordyn Capra, Alex King and Emily Keeter.
“It’s the best start we’ve ever had since I’ve been here,” said assistant coach Amy Doennig.
Webb City’s Sammi White won the 100 hurdles, and the Cardinals’ 4x800 relay team of Kira Fisher, Kyndal Frizzell, Kelsey Andro and Natalie Capron placed second.