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Track and Field

Jackson track and field returning key athletes from last year

Maryville signee Gracie Metzger returns as an Class 5 District 1 All-District hurdler for Jackson this spring. Submitted photo

In the Jackson track and field program’s third season with Mike Gross at the helm, the Indians are wanting to improve off a spring where they had 13 athletes qualify for the Class 5 State Meet. Three of those competitors brought home all-state medals for Jackson, but two of them have graduated since then.

The Indians lone returning all-state medalist from last spring is junior Felicity Pingkian, who took sixth place in pole vault with a leap of 10 feet, 11.75 inches. As a sophomore, Pingkian also won a SEMO Conference Championship while earning an all-district and all-sectional medal by taking third and fourth at the meets, respectively.

Pingkian helped the Jackson girls team win the SEMO Conference Meet for the second year in a row as another conference champion and fellow returning state qualifier for the squad is senior Lillian Gibbs. Lillian finished one spot shy of earning all-state in the discus throw with a heave of 118-4.

Gibbs still brought home a conference, district and sectional championship in the event, as she also competes in the javelin throw. In javelin last spring, Lillian took 11th place at state with a throw of 114-1 while winning conference gold, district gold and taking home silver at sectionals.

Jackson actually had two state qualifiers in the javelin as Gibbs was joined by sophomore Kimmora Car-others, who placed two spots behind her at 13th overall (104-11).

The girls team’s final returning state qualifier from last year is none other than Maryville signee Mallorie Metzger, who ran at state as a member of the 11th place 4×800-meter relay team.

Metzger was a district champion in the 800-meter run (two minutes, 19.61 seconds), while winning conference gold as a member of both the 4×400 and 4×800 teams. Jackson’s girls 4×800 also won the district and sectional titles but graduated key runners like current Southeast Missouri State Redhawk Layla Fliege, who also qualified for state in three individual events.

Also returning to the girls team will be Mallorie’s sister and fellow Maryville signee Gracie Metzger, who was an all-conference and all-district medalist as a hurdler last spring.

In the winter prior to this season, the Metzgers were both state qualifiers for the Jackson girls wrestling team as Mallorie became the program’s first-ever all-state medalist. Their youngest sister freshman Mollie Metzger nearly qualified for state as well and will be joining them on the track this spring.

Moving to the boys team, Jackson returns a few state qualifiers starting with junior Bryce Gentry, who made it to the Class 5 State Meet individually in the 1600-meter run and took 11th place with a time of 4:24.97. Gentry was also a member of the 13th place 4×800 team (8:17.72), with fellow state qualifiers seniors Cole Puls, Cade McCadams and junior Zach Brazel.

Gentry brough home a district championship individually, while the 4×800 team he was on also took home a conference title. Back in the fall, Gentry led Jackson’s boys cross country team to a fourth-place finish in Class 5 by being the only Indian to earn an all-state medal by taking 17th overall.

Another key runner that’s back this season for Jackson and also contributed to the Indians cross country team bringing home a state plaque will be senior Hunter Wendel. Hunter won a conference championship in the 3200-meter run last spring, while earning an all-district medal as well.

The Indians final returning state qualifier from last season is senior Braeden Cain, who took 13th overall (12-5.5) in pole vault behind last year’s third-place state finisher and Jackson 2022 graduate Collin Havill.

Interestingly enough, Cain actually won the Class 5 Sectional 1 Championship over Havill in pole vault with a leap of 13-11.25 and also placed second behind him in the district meet and finished third at conference.

Another notable field returners is senior jumper Conner Matthews, who was an all-district medalist in not one but two events as he took third in triple jump with a mark of 40-3.75 and was fourth in high jump at 6-1.5.

Fellow senior Noah Gibson will also hope to improve off a 2022 campaign where he was an all-district medalist in two events as well, taking second in shot put (46-8.25) and was third overall for discus (123-5.5).

Other throwers like seniors Layne Gross (javelin) and Nicholas Heisserer (shot put) are also going to factor into the boys team’s success this upcoming season.

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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