There are several reasons we're praying for as swift of an end as possible to this quarantine saga.
First and foremost, the end of the shelter-in-place orders that have been placed around the state would certainly spell an end to the health and well-being concerns we have not only for ourselves, but for so many of our loved ones, too.
Further, the end of this saga would spell a return to normalcy which re-opens schools and restarts track season for so many athletes around the state who are becoming anxious to compete.
It would essentially put to bed all of the uncertainty and speculation surrounding the beginning of a track season which has already been pushed back a month to April 27th at the earliest now.
Another reason is so we can see just how incredibly stacked this year's Lee's Summit West Girls Track and Field team will be.
After having secured each of the past four Class 5 team championships, the Lady Titans are on a crash course to secure number five this May (or possibly June).
The point totals over the last four years have been nothing short of incredible. In 2016, LSW scored 96 points. In 2017, they scored a state record 109. Each of those two years, they topped a Hazelwood Central squad which scored a hefty 76 and 62 points, respectively.
The next two years were less emphatic comparatively, but LSW still managed to put up 86 points in both 2018 and 2019, securing wins over strong Pattonville squads both times.
But, while those teams performed incredibly in their own rights, the 2020 Lady Titans squad may just be the best one of all of those.
Allow me to break it down for you.
The Lady Titans "crawled" to the finish line at the 2019 State Cross Country meet. One of the most talented teams ever assembled in state history, injuries and illnesses wreaked havoc on the team, but they were still able to pull in a 3-point victory over Rock Bridge. Only one of them finished all-state. Marinate on that while reading.
Let's start with the 800. LSW returns the top runners not just in Class 5, but in the entire state, and three of the top five.
Madison Hulsey finished 5th at last year's state meet and helped her team secure their third straight state championship in the 4x800 relay, but her big breakthrough in the half mile came at the Festival of Miles when she used a massive kick to win the event in 2:12.63.
After Hulsey is the defending 800 state champion Audrey Parson. A phenom from the get-go, Parson has secured medals in the 800 in each of her first three seasons. Now a senior, Parson boasts a 2:13.19 best from that 2019 state title run.
Next is sophomore Makayla Clark. A key to Lee's Summit West's success in cross country after transferring from Lee's Summit High, Clark is arguably the most naturally gifted 400/800 runner in the entire state. As an 8th grader, Clark ran what would be a MO No. 10 all-time mark 2:10.61 at the USATF Junior Olympics.
2:10 in 8th grade, are you kidding me?
She also posted a 57.22 best in the 400 and 4:39.31 best in the 1500 en route to the USATF JO championship. According to the MileSplit converter, a 4:39.31 1500 converts to a 4:59.9 1600m mark.
While it didn't necessarily manifest in her first go around in high school last spring, the talent is still there nonetheless and the range, unseen in Missouri since Francis Howell's Whitney Adams, was on full display this fall.
So LSW now has three girls at 2:13 or better for their career. Add up career bests and we have three legs on the 4x8 at 6:36. So throw in senior McKenna Butler, who boasts a 2:20.08 from 2018, and you now have an 8:56 4x800 relay.
Let's give the squad ten points in the 4x800. As for the open 800, the Titans could potentially qualify four girls under the district standard (2:19.54) and put them all in the mix for medals at the state meet. Let's say LSW qualifies and runs the trio of Hulsey, Parson, and Butler, saving Clark for the longer sprints, and give them 20 points in the event.
Before closing the door on the 800, it is interesting to note that their fifth and sixth fastest runners are Addie Mathis (2:24.87) and freshman Ella Cronhardt (2:25.17 indoor) so Coach Jesse Griffin could easily mix up the lineup and still have a great shot at locking up the relay.
The 1600 and 3200 are interesting for the Titans, too, as they could potentially qualify three girls in the 3200, as well. Hulsey's career best of 11:04.97, Mathis' 11:24.06, and Butler's 11:28.33 are all within a manageable 11 seconds of the 11:17.48 district standard. Even if they hold Hulsey out and run just Mathis and Butler, both of those girls are the first and third fastest returners in the Class. So there's potentially 16 points there.
In the 1600, Hulsey is the top returner with her 5:01.65 best from last season and Mathis returns with a 5:17.74 and sits at fifth. The 5:07.98 standard, while not impossible to reach, could be strategically disregarded in favor of other events, so tack on another 14 points here.
Put it all together and in only four events, the Lady Titans have already secured 60 points.
LSW has always been able to hold their own in the sprint and hurdle events while racking up points elsewhere. Most recently, superstars like Erin Sermons and Kyra Atkins have been major contributors to the state title efforts, among others.
The sprinting landscape in Class 5 has continued to improve over the years so it may be tough for the Titans to push into the top 8 in the individual events, unless Hulsey runs the open 400 which would be unlikely should she run the 4x8, 1600, and 800, and possibly the 4x400.
In 2019, the girls did pick up 4 points in the 4x100 with four underclassmen on the team. Marissa Ritchey, Charli Ritchey, Destiny Kelly, and Akirah Venerable made up that team and theoretically could return to pick up at least 4 more points in the event.
Venerable, a junior this season, also returns as the fifth fastest runner in the 300 meter hurdles with her 44.51 best. After finishing on the podium in her first two seasons, it would be difficult to see her miss out as a junior. Tack on another 4 points here.
In the 4x200, it took a 1:43.85 to grab a medal. Well, LSW had three girls post marks in the 26s on the indoor circuit this winter and neither of them were 27.09 girl Charli Ritchey. Can they sneak into a point in the 4x2?
Let's move to the 400. Clark is the most competitive in this event of anyone on the team and should be a solid bet to qualify after running 58.66 last season and boasting that afore-mentioned 57.22 career best. She finished eighth last season, but returns as the fifth fastest performer. Take out Hulsey and she moves to fourth: 5 points.
Clark will also be a major cog for the 4x400. The girls finished third with, again, no seniors. Stick Clark in there with Venerable, Hulsey, and Parson, and you have a team which could run as fast as 3:54 - what it took to win last year. But let's stay conservative and give them 6 points here.
Put it all together, LSW picks up another 20 points in the sprints and hurdles giving them 80 through 12 events.
If you've noticed, Parson only has 3 events up to this point. Could we see her in the long jump? There's a chance. Her 17-2.5 would put her over the district standard alongside her teammate Venerable. Three Titan long jumpers have met the 17-1.5 standard in their careers, in fact, as senior Grace Meyers hit the mark exactly in 2018. Venerable is the only one in the top 8 among all returners with her 17-9.5 best from last season, but all it took was 17-4 to make the podium in 2019. Conservatively, let's give them 4 points here.
It'll be tough, but not impossible, for any of the returners to break into the top 8 in the triple jump and pole vault. As it stands, the eighth best returner in Class 5 cleared 36-0.75 last season in the triple jump and 10-3 in the pole vault. LSW didn't pick up points in these events last year.
In the high jump, anyone who can clear 5-0 has a shot at qualifying for the state meet based on how quickly high jumpers can successively clear heights after they break through. While 11 different girls have cleared 5-4 to this point, junior Matti Toone has an outside shot at securing a point for LSW in the event. She returns with a 5-1 best and will be their top high jumper after the departure of Jessica Haney. 5-2 was all it took both in 2018 and 2019.
So after 16 events, LSW, conservatively could be at 85 points, essentially matching their totals from the past two seasons.
With the departure of Maddie Harris, the Lady Titans are going to have to re-tool in the throws events, but could pick up some solid point totals in these three events.
In the shot put, junior Cydney Banks will be looking to take the next step for her squad. She finished 8th last season with a mark a full foot shorter than her lifetime best of 41-3.75. That makes her the 3rd best returner: 6 points.
Banks threw 99-7 in the discus in 2019, but the best returner for the Lady Titans is Kendall Wilson. Her 109-1 best is 14th among Class 5 returners. LSW didn't earn points in this event after enjoying 10-spots from Makayla Kelby in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.
In the javelin, the Lady Titans could pick up a point or two from junior Dejia Griego. A sectional qualifier in 2019, she threw 118-6 as a sophomore. She returns as the 9th best javelin thrower in Class 5.
With a conservative estimate of 7 points here, LSW picks up 92 points to close out the state meet.
This team will need to make a few big advances in some of the mentioned events to challenge the greatness of that 2017 team. That year, LSW picked up points in every event except for the 300m hurdles, pole vault, and long jump. They picked up victories in the 400, 800, 4x800 relay, high jump, and discus, as well as runner up finishes in the 100m hurdles, 4x200 relay, 4x400 relay, and javelin. It was truly the deepest team the state has ever seen.
On the strength of their runners, it would appear LSW at least is on a crash course to Coach Griffin's fifth straight team championship this year and the school's sixth in its short history.
Many of the point total estimates here were merely conservative guesses based on current virtual meet standings and results from last track season's state meet. How the coronavirus saga affects the team's training and athletes' training across the rest of the state will absolutely affect the outcomes this spring, but as it stands, at least on paper, this Lee's Summit West girls team should be lauded as one of the best of the past five years.
We are more than hopeful that we get to see it all unfold.