A field day in the field events

out in style.

It was not a vault of gold, but this silver-plated farewell is still quite good --- especially since Joey Burkett did it on one good leg.

Burkett won the pole vault state championship last year as a junior for the Jefferson City Jays. Since then, two significant things happened.

1. He injured his ankle playing football, an injury that required surgery. To this day, he's still not 100 percent.

2. He signed to play football for the Missouri Tigers.

Wait, there's actually one more.

3. He graduated high school Sunday, that's always worth noting.

In the final act of his track and field career Friday, Burkett cleared 15 feet to finish second in the pole vault during the Class 3-4 Missouri Track and Field Championships at Dwight T. Reed Stadium.

"I'm pleased and disappointed, both," Burkett said. "These guys are great athletes and they did a great job. I just didn't have the good practice I wanted this week --- actually, the whole season because of my ankle.

"Not to make excuses, but ..."

There's a difference between an excuse and a reason. He had to have his left ankle surgically repaired, ending his football season and cutting down his effectiveness in the pole vault.

"It's up and down," Burkett said of the ankle. "It felt pretty good today, not great, but pretty good."

Three vaulters had cleared 15 feet; none had cleared 15-3. The first two were out of attempts, leaving it up to Burkett --- who cleared 15-3 last year to win gold.

He was not thinking about this being the final chapter, the final competitive vault, of his life.

"I was just trying to give it everything I had," Burkett said. "I got on the biggest pole I had, I just couldn't get enough going.

"It will be the last time I ever jump. It's a little sad, but I like football ... it's time for that."

So is he ready for some football, Division I and SEC style?

Burkett smiled.

"We'll see."


a field day in the field events Friday

Eldon's Sara Rhine --- who's only a sophomore --- defended her state title in the Class 3 high jump by clearing 5 feet, 7 inches. And she's the favorite to win Saturday's long jump. Much more on Rhine to come Saturday.

Jefferson City junior Kezia Martin finished second in the Class 4 long jump. On her final jump of the day (17-6.5), she moved from fifth to second. And she's a favorite to win Saturday's triple jump.

California junior Sydney Deeken made it back-to-back state championships in the triple jump (37-4.5), but there was a big difference --- last year, it was in Class 2. This year, Class 3.

"The competition may be better," Deeken said, "but you just jump what you can jump."

Good enough.

Deeken's winning leap came on her third effort in the prelims. Like her shot in basketball --- when the ball leaves her hand and she knows it's going in --- she knew this was a good one.

"I felt higher in the air and I got more speed," Deeken said. "It felt better than the others.The coaches were yelling at me, like, 'get your knee up' and whatever.

"I just exploded."

Deeken --- who's committed to the University of Missouri to play volleyball for the Tigers --- finished seventh earlier in the day in the high jump. This did not make her happy.

Then came the triple jump, an event she was favored to win.

"I did terrible in the high jump, so I wanted to show people I could get first," she said. "I have crappy days, like I did in the high jump, so anything can happen.

"It was a relief that I won."

After winning the Class 3 shot put, relief was not the feeling Helias junior Will Fife had. He didn't even seem all that happy --- even though he did something few thought possible.

His reaction was ho-hum, like he expected it. Still ...

"It was fun, exciting," Fife said. "I had some really tough competition, so I knew I had to come out and throw the best I could to win."

He did.

But here's the catch: Fife finished third in the event last year --- and the top-two finishers were back this year. Fife's heave of 57-7.75 inches beat the defending state champion, Maryville senior Caleb Mather, by nearly 5 inches.

"It was a good feeling to beat the state champion," Fife said.

Said Helias throws coach Mark Ordway: "Will works hard and as he works hard, he deserves what he gets. Today was one of those days when it turned out well."

Likewise for Southern Boone junior Landon Bartel. He simply did what he does, and he ended up with a gold medal in the Class 3 high jump by clearing 6 feet, 8 inches.

"I knew it was a number I'd cleared before," Bartel said. "I was just thinking about performing like I have and everything would go my way. As it turned out, I did. It's a relief that I won ... it's pure amazement.

"Knowing I brought a state championship to the school means a lot. It gives our school something to celebrate."

And that's what it's all about.