'It was overwhelming'

Griffin McCurren of Helias takes first place in the Class 3 boys 400 meter dash.

IN 2012,
the 400-meter dash was a hobby for Griffin McCurren.

"Last year was just for fun," said the Helias senior.

It went from a hobby to a passion.

"When you literally spend a whole year looking to this day," McCurren said, "thinking about that moment crossing the finish line, it almost consumed me, as bad as I wanted it.

"I've been on a mission."

Mission accomplished.


McCurren won the 400-meter dash

to help the Helias Crusaders to a sixth-place Class 3 finish during the Missouri Class 3-4 Track and Field Championships at Dwight T. Reed Stadium.

When he crossed the finish line, he put his head in his hands and dropped to the knees on the track. You can understand --- working one year for 50 seconds of his life

"When I realized I'd done it, it was overwhelming," said McCurren, who finished fourth in the event last year. "Every lap I'd run, every weight I'd lifted, was just for this.

"I was so emotional, I was on the verge of tears. I spent my whole year thinking about this day."

McCurren won the race with a time of 49.13, which was 6/10ths of a second ahead of the second-place finisher. In track, that seems like 6 minutes.

"I'm disappointed with my time but hey, I'm a state champion," said McCurren, who will take his track talents to St. Louis University this fall. "You can't be disappointed with that.

"That's what I came for, the place not the time."

As it turned out, the time and the place were perfect. Helias coach Chip Malmstrom watched calmly as McCurren crossed the finish line.

"I was standing next to another coach when Griffin crossed the finish line.," Malmstrom said. "She said: 'Man, I'd be screaming and hopping up and down!'"

Malmstrom smiled.

"I was like, 'I was kind of expecting it.'

"We knew what his goals were and we knew what kind of heart he has. This entire season, whatever it took to win, that's what he did."

Will Fife also struck gold for Helias on Friday, taking first the shot put.

"It's the old icewater-in-the-veins kind of thing," Malmstrom said. "He just doesn't get rattled. No matter how hard his back is pushed up against the wall, he's going to come out swinging and fighting.
"That's exactly what he did. He did it when he needed to."

So when the last time the Helias boys had two individual state champions, scored this many points (29) and had this high of a team finish?

"I really don't know," Malmstrom said. "Let's just say it's been decades."

By all appearances, the Crusaders won't have to wait decades for a command performance.

"This was a big year for is," Malmstrom said. "We're certainly going to miss our seniors, but we have a lot of great kids coming back and we have some great kids coming up and doing their thing.

"At the beginning of the year, I knew what I was getting --- I was getting a lot of good kids who had a lot of talent. But you've got injuries, you've got kids to deal with --- they're still 17- and 18-year old.
"But I can't say we didn't expect to do this well. We should have."

That's a sign of a program on solid ground and headed in the right direction --- expecting success.

"We're trying to build something," Malmstrom said, "and it's starting to pan out."


CALIFORNIA JUNIOR Sydney Deeken went 17 feet, 9.75 inches in the Class 3 long jump Saturday. That's more than six inches shy of her personal-best of 18-4. Where did those other inches go?

"I have no idea," she said with a laugh. "But I guess I did good enough."

Indeed. This wasn't even a contest. Her leap was more than a foot longer than her closest competitor, as she claimed her second first-place finish of the weekend after winning the triple jump Friday.

"It's exciting to win again, get another gold medal," said Deeken.

The long jump shaped up to be a battle between Deeken and Eldon sophomore Sara Rhine, who was the favorite entering the event.

"She really pushes me to do my best," Rhine said of Deeken. "It's good to have her there in almost every competition."

Said Deeken: "She had beaten me in sectionals, so I knew she could beat me. I just wanted to go out and do my best and see what happened."

This was not Rhine's best day, as she had to settle for third place (16-8.5).

"I wanted to jump a little farther than I did, but I'm happy with it," Rhine said. "I feel good."

On Saturday, Rhine was still feeling good about her second straight championship in the high jump Friday.

"I'm still enjoying it and really excited about it," she said.
Rhine started competing in the high jump in "official" events in the seventh grade. But she started long before that.

Call these "unofficial" events.

"When I was little," Rhine said with a big smile, "my brothers laid on the floor and I jumped over them. So when I was younger, I guess there were some signs that I'd be a jumper."