BHS Track Team Brings Home 7 Medals

Sophia Rivera on the medal stand for first place in the discus. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

Rivera wins twice; 400 relay team 3rd; Bratcher 6th in long jump

By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit

Devon Couch runs the last 20 yards of the 400-meter relay on Saturday at Lincoln University. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

There were a lot of team busses parked at the Class 1 and 2 MSHSAA Track and Field Championships on Friday and Saturday in Jefferson City. None were from Brentwood High School, of course. When only five students qualify for state, a couple of cars are a more efficient means of travel.

Brentwood’s qualifiers were all about efficiency. Every single one of them came home on Saturday with at least one medal. Sophia Rivera had two, winning both the shot put and the discus throw. She’s the queen of efficiency: two state meets, four first-place medals.

Justice Bratcher also came home with two medals. He took sixth in the long jump and anchored the third-place 400-meter relay team, which also included Jake Zivic, Jacob Clay and Devon Couch.

That’s seven medals for five people.

The 20 points Rivera scored gave the Brentwood girls a 12th-place finish among 57 teams. So she singlehandedly scored more points than 45 other Class 2 schools. The BHS boys scored nine points, good for 26th place among 56 teams.

There were no big surprises with Rivera and Bratcher. She was way ahead of the competition, just like last year. His sixth place in the long jump was a respectable improvement on last year’s 13th place.

400-Meter Relay

The shocker was what the 400 relay team did. Brentwood couldn’t even qualify for the sectional meet in the event last year. But this year, with the addition of seniors Devon Couch and Jake Zivic, they took second place at both the district and sectional meets to earn a trip to Jefferson City. Then on Friday in the preliminaries they beat 12 other teams to finish in fourth place. On Friday in the finals, on a track that was wet from hours of light rain, they somehow recorded their best time ever and took third.

“We didn’t win it but third place is pretty good for a team that wasn’t even going to run at the beginning of the season,” said Devon Couch. “Coach [Robert] Findley made a deal with us. He said we had a realistic chance of going to state and if we just came out we could make that happen. I believed him.”

Devon Couch chases a Maplewood-Richmond Heights runner on the last leg of the 400 relay on Saturday. Brentwood finished just  nineteen one-hundredths of a second behind MRH. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
Brentwood’s 400-meter relay team takes its place on the third-place stand at Lincoln University in Jefferson City. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
A closeup of the relay team on the medal stand shows (from left) Jake Zivic, Devon Couch, Jacob Clay and Justice Bratcher. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

Shot Put

On Friday, Rivera broke her own school record in the shot put by 7-1/2 inches with a throw of 45 feet 8 inches.

“Actually, that throw, I could have probably gotten a few more inches on that if I had gotten myself up a little bit,” Rivera said. “It was a little bit flat [low], which is why the third throw was so high – I was overcompensating.”

BHS head coach Darren Wade (left) and assistant coach Robert Findley watch Sophia Rivera in the discus throw. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

Discus Throw

Sophia Rivera snacks on dill pickle flavored sunflower seeds while waiting to throw the discus on Saturday. “Madison Cleveland of Elsberry introduced me to them at districts,” she said. “She brought a bag at districts, I brought it for sectionals and she brought it for state.” (Photo by Steve Bowman)

On Saturday, light rain fell steadily during the entire prelims and finals of the discus throw. The concrete surface on which the athletes stood had to be repeatedly dried with an absorbent roller and a leaf blower. Considering the intricate footwork the event demands, the conditions were not conducive to personal bests. Rivera arrived at the prelims in the shoes she normally wears but she quickly changed into a different pair.

“I started with my smooth shoes, the ones I’ve been using all season,” she said. “But I’m thankful I had my rain shoes with me, which are a little bit grippier. It was still a little bit slick but it was much better than it would have been without them.”

Rivera won by 10 feet, with a throw of 129 feet 11 inches, almost 7 feet farther than the week before at the sectional. An hour later she stepped to the top of the medal stand. It’s every high school track and field athlete’s ultimate dream, and the sophomore has already done it four times. Once again her parents, brother David and coaches Darren Wade and Robert Findley were there to cheer her on. But this year they were joined by her grandmother, who had recently flown in from Puerto Rico.

“It’s a great feeling knowing that everyone is applauding you and you’re getting recognized for all of the hard work and everything you put into this,” she said. “It’s your moment of getting something out of it.”

With a steady rain falling on Saturday, Sophia Rivera changes into shoes with a “grippier” sole before the discus competition begins. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
A meet official uses a leaf blower to remove water from the discus circle. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

Rivera was more relaxed at state this year compared to 2013.

“Coming into this I had a different mindset,” she said. “Last year was my first time and I was like nervous out of my shoes. This year I still had some of those nerves. It’s just I was more used to it. I made myself think of it as just another track meet.”

The high school season is over but Rivera is not taking any time off from throwing. In two weeks she’ll compete for Team Missouri at the Great Southwest Track Meet in New Mexico. So she planned to be back at the high school throwing on Memorial Day.

“They said they’re going to leave the discus ring up until the end of June and the shot put ring is always there,” she said.

Rivera winds up to throw the discus. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
The sign shows Rivera’s best discus throw of 129 feet and 11 inches. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
Sophia chats with her father, Edwin Rivera. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
Rivera on the medal stand with the seven other medalists in the discus throw. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

Class 2 Shot Put Finals, Medalists in Field of 16
1. Sophia Rivera, sophomore, Brentwood, 45-8
2. Halee Cashio, senior, Ash Grove, 39-4-1/2
3. Katie Skelton, senior, Ash Grove, 38-8-1/2
4. Kyley Barnes, senior, Mark Twain, 37-4
5. Hunter Summers, junior, Carrollton, 35-8-3/4
6. Haley Bradshaw, junior, Putnam County, 35-3-1/2
7. Ryleigh Maples, senior, Spokane, 34-1-1/4
8. Karli Leeper, senior, South Calloway, 33-11-1/4

A large crowd attended the state meet at Lincoln University despite the steady rain. The weather delayed the start of the meet by about 90 minutes on Saturday. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

Class 2 Discus Throw Finals, Medalists in Field of 15
1. Sophia Rivera, sophomore, Brentwood, 129-11
2. Paige Larison, senior, West Platte, 113-9
3. Katie Skelton, senior, Ash Grove, 108-3
4. Jessica Roberts, junior, Clark County, 107-10
5. Megan Haley, freshman, Schuyler County, 102-0
6. Halee Cashio, senior, Ash Grove, 99-2
7. Kaitlyn Graves, sophomore, Lamar, 98-0
8. Rebecca Altic, senior, Pleasant Hope, 95-3

Class 2 Long Jump Finals, Medalists in Field of 16
1. Garner Rudroff, senior, South Calloway, 22-1-1/4
2. Michael Wells, senior, Cleveland NJROTC, 21-11-1/2
3. Darien Dickey, senior, Iberia, 21-3-1/2
4. Matt Whyman, freshman, Lamar, 21-3
5. Lath Kisling, sophomore, Sarcoxie, 20-10-1/4
6. Justice Bratcher, senior, Brentwood, 20-8-1/2
7. Lucas White, junior, Purdy, 20-7-1/2
8. Zane Lockhart, senior, Paris, 20-6-1/4

Class 2 400-meter Relay Finals, Medalists in Field of 16
1. Lamar, 43.28 seconds
2. MRH, 44.05
3. Brentwood, 44.24, Justice Bratcher, Jake Zivic, Jacob Clay, Devon Couch
4. Carnahan, 44.76
5. Mountain Grove, 44.88
6. South Calloway, 45.38
7. Kelly, 45.53
8. Fair Grove, 45.79

Jake Zivic (left) and Jacob Clay take a warmup lap in the rain on Saturday. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
A meet official rolls water off the track before the 100-meter dash on Saturday. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
Rivera (left) and other discus throwers huddle under a canopy for instructions. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
Each thrower kept her discus dry on a towel under a canopy between throws. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
Rivera chats with Cleveland NJROTC sprinter Michael Wells while waiting their turns to step onto the medal stand. Rivera and Wells together won five gold medals – she in the shot put and discus and he in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

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