by Robert Baldwin
When the public address announcer at the nine-team Baumholder track and field meet on Saturday opened the proceedings by calling “first call for the 400 meter butterfly,” he was closer to the truth than anyone could have guessed. The Ramstein Royals were the last team standing in both men and women, but the real winner was Mother Nature.
A few of the teams came into the meet with smaller squads than usual. Many of the competitors had already qualified for the Euros in two weeks and were given the day off. Those who remained battled the wind, rain, cold and wet track. Lane one was under water. Both 200 meter dashes were scrapped along with all of the hurdles events. The women’s discus event was gone because of unsafe conditions in the throwing area as were both high jumps. Other events were shortened. When the meet started, it was 50 degrees with a steady downpour. When it ended it was 46 with even more rain.
But the show went on and the athletes exhibited true resilience. In the women’s competition, Ramstein earned 196 points, followed by Stuttgart with 110, Vilseck 40, Black Forest Academy 23, Ansbach and Alconbury 16, Baumholder 11, and Kaiserslautern and Hohenfels had eight points each.
On the men’s side, Ramstein amassed 186 points, Stuttgart 138, Black Forest Academy 60, Vilseck 52.5, Ansbach 42.5, Kaiserslautern 32, Baumholder 31, Alconbury 8 and Hohenfels 4.
Ramstein’s women’s depth proved to be dominant in the middle and long distances. Stuttgart’s Linnea Meier won the 800. But the Royals trio of Alexis Pierre-Louis, Catherine Hickman and Emily Stuart finished second, third and fourth, respectively.
In the 1,600 meters, Stuttgart’s outstanding sophomore McKinley Fielding won the event by 40 seconds and enjoyed it so much she did not stop at the finish line and ran an extra lap, leaving the timers at the line scratching their heads and mumbling that she did not need to keep going. Ramstein captured the next three spots with Annika Zimmerer, Jordanne Hill and Victoria White.
Any time the name Fielding is associated with a sport or event, it will be competitive. Her brother was a multiple champion in wrestling and will be competing at Belmont Abbey in North Carolina next winter. McKenzie finished second at Euros in wrestling as a sophomore. On Saturday, she teamed with Meier and two others to win the 4×800 relay by a full thirty seconds over the foursome of Hickman, Spice Harris, Pierre-Louis and Hill. Another Royals foursome finished third in that event.
In the 3,200 meters, a Ramstein trio took the top three spots, with Kristin Lucero followed very closely by Hill and White.
Five athletes were able to get in their triple jumps with Ramstein’s Barakat Ibrahim winning and teammate Sophia Sobczak coming in third before the event was scrapped due to the dicey conditions of the runway and pit.
Caprinia Goode of Ramstein was edged in the shot put by four inches by Stuttgart’s Olivia Johnson. Royals Danielle Woodward was fourth and Natalia Allen of Kaiserslautern finished fifth. Gabrielle Tarr and Yaara Smalls from Baumholder finished sixth and eighth.
Casey McCollum edged Stuttgart’s Johnson to win the 100-meter dash. Royals Shannon McCray and Jillian Harris were third and fourth.
Once again, the most dominant performer in the men’s field events was Kaiserslautern senior Austin Higby. Higby’s 44-10 won the shot put by eight feet over four Stuttgart throwers. His 141’05 won the discus by a staggering 27 feet over Alconbury’s Spencer Swapp. Higby was one of the Kaiserslautern competitors to already qualify for the Euros, but decided to throw anyway. “I love it. I will throw anywhere in any conditions. I just love throwing,” he said in his usual calm and controlled demeanor. Higby will be a favorite to win the event at the European championships next week. In the discus, he will have to defeat Stuttgart’s Tripp Carroll, Vilseck strongman Jonas Matthews and Ogden Andrew of Ansbach, whose personal record is actually better than Higby’s.
Andrew is also one of the top long jumpers. He finished second at Baumholder to Ramstein’s Thomas Bryce, whose 20-foot jump was admirable considering the conditions.
Ramstein sprinter Jason Jones was also a double winner. The junior edged Lorne Huxtable of Baumholder by one half inch in the triple jump to avenge a close loss in Kaiserslautern two weeks ago. Jones jumped 40’11.50 and Huxtable 40’11.00. In the 100-meter dash, he managed a first place finish over a pair from Stuttgart. Isaiah Allen, Miquel Smith and Jalon Lewis also scored points for the Royals in the 100.
Ramstein got first place finishes from Jaelon Bell in the 400 and Denver Dalpais in the 800. In the relays, the Royals took the 4×100 and the 4×800 relay.
The host Buccaneers quartet of Brandon Bankston Jr., Isaiah Daep, Jacob Gregg and Jesse Espinoza were victorious in the 1,600 sprint medley relay, edging out Black Forest Academy. The SMR is made up of a 400-meter, two 200-meters and an 800-meter run.
Tomorrow, Ramstein and Kaiserslautern travel to Vilseck in their final tune up before Euros. The forecast there is high 60s with sunshine, which will be a true indicator of how the athletes perform.
The KMCC will be hosting all five sports in the European Championships next week. The men’s and women’s soccer competitions are May 20 to 23. The men’s and women’s track meet is scheduled for May 24 to 25. Baseball and softball are slated for May 23 to 25.