4x800m Dutchgirls break through for seventh-place

Will Johnson
Sports Editor

COLUMBIA — Qualifying for state on their third try together, the Owensville Dutchgirl 4x800-meter relay team looked to take it a step further during the MSHSAA Class 3 Track and Field Championships Saturday at Mizzou’s Walton Stadium in Columbia.

Entering with the ninth-fastest time from sectionals, Owensville stayed near the middle of the pack throughout the entire race.

For a brief moment in the final leg of the race, the Dutchgirls found themselves outside of the top eight before senior Abby Koepke passed enough teams down the home stretch to secure a seventh-place finishing time of 10:19.92.

“I started freaking out when I got passed,” Koepke said. “I didn’t know what place we were in. After I crossed the finish line, I asked Kendra (Hults) if we made it and she was crying so I guessed yes.” 

Junior Kendra Hults started the race putting the Dutchgirls in sixth place before handing the baton to Mekayla Gibson for the second leg of the race.

“I just wanted to make sure I got out good and controlled the break,” Hults said. “I knew after that I had to stay with the main group which was the top eight.”

Able to run a fast leg than a handful of other teams, Owensville found themselves in fourth place at the midway point when Gibson handed the baton off to Paige Heckelmann.

“I knew I needed to get a good spot for Paige and Abby to keep,” Gibson said. “I just ran really fast and let no one pass me.”

Able to hold her ground, Heckelmann kept the Dutchgirls in medal contention sitting in sixth place making the last exchange of the baton to Koepke.

“It feels really good to finally get to run after not being able to run at districts or sectionals,” Heckelmann said. “I’m happy I got to run at state with some of my best friends and I’ll cherish this memory forever.”

Passed with nearly 300 meters to go, Koepke was able to return the favor in the final 75 meters passing Hollister, Herculaneum and Bowling Green to help her team finish seventh and leave Columbia with a state medal.

“I knew it was my last 800,” Koepke said. “I knew I had to do it for my teammates because I wouldn’t get another chance.”

Fatima also placed third in the event among area teams.