‘A miraculous season’: How the Lee’s Summit West relay teams soared at national meet

·4 min read

The Lee’s Summit West girls track relay teams knew they were in the midst of a special season this spring.

The sprint relay team of Sidney Cole, Whitney Farrington, Mikah Scott and Alivia Tolbert broke a Missouri state record in the 4x100. Makayla Clark ran with the team for the 4x400 and anchored a national-best time in the sprint-medley relay in April.

So when the team placed second in the Class 5 state championships in May, the team, all seniors except for Scott, still had its eyes on one last meet: the Nike Outdoor Nationals in Eugene, Oregon at the end of June.

“I think there was a small level of disappointment for us after state,” Farrington said. “So I think that created a new motivation for Oregon to go and to redeem themselves from that and to just kind of achieve those things that we felt like maybe we had fallen short of.”

The five runners kept up with their training religiously. They were on the track the day after school ended, during the weekends and for brutal Monday interval training days.

Clark, who hurt her hip running the mile during the state championship, learned how to swim to stay in shape as she worked her way back to full strength. Farrington went on a family vacation right before the meet and woke up early every morning to get in her workouts.

At the national meet, the Lee’s Summit West team won first in the 4x100, 4x200 and sprint-medley relay, along with third in the 4x400.

“After the first race we did, where we won the medley, running off and seeing everybody in the stadium watch you as we were .01 away from the meet record or stadium record, that was unbelievable,” Tolbert said. “That was a crazy experience, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Menka Scott, the team’s sprint coach and a former All-America at Tennessee — and Mikah’s mother — would send the team brief texts of encouragement throughout the season. Even despite the work they put in, several of the girls said they were still surprised by how well they ran at the Nike Outdoor Nationals.

But Menka wasn’t.

“I knew that it was coming. I’ve been telling the girls all year to trust the process,” Menka said. “They thought they were gonna get like third or fourth or something, you know, and I kept telling them to believe.”

The night before they raced, Clark said the team took a photo of the school record board. It already featured their names and “2022” next to several records, including Clark’s 800-meter and 1600-meter marks.

“It was like, ‘We put our names on here, but this is our last time to make our mark,’” Clark said. “It was the last time we were all going to run as a Titan, the last time we were going to run together as a team. I feel like that was definitely a part of it.”

Part of the relay team had run together for years: Cole and Tolbert said they both grew up together and competed together in relays since middle school.

And before her senior year, Farrington decided she wanted to compete as a sprinter after years of distance running. She shaved over four seconds off of her 400-meter time as she joined the relay team that all the runners described as close-knit on and off the track.

Each of the girls is going to a different college in the Midwest: Cole to Iowa, Clark to Iowa State, Farrington to Missouri State and Tolbert to Kansas, while Mikah will finish her senior year at Lee’s Summit.

“They got to teach me a lot of things, and it’s really sad that they’re all leaving,” Mikah said. “But now, I feel like I can step up and be a leader with what they’ve taught me.”

Menka and her late husband Terry have been fixtures in the Missouri track & field community for decades as coaches and former all-time great sprinters themselves. Terry, a Missouri Track and Field Hall of Fame inductee, held the state 100-meter record for 30 years before he coached Olympian Maurice Mitchell, who beat his time in 2007.

The two coached in the Kansas City area for years, and Menka said they lost count at about 300 kids they helped get to the level for college scholarships.

Even though they had retired, the opportunity to coach their daughter when Mikah reached the high school level at Lee’s Summit West was “a unique opportunity” to help her daughter the way she had helped so many others.

When her husband died at 57 in November 2021, leaving behind his wife and daughter, Menka said she was really glad the opportunity to coach her daughter had opened up for her.

“With all the records that we’ve broken, from being No. 1 in the sprint-medley relay to going out there at nationals, it’s just been an amazing year,” Menka said. “This really was a miraculous season. We’ve had a guardian angel watching over us, and I really think it’s my husband, to tell you the truth.”