WARRENSBURG — There's been an unofficial passing of the torch on the Warrensburg-Latham girls track and field team that's grown into a tradition over the course of the last few years.
Two years ago, KD Young and Taylor George wrapped up their high school careers with three combined Class 1A state championships — two from Young and one from George's part on the 4x200-meter relay team — in their final high school meet. With their departure, someone needed to take the reins.
In stepped Ashley Lyons last season as the elder stateswoman on the team. Lyons, though, graduated after the Cardinals made yet another splash in Charleston at the state meet.
All the while, Brittney Oakley spent those two seasons learning from the veterans above her — and winning in the process.
“Especially with Taylor because she did the same thing running-wise," Oakley said Friday at the Illinois Top Times meet in Bloomington. "I looked up to her as a freshman, now I’m trying to keep with her."
Now, a junior, Oakley does it all for the Cardinals. She, along with Channing Grace Johnston, is a strong voice in the program.
As Warrensburg coach Tammy Davis says, "I lose a senior, and I pull a freshman." It's a seemingly never-ending cycle of state qualifiers. Oakley has qualified for state in each of her two seasons and has plenty of hardware to show for it. As a freshman she finished seventh in the long jump, was on the third-place 4x100-meter relay team and, along with George, was on the state championship 4x200-meter relay team.
Last season as a sophomore, she finished ninth in the long jump, was on the fifth-place 4x1 team and was on the third-place 4x2 team.
Over the summer, Oakley added the triple jump to the mix, knowing that college coaches see the long and triple jumps as events that go hand in hand. In all likelihood, Oakley will run on the 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams and will do the triple jump and long jump this season, but could be in the mix in the 200-meter dash as well.
“I have a like for jumping, obviously," Oakley said. "I love jumping. Most colleges want you to jump both so I just decided to try it."
She finished in eighth last weekend at the Top Times meet with a jump of 34 feet, 4.25 inches. Oakley is still figuring out the event after doing it a couple of times over the summer.
Davis calls Oakley "probably one of the hardest workers I've ever had."
“When we’re in practice, she works hard everyday," Davis said. "If you tell her to do something, she’s going to do it and she’s a really good leader for the young kids."
In this case, "young kids" includes Oakley's younger sister, Brooke, a freshman for the Cardinals. They interact like typical sisters: Eye rolling before photos, overly competitive and tremendously supportive.
Both get nervous when the other is competing. They run against each other in the 200 and with each other on the relay teams. Brittney, Brooke says, has always been a leader. Only now, Brooke gets to see it first hand.
“I think that she’s really a good leader and performs well," Brooke said. "It’s just exciting that she’s my sister and I get to live with her and share it."
During meets, Brooke tries not to mess up, she doesn't want to hear it from her older sister when they get home. But the scolding is offset by the realization that she has her older sister by her side for her freshman season. In the 4x200-meter relay, she hands off to Brittney, the anchor, to close out the race.
It's not a passing of the torch from Brittney to Brooke.