(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
Essner is just many of the local athletes to be taking part in the event that begins today at Lincoln University in Jefferson City.
Essner just missed out on a state-record time last season, winning the 400 with a time of 56.73 just off the record time of 56.61. She enters this year as the third seed.
The senior, who will run at Southeast Missouri State next season, will team with Katie Rhymer, Miranda Brashear and Heather Keesee in the 4x200 relay and with Brashear, Keesee and Erika Medlin in the 4x400 relay.
Scott City junior Melanie Lacey will run in the 1,600 and 3,200.
East Prairie junior Jennifer Nicholson will be competing in the shot put and the discus. Nicholson finished second in the discus as a freshman and comes in with the best throw of all her competitors in Class 2. Her throw of 143-00 is over 20 feet further than her nearest competition.
Kelly senior Londyn Backfisch will run in the 200-meter dash, returning to state competition after missing last year with a knee injury. Backfisch won the event as a sophomore, just edging out Essner, and finished fourth as a freshman.
Backfisch will also compete in the high jump while Charleston's Kasuela Cooper will compete in the long jump.
In the boys division, Scott City's Brandon Shemonia will run in the 1,600 and 3,200 runs while Garrett Schaefer will compete in the 200 and Alex Eichhorn in the shot put and triple jump.
Scott City will also look for success in the 4x100 relay with Brandon DeProw, Eichhorn, Schaefer and Ethan Woods and the 4x200 relay with DeProw, Schaefer, Ryan Smith and Woods.
Charleston's Deonte Jones will also be seeking a state title in the long jump where he is seeded second and the triple jump, where he is seeded fourth.