Seldom does one encounter athletes who enjoy running uphill, but cross country runners are a different breed.
Kickapoo’s Jade Raynor and Nathan Hall both won their Class 4 sectional races on a fast and relatively flat Nixa course, but both say they are excited for the hills they will encounter Saturday at Oak Hills Golf Center in Jefferson City. It’s the site of the state state cross country championships.
“Springfield Lake is my home course and that’s one of the hilliest courses in Missouri,” Raynor said. “Running out there in Jeff City feels more like home, I’m not used to flat courses.”
The Chiefs practice site is no accident. Kickapoo cross country coach Jeremy Goddard explained that his team trains on hills with the fall season finale in focus.
“Our lake course is set up very similarly to the state course, with it in mind as our goal,” Goddard said.
Raynor and Hall both made significant strides in the sport this season.
Raynor admitted to being surprised about winning her sectional race.
“Last year I barely made it to state, so being able to progress to the point that I’m at now truly is a blessing,” Raynor said. “I didn’t know that I had this amount of potential in me, but it’s a great feeling.”
Raynor finished 93rd in a time of 20:44.13 at the 2013 state meet. Hall was 65th in 2013 at Oak Hills in 16:56.68, thanks to a final straightaway sprint. But he said the middle portion of the state race will be most important.
“The last mile can be a little tough, but I think where it’s going to make our break somebody is in the second mile because it’s a bunch of switchbacks on flat ground,” Hall said.
Meanwhile, Catholic edged Strafford in districts with the No. 4 and No. 5 runners deciding first and second in the team places. Garrett Shadwick of Clever won the race at the Springfield Underground course with a time of 16:27.
Strafford’s McKenzi Maples won her district qualifier going away, beating Anna Galligos of Catholic by 30 seconds. However, Catholic’s team of Eva Hollland, Maggie Witt, Sarah Winton and Cate Maynard ran as a pack to finish seventh, ninth, 10 and 11th, respectively, qualifying Catholic for state as a team in Class 2.
Hailey Stevens of Chadwick appears faster since a 25th-place finish at the Class 1 state championships in 2013. Stevens won Class 1 District 4 in 21:16, beating the second-place finisher by 22 seconds. She will contend in Class 1 against her fellow Christian County residents from Sparta, who qualified as a team.
Sparta’s chances in the boys race also appear strong. The Trojans are led by junior Tristan Easton, whose district time of 16:51 is on pace with last year’s state championship time by Seth Brown of La Plata.
Marshfield sophomore Tabitha Weber placed sixth at state last year and sixth at her 2014 district race in Nixa. Marshfield junior Ashley Runyan also looked strong in fourth place, but East Newton freshman Kinsey Sorrell was the class of the field. Sorrell competes in her first state championship in Class 3.
Defending state champion Kaden Overstreet and the Lamar Tigers will race as a team after going 1-2-3 in their district and placing five runners in the top 10.