The third time was the charm for St. Clair High School junior Lyndsay Hardin.
Competing at the MSHSAA cross country championships Saturday at Oak Hills Golf Center in Jefferson City, Hardin earned Class 3 all-state honors by finishing in 25th place in a time of 20:30.
The top 25 finishers from each race at the state meet were awarded all-state medals.
Hardin has competed at the state cross country meet in all three years of her high school career. She reached the medal podium for the first time this season as a junior.
“I’m psyched. I took off a little faster than I probably should have,” Hardin said. “Around the two-mile mark, I kind of zoned out. In the last mile, I just did my best.”
Hardin had to work hard down the stretch for the final all-state medal.
She held off Notre Dame de Sion’s Lauren Blando by one second while climbing the final hill to the finish line.
“I was ecstatic when Lyndsay came across the line,” said St. Clair Coach Ben Martin. “This is something we’ve wanted for her since her freshman year.”
Hardin was well aware of her situation as she worked toward the finish line.
“I knew where I stood,” Hardin said. “My coaches are really good about telling me that.”
So what was going through Hardin’s mind as she ran up the final hill?
“It was intense,” she said. “I didn’t know if I was going to get it or not.”
Martin followed Hardin for much of the race.
“It was exciting to watch Lyndsay race. She made it interesting,” Martin said. “She was in 13th place halfway through and then started to fade. She held on for that last medal.”
Hardin was confident going into the race.
“I thought I had a chance to get all-state,” she said. “I just wanted to come here, do what I could do and hope that it was good enough.”
A strong work ethic for Hardin was the key to her success, according to Martin.
“Lyndsay really matured as a runner this year,” Martin said. “That medal wasn’t just won at the state meet. She won that medal this summer when she got up early and ran hills and workouts. She’s worked hard all year and earned it.”
Hardin has had quite a career at St. Clair, with still her senior season to go. She’s a three-time Four Rivers Conference champion and a three-time state qualifier.
“Lyndsay can now add all-state to the three conference titles she’s won,” Martin said. “Being three-time conference champion was very cool. I don’t know if I’ve heard of another sport that has ever had a three-time MVP or player of the year. That’s exactly what Lyndsay has been. That’s a big deal.”
Hardin has higher hopes for next year’s state meet.
“My goal for next year is a top five finish at state,” she said.
St. Clair senior Austin Gotway capped a standout cross country career at the state meet.
Gotway finished the Class 3 boys race in 34th place in a time of 17:32.
“Austin ran 20 seconds faster than he did last year. He is disappointed because last year he was 31st and this year 34th, even though he ran faster,” Martin said. “He ran hard the whole way and did well. I’m proud of him.”
Like Hardin, Gotway also is a three-time state qualifier and a three-time Four Rivers Conference champion.
“Being a three-time state qualifier and a three-time conference champion is something to be proud of,” Martin said. “I don’t know if the FRC has ever seen a three-time MVP or Player of the Year in football or basketball, and that’s exactly what Austin was. For the past three years, he has dominated the FRC in cross country.”
Gotway made his mark with the St. Clair cross country program.
“Austin is one of the smartest, most ferocious competitors that I’ve ever coached. He’s going to give every ounce of energy to fight for a win,” Martin said. “I’ll miss him a lot next year. Not just because he’s fast, but because he listens, he’s coachable and he gives it his all. We’ve called him Austin Texas since his sophomore year because he runs big.”
St. Clair junior Tyler Hinson finished 151st in the Class 3 boys race in 19:56.
“This was Tyler’s first time to state,” Martin said. “He got the flu the night before and was very sick. I’m just impressed he wanted to still run Saturday morning. He was a bit nervous, but ran well given his illness. He’ll have another shot next year.”
Martin said the St. Clair cross country program continues to improve.
“My mission is to develop life-long runners and get them to reach their full potential while here. All but one of my returning runners got faster this year,” Martin said. “We were able to get three to state and have two individual conference champions. We had some injuries that prevented us from being four-time conference champs. Despite that, I consider this year a success.”
The future looks promising.
“We have some young talent coming up,” Martin said. “We’ve got a lot of running to do this summer if the boys want to be competitive. We don’t lose any of our top seven girls. They’re all coming back. With how good Owensville and Pacific girls continue to be, we’ll have to train a lot this summer to get to where they are. I expect Lyndsay and her sister Emily, and Megan Creasy, to qualify for state next year. For the other girls, it will be how they are willing to run in June and July.”