Competing at the MSHSAA cross country championships can be a nerve-racking experience for any high school runner, much less a freshman.
Josie Plowman, a freshman, was the lone runner from Washington High School who qualified for the state meet.
Competing in the Class 4 girls race, Plowman finished in 112th place in a time of 21:15.
“Josie was a bit in awe when we got to the course,” said Washington Coach Mike Olszowka. “It can be overwhelming walking into such a huge meet. There were hundreds of tents, estimated to be over 5,000 spectators and over 1,300 runners.”
Plowman got into her running routine, which settled her nerves.
“Once we got Josie warmed up, she was her usual self,” Olszowka said. “Looking at her place is not fair when compared to her race. Josie ran her second fastest time of the year on the hardest course of the year. When you get a freshman to the state meet, you try to make it a learning experience.”
Olszowka said Plowman improved as a runner as the season moved along.
“After the race, we talked to Josie and she was able to talk about different parts of the race and the course,” Olszowka said. “That says so much about her learning curve throughout the season. She is no longer a runner, but is developing in to a strong young racer who has three years to continue to improve.”
Eureka sophomore Hannah Long cruised to a first-place finish in the Class 4 girls race in 18:06.
Francis Howell captured the Class 4 girls team title with 81 points.
Eureka finished second with 103 followed by St. Teresa’s Academy with 116 and Lee’s Summit West with 129.
Blue Springs’ Simon Belete flew to the Class 4 boys win in 15:48.
St. Louis University High won the Class 4 boys team crown with 98 points.
Blue Springs was second with 98 followed by Lafayette with 143 and West Plains with 188.
Olszowka said the Washington team had some tough breaks this season.
“Overall, our season was a bit disappointing. But when you break it down, there’s not much that was within our control,” Olszowka said. “We had three experienced kids who started training on day one. They missed the whole summer due to track injuries. We had one of our top three boys move to Texas. We had a car accident that sidelined two varsity runners for the last six weeks of the season.”
There were positives from the season.
“We lose only three runners to graduation, and some of the kids are already running their winter programs to prepare for the track season. We had the biggest group of freshman girls that we have had in five years. They all had spectacular rookie seasons. We had two freshman boys who were both varsity contributors by season’s end. We had 25 middle school kids on the team.
“We are learning as a team that the season cannot start on the first day of practice. Our little victories have made us a stronger team and we are sticking together so we can continue to prepare for the next season. On behalf of the coaches and the kids on the team, we would like to thank the parents for their support and commitment to Washington cross country. The 6:30 a.m. practices, pasta parties, long Saturdays and early Mondays. We couldn’t have done it without you.”