Sixteen teams from Classes 1-4, along with various individual qualifiers, will be running to the state Capitol with championship goals this weekend.
The state cross country championships take place at the Oak Hills Golf Center in Jefferson City Saturday morning. Festivities will begin at 9 a.m. with the Class 2 girls race. The Class 1 boys will follow at 9:35 a.m., then the Class 2 boys at 10:10 a.m. and the Class 1 girls at 10:45 a.m. Class 4 girls will run at 11:20 a.m., then the Class 3 girls at 11:55 a.m. Class 4 boys will follow at 12:30 p.m. with the Class 3 boys concluding the day at 1:05 p.m.
Awards will be presented during the races that follow each event. Class 2 awards are scheduled for approximately 10:45 a.m., Class 1 at 11:15 a.m., Class 4 at 1 p.m. and Class 3 at 1:30 p.m.
In Class 4, Washington boasts one of the top-contending teams for the girls championship after a third-place finish in last year’s race.
Senior Mikayla Reed will have the opportunity to defend her individual state championship against a field that includes last year’s runner-up Victoria Findley of Blue Springs South. Findley has finished ahead of Reed in the only two head-to-head meetings between them since.
Findley finished her sectional in first place as well, with a time of 17:59 at Kearney.
Lady Jays Head Coach Mike Olszowka expects his team’s times to continue to drop.
“Knowing how to program works, we believe we still have a little bit more to give on the course,” Olszowka said.
While other teams have graduated talent, Washington has gotten stronger. The team returns six runners from last season’s state race. Five of those runners are in the team’s top seven again this year. They will be joined by a pair of freshmen runners, Mia Reed and McKenna Jacquin, both of whom contributed to the Lady Jays’ second-place score at the sectional meet.
In Class 3, Borgia and Pacific will both be in the boys race, joined by area runners Tyler Stark and Colin Brown from St. Clair and Owensville’s Jacob Giedinghagen.
Borgia has four runners returning to the state meet after running eighth as a team there a year ago.
“It does not look likely for us to get any real high finishers,” Borgia Head Coach Mitch Figas said. “We will just have to keep our pack tight and get as close to the front as we can.”
Pacific qualified a boys team for the state race for the first time since the program was revived in 1997. They are led by junior Will Green, who won both the Four Rivers Conference and District 2 individual championships this season. He will look to improve on his 74th place showing in the race a season ago, as will teammate Conner Robinson, the only other Indians’ runner with state meet experience. Robinson, a senior, was 99th in last year’s race.
Stark and Giedinghagen, both juniors, ran 77th and 97th respectively in the 2016 state race. This will be the first appearance for Brown, a senior.
On the girls side in Class 3, the Dutchgirls team will look to improve on a 10th-place finish from 2016. Pacific has a pair of senior runners, Faith Gerling and Sarah Aehle, in the field and two area freshmen, St. Clair’s Arin Halmich and Borgia’s Grace Overman, will look to make their mark. Gerling and Aehle were each in the top 100 runners at the state race last season.
New Haven will continue to contend for state titles in Class 1 after running away with both the boys and girls district championships. The Shamrocks had six runners finish in the top 10 in both races at Bowling Green Saturday. Both its boys and girls teams were third in state a season ago.
On the boys side, New Haven will be replacing just three runners from its 2016 state team. They will be led by junior Joseph Rethemeyer, who finished 10th in last year’s race. Tim Madden returns after placing 30th in 2016, as do Martin Lewis (51st) and Dalton Gerdes (99th).
For the girls, the status of junior Julia McIntyre, who was fourth in state last year, is uncertain. She did not run in the district race, which was won by her freshman sister, Emma McIntyre.
Two other Lady Shamrocks for last year’s team are set to run, including Grace Allgaier, who was 36th last year, and Lydia Lagemann, 65th.