COLUMBIA — Members of the Rock Bridge cross country team serenaded their teammates on Wednesday with a rendition of the "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" from the movie "The Lion King" as other members of the team attempted to perform an interpretative dance.
While it may have looked like the rigors of the season had finally driven the team past the breaking point, they were just performing skits in an effort to lighten the mood before this Saturday morning's Class 4, Sectional 3 meet Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Camdenton.
It was a visible display of the balance that is being struck this week. Coming off successful showings in the Class 4, District 5 meet, both the Hickman and Rock Bridge cross country teams team are attempting to stay loose while staying focused on this weekend's meet and hopefully trips to the state meet.
Both the Rock Bridge boys' and girls' teams qualified last Saturday at Bethel Park. The top four teams and top 30 runners in districts advance. The boys' team finished second while the girls finished third.
Senior Matty Bennett finished fifth in the 5K race in 16:11.3, and freshman Jordan Cook finished eighth in 16:20.5.
"It was a good day," Cook said. "I was, like, not tired. It felt good. It was just a really good race."
A freshman also gave Rock Bridge's girls' team a boost. Sam Garrett finished third to lead the team.
"It felt really good, seeing that it was, like, sort of our home course. It felt good going in and getting momentum going into sectionals," she said.
Garrett echoed the sentiments of other runners when she said she enjoyed running on what amounted to a home course.
"It was awesome," Bennett said. "We had a lot of our friends and family that maybe don't normally get to go to a cross country race. So we had a lot of support for our school, and it just made the environment more fun."
Hickman qualified their boys team for the sectional meet, coming in fourth. The girls just missed the cut, finishing fifth.
Kewpies senior Jordan Fleming, who has dealt with injuries this year, led Hickman's boys' team with a seventh place finish.
Hickman had more runners than Rock Bridge in the top 11, with three to the Bruins' two. Rock Bridge, though, had four runners running in a pack who finished 14th through 17th. Hickman's next three runners finished in a pack, but took 26th to 28th.
In a sport where a lower score is better, the higher saturation of runners in the top 20 was enough to give Rock Bridge second place with 58 points, trailing only district champion Jefferson City's 47. Lebanon was a close third with 61, followed by Hickman's 81.
Both teams have now turned their focus to Saturday's sectional meet. Once again, the top four overall teams and the top 30 individual finishers will advance.
"We're going to need to iron out our wrinkles this weekend at sectionals if we want to get both teams to the state meet," Rock Bridge coach Neal Blackburn said.