JEFFERSON CITY — With a frigid wind blowing across the site of the Missouri championship cross country meet, spectators were pressed against any obstacle they could find to shield themselves from the cold Saturday.
Despite temperatures below 40 degrees and wind chills that dipped even lower, runners from both Rock Bridge and Hickman high schools performed well at the meet, which was held at Jefferson City's Oak Hills Golf Center.
Rock Bridge qualified both its boys and girls teams for the state meet, while Hickman was represented by girls runner Emma Myers and boys runners Jordan Fleming, Zach Lynn and Seth O'Laughlin.
Fleming was the top finisher for Hickman, finishing 19th in 16 minutes, 31 seconds. He was so tired as he crossed the finish line that he collapsed to the ground, but he recovered soon after.
Fleming said he felt fine for the first mile and a half, but after that, the hilly course started to take its toll. He fought through the pain, though.
"I saw people passing me, and I kept telling myself, ‘They’re all just as tired as me, but they’re still moving faster than I am,'" Fleming said. "So I told myself to get up — go, go… Or else I’ll regret if I don’t. So I started picking it up after that.”
Lynn finished three spots behind Fleming, in 22nd in 16:34. O'Laughlin finished 83rd in 17:34.
Hickman's lone girl representative, Myers, finished 97th in 21:13.
The Rock Bridge boys team finished ninth. It was the school's second-best state finish, behind fifth two years ago.
The team was led by senior Matty Bennett. He finished 23rd in 16:35.
"I achieved my goal of getting All-State, so I was pretty happy with it," Bennett said.
Rock Bridge's next runner was Jordan Cook, who was 43rd. After Cook, Chris Cornell finished 80th, Patrick Cooper finished 90th, Caleb Wilfong was one place behind at 91st, Raj Lal was 94th and Colin McDonald was 108th.
"I think the team did really well," Bennett said. "They ran with the pack mentality that coach has wanted them to run with all season long."
Rock Bridge's girls team came in eighth, its best finish in school history.
"We thought their best day would be in the top eight, and for them to go out and execute, I’m extremely proud of them. They did their job," said Rock Bridge coach Neal Blackburn.
Rock Bridge freshman Sam Garrett led the girls with a 20th-place finish.
"I think it went really well. I’m still sort of in shock. I’m really excited," Garrett said. "Just to get out really fast and get in that top 25 to begin with… And I’m so glad I could stay with them and be All-State. It’s really cool."
Blackburn was happy with Garrett's finish.
"She did phenomenally well," he said. "She didn’t let the stage frighten her. She went out and executed her race plan, quite honestly, to perfection," he said.
Following Garrett for Rock Bridge, Leah Eiffert finished 76th, Anastasia Schmaltz finished 80th, Becca Brocksmith took 98th, Emily Wright was 104th, Charly King finished 119th and Kari Schaal took 125th.