The Rock Bridge and Hickman cross-country teams both achieved season-long goals on Saturday with strong showings at the Class 4, District 5 sectional meet at Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Camdenton.
Rock Bridge qualified both its girls and boys teams to the state championships, while Hickman qualified its boys team and the two runners from its girls team that ran in the sectional.
Sophomore runners, Jordan Cook (second in 16:23) and Caleb Wilfong (third in 16:26) led Rock Bridge to the boys title. The Bruins placed all seven of their runners inside the top 21.
“We felt like after winning districts last week, that we had a legitimate shot (to win the sectional),” Rock Bridge coach Neal Blackburn said. “We knew Springfield-Kickapoo (second place) would be an imposing challenge, but we’re just really happy about winning sectionals.”
Blackburn said the meet was just a reflection of what the team has been trying to accomplish all season, finishing strong on the lower end of the lineup.
“It was a complete team effort,” he said. “All year, we’ve felt that if we could capitalize on our depth, then we could allow some of our other guys to run a bit more free and aggressive, and more to their running style.”
Hickman’s third-place finish in the boys race will send them back to the state meet as a team after falling short last season. The Kewpies were led by Zach Lynn (eighth in 16:40) and Seth O’Laughlin (11th in 16:54).
Hickman coach Steve Kissane said each member of his boys team has played a role in getting the group back to the state meet.
“It was a pretty solid pack effort from the boys,” Kissane said. “Alex Nail (34th, 17:43) has really picked it up for us, and the two in the front, Zach and Seth, have done a good job leading us, and we’re getting a real shot in the arm from Kellin Lock (13th in 17:06). Kellin was outstanding today, as he has been all season.”
Hickman sent freshman Nicole Mello and exchange-student Dana Ivanova to the girls sectional race. Mello finished fourth in 19:33 and Ivanova crossed the finish line a little less than two minutes later in 26th in 21:16. Both runners qualified individually for the state meet.
“Nicole has been a stand out for us,” Kissane said. “It is really nice to get two girls qualified as well.”
The Rock Bridge girls team also advanced with a third place finish at the sectional. Blackburn credited team depth, just like his boys team. He had four runners place in the top 24 and six in the top 32.
“We had to rely on all seven (runners) to really do their parts,” Blackburn said. “And I think they really did.”
Blackburn said he was especially impressed with No. 2 runner Megan Schulpe.
“This is two weeks in a row where I felt like Megan had a tremendous race,” Blackburn said.
The MSHSAA Cross Country Championships are set for Nov. 7 at the Oak Hills Golf Center in Jefferson City. The Class 4 girls race will begin at 11:30 a.m. and the Class 4 boys race will begin at 12:45 p.m.