COLUMBIA – The Rock Bridge cross country teams will head out to the state championship course in Jefferson City on Friday afternoon, where they have the opportunity to see the course, run on it and prepare for Saturday’s Class 4 state meet.
An integral part of Rock Bridge’s preparation for the state meet is the “realization-visualization” process. The team does it every Friday before a meet.
“It’s kinda like, we turn music on and we lay there and we tense and relax different muscle groups,” senior Jordan Cook said. “It’s like a way to get our mind off the race and relax and alleviate some of the stress.”
This weekend will certainly test the nerves of many runners. The meet is Saturday at Oak Hills Golf Center in Jefferson City. Both the boys and girls teams have No. 1 rankings in Class 4.
Two years ago, the Rock Bridge boys team placed third at the state meet. Last year, they moved up to second. This year, the Bruins hope to finally clinch the state title, especially with the guidance of three strong runners.
Cook, fellow senior Caleb Wilfong, and junior Nathan Keown have consistently performed well this season. All three placed in the top 10 at last weekend's sectional meet. They have also been listed in Big River Running’s rankings of the state's top 15 individual runners all season.
“I think that individually, Caleb, Jordan and Nathan all have a shot to, as ridiculous as it sounds, be in the top 6,” Rock Bridge coach Neal Blackburn said.
Wilfong and Cook have a special opportunity this weekend. Both have the potential to be named all-state for the third year in a row, which would be a first for the Rock Bridge program.
“We know what’s expected of us, we know what we’re capable of doing, Cook said. "It’s just a matter of achieving that."
Blackburn said Rockhurst, West Plains, Lee’s Summit North and St. Louis University High School will be top competitors in the boys 5K race.
Blackburn said he is excited to finally see the Rock Bridge girls team up in the rankings this year. With the team placing first at districts and sectionals, the girls are much more confident this season.
“I think they still feel like they have something to prove, and so that’s been a lot of their motivation with each and every meet,” Blackburn said.
Blackburn expects senior Sam Garrett, junior Megan Schulte and freshman Kayla Funkenbusch to place in the top 25 this weekend.
“Our biggest competition is Lee’s Summit West,” Garrett said. “They’re the four-time defending state champions and we’re hoping to end their streak.”