Hickman junior Tim Cornell isn’t likely to fall short again after coming so close last year.
Cornell finished 31st at last year’s state cross country meet, one spot away from earning All-State honors.
“I think he has an excellent chance of placing in the top 25,” Kewpies coach Steve Kissane said. “He’s got his sights set higher than that, but exactly what place he gets, well, that’s why they line up there.”
This year’s state cross country meet will be Saturday at the Oak Hills Golf Center in Jefferson City. The girls run at 12:30 p.m. and the boys run at 1:45 p.m.
Hickman qualified its boys and girls teams at the Sectional 3 meet Saturday at Bethel Park. Neither of the Rock Bridge teams advanced but Brian Cooksey finished 15th and Jimmy Keown placed 23rd to qualify individually.
Cornell and teammate Matt Richmond are the only runners with experience at state on the Hickman boys team, which was fourth at the sectional. Richmond finished 90th last year. This year, they hope to use that experience to lead the rest of their team.
“Tim and Matt have been there before and can try to show the others the ropes,” Kissane said, “but you got to have your first state meet sometime.”
The competition will be challenging, as the West Plains Zizzers race for their fourth consecutive state title. The Zizzers graduated several key runners, including Josh Harper, who was third last year, and Matt Brown, who finished fourth. Adam Perkins from Liberty, who has won the meet the past two years, has also graduated.
The Hickman girls finished eighth at state last year with 277 points. Kendall Foss, a sophomore, led the team in 57th in 21:14.93.
“We’ve got a lot of experience on the girls’ side,” Kissane said.
The Zizzers will also challenge the Kewpies’ girls. West Plains won last year with 24 points, setting a record for the lowest score in the 24-year history of the girls’ race.
The Kewpies faced the Zizzers at the sectionals meet, which the Zizzers won with 19 points. The Kewpies had 110 for third, behind Fort Zumwalt South (71).
“We don’t have our sights on West Plains,” Kissane said “It’s a quality field out there with 16 teams on the line, and anytime it’s the team race, you have to realize that everybody that you pass potentially improves the team score.”
Kissane said that for the runners, the focus of the race will not be on competition, but running the best they can.
“We’ve basically said that all the motivation you need is right here in front of you,” Kissane said. “Getting through Saturday at sectionals was obviously a big step for them and I think that will give them some much needed confidence, but they know what they’re up against.”
This is the first state race for the Bruins’ Cooksey and Keown.
“I think they have the opportunity to do very well, and by definition, we’ve kind of set goals in the top 60,” Bruins coach Neal Blackburn said. “In a field of about 150, that’s really good.”
Last year, Rock Bridge had one runner qualify for the state meet. Sarah Phillips placed 101st in 22:21.30. Phillips did not qualify this year, placing 46th at the sectional meet.
For Cooksey and Keown, the focus is on relaxing.
“They’ve been running really well and they just need to loosen up and relax,” Blackburn said. “We’ve been talking about strategy and getting out fast, but not getting out too fast. If they’re not anywhere in the race in the beginning, it’s really hard to stay in it mentally.”