Even with a shorthanded team, the Missouri women’s cross country team proved Saturday why it deserves to be the No. 12 team in the nation.
Both the women’s and men’s teams routed Southwest Missouri State, but Rock Bridge had mixed results in the high school division in the 12th Annual Missouri Cross Country Challenge held at A.L. Gustin Golf Course.
The women’s team was missing Valerie Lauver, a two-time All-Midwest Region runner who is recovering from a car accident. All-American Amanda Bales is at less than full speed because of her recent bout with pneumonia This did not stop the Tigers from placing eight runners in the top nine en route to defeating SMS 17-46.
“I think that has a lot to say about the depth on the ladies side,” coach Jared Wilmes said.
The men’s cross country team also dominated SMS, winning 19-42. Seven of the first nine runners to cross the finish line off the 11th fairway were Tigers.
MU juniors led the field. Tim Ross won in 25:28.73. Chase Hall (25:41.68) finished second and Matt Noonan (25:43.36) finished third.
Ross said the team’s strategy was to run as a group and he would set the pace. Once the morning’s heat began to take its toll on the runners, Ross saw his opportunity following a big hill at the 3-mile marker.“I met my expectations for the first meet, and I feel like I’m right where coach wants me to be,” Ross said.
The college women’s 5K race ended up being the closest of the day’s eight races.
Freshman Maddie Schueler, who was running her first race since last November’s Kentucky high school championship, led until the last 50 yards. That’s when senior Jill Petersen made a mad dash to cross the finish line half a second before Schueler.
While the Missouri teams both had convincing wins, the results varied for Rock Bridge. The boys’ team, led by senior Jimmy Keown’s fifth-place finish, featured great balance with five runners in the top 20.
The Bruins garnered a second- place finish with 75 points, trailing only Jefferson City’s 39.
Rock Bridge coach Neal Blackburn said he was “ecstatic” after his team’s performance. The Bruins are missing McClaine Thompson and Ryan Deason, two of the team’s top three runners from last year, because of injury.
On the other side of the spectrum, Rock Bridge’s girls’ team faltered, placing two runners in the top 25 and finishing last among the seven teams competing.
“I think when and if our girls gain confidence, they are going to be competitive,” Blackburn said. “Right now, we have a confidence issue with whether or not we can win. Yet their training shows me that they can do it.”
Hickman only ran its junior varsity team for this meet, opting instead to send its varsity team to the McCluer North Invitational in St. Louis.
At the meet in St. Louis, senior Brianne Gallagher’s first-place time of 18:56 helped the Kewpies’ girls’ team to a second behind Marquette.
The boys’ team did not fare as well, placing fifth nearly 100 points behind Saint Louis University High’s first-place score of 52. Hickman senior Jim Cornell, finished third in 16:18.