Nine Hickman and Rock Bridge seniors might be running their last race Saturday in sectional competition at Bethel Park.
Hickman coach Steve Kissane said his team, especially the seniors, needs to feel a sense of urgency heading into Saturday’s meet.
The top four teams and top 30 individuals from Saturday’s meet will move on to the state championship in Jefferson City on Nov. 6.
Both Hickman teams and the Rock Bridge boys’ team advanced to sectionals. The Rock Bridge girls’ team did not qualify, though senior Meghan Coburn did individually.
On the boys’ side, Hickman is led by two seniors. Defending district, sectional and state champion Tim Cornell and Matt Richmond are the top two runners. Richmond has enjoyed a fine season, finishing second in most races behind Cornell.
“They have been a nice one-two punch for us,” Kissane said. “Having a state champ to run and train with in practice has helped Matt a lot.”
Richmond said running with Cornell helps him run faster since he wants to get up near the front and push him.
For Saturday’s meet, Richmond said his goal will be the same it has been all year: finish second.
“I’m very happy with second,” Richmond said. “If someone else is going to win other than me, I wouldn’t want it to be anyone else but Tim.”
Richmond said he has extra motivation heading into the postseason because he has struggled previously this time of year. During last year’s cold, rainy district meet, Richmond developed bronchitis. It severely affected his running, causing him to collapse during both the sectional and state meets.
“I’ve had disappointing postseasons to dwell on,” Richmond said. “I really look to make up for it this time.”
Hickman seniors Aileen and Brianne Gallagher lead the girls’ team. Brianne Gallagher, a returning state medalist, won the district meet with twin sister Aileen Gallagher finishing third. Janelle Cordia and Mari-Jean Vance provide depth and experience to a team that finished 11th at state last year.
The Rock Bridge boys’ team has something to prove after not advancing out of sectionals the past four years.
This year, the Bruins’ boys’ team set a Rock Bridge record for most invitational wins with four. That adds extra pressure for the team to get to state, Rock Bridge coach Neal Blackburn said.
“I want my kids to realize their potential as runners and I feel like this year, in order to realize that, we need to move to the next level,” Blackburn said. “If we didn’t advance, it wouldn’t be a disappointment with regards to the whole season, but it would make for a disappointing Saturday.”
The Bruins will be shorthanded Saturday as they were during the district meet. Freshman Jeff Kaiser, the team’s No. 3 runner, was diagnosed with patellar tendonitis in his left knee two weeks ago and will miss the sectional meet.