For only the second time in 32 years, Rock Bridge’s boys’ cross country team is headed to the state meet.
The Bruins’ 97 points edged Kickapoo for fourth place at Saturday’s meet at Bethel Park. Hickman’s boys’ and girls’ teams also advanced with finishes of second and fourth, respectively. The top four teams and top 30 individuals advanced to state.
Hickman’s Tim Cornell and Matt Richmond finished first and second overall for the second week in a row. Cornell’s win also marks his second consecutive sectional title.
Led by senior Jimmy Keown’s fifth-place finish, Rock Bridge’s young team managed to sneak into the state meet following its record-breaking regular season. After setting a new school record with four invitational wins, the Bruins will move on to the state meet where only Keown has any experience.
“I’m just really proud of this team,” coach Neal Blackburn said. “Especially our young kids, we have two freshmen in the top five, to come up big the way they did.”
Rock Bridge senior Meghan Coburn was the only Bruin girl to qualify for sectionals and narrowly missed moving on to state. Coburn was close the whole race to make the top 30 and advance, but finished 33rd.
“The first thing I asked her when she finished was ‘Did you lay it out there and give it all you had?’ and she did,” Blackburn said. “Rather someone qualifies for state doesn’t make or break their season. It’s about giving gutsy performances, and that’s what Meghan did today.”
Hickman’s Aileen Gallagher finished third in 18:51 two spots ahead of her twin sister Brianne, who has been the Kewpies’ No. 1 runner the whole year. She was not pleased with her fifth-place finish.
Calling it the worst race she has had all season, Brianne Gallagher finished almost 45 seconds behind Fort Zumwalt South’s Jenn Wilkinson, someone who she beat last week at the district meet. Brianne Gallagher said she typically runs Bethel’s course 40 to 50 seconds faster than Saturday’s time of 19:12 and blamed her result on fatigue.
“Right now, I feel like it’s out of my control how I’m feeling,” Brianne Gallagher said. “I’ve been tired all week at practice. I need to put this bad race behind me and look forward to state.”
Although a fifth-place finish in sectionals would be reason to celebrate for most people, Brianne Gallagher was in no mood to do so.
“That’s an indication of how high her standards are,” coach Steve Kissane said. “She works real hard. When you work that hard with everything you do, you are going to feel tired.”
Cornell ran his winning streak to six meets, finishing in 15:31. A seventh straight win Saturday at the state meet would give Cornell his second consecutive state title.
“I’m going there to win,” Cornell said. “I’m going there to repeat. That’s what I’ve been working for all season.”
Cornell said there was a lot of pushing for position in the pack at the beginning of the race. He said his goal was to get out ahead quickly and distance himself from the shoving going on inside the pack.
Kissane said he was impressed by Cornell’s run, but also by Richmond’s second-place finish.
“They took it upon themselves to jump start us from the front,” Kissane said. “The rest of the pack stayed together as a group and did their job.”
Other runners placing in the top 30 and earning medals were Hickman’s Kurt Schauwecker in 10th (16:19), Rock Bridge’s Phillip King in 11th (16:22) and Hickman’s Zach Chapman in 19th (16:34). Hickman’s Janelle Cordia finished 18th on the girls’ side, joining the Gallaghers as medalists.