JEFFERSON CITY — Hickman senior Tim Cornell had one goal on his mind when he approached the starting line Saturday morning at the Class 4 State Cross Country Championship: to repeat as champion.
Sixteen minutes and 21 seconds later, Cornell accomplished his goal, winning his second straight state title and seventh race in a row.
Cornell’s standout cross country career concluded exactly as he had hoped.
“It was a huge load off my shoulders,” Cornell said. “I was running with a lot of expectations this whole year. So there was a lot of emotion and joy in that one moment crossing the finish line.”
After the start at Oak Hills Golf Center, Cornell ran with the lead pack. About a mile into the 3-mile race, Cornell made his move and broke from the pack.
Marquette senior Garett Jeffries was the only real challenger for the next two miles, but was never able to close the gap on Cornell.
“I was waiting for someone to make a move, but it never happened,” Cornell said. “So I just kept a comfortable pace, but still tried to push myself a little.”
Jeffries finished four seconds behind Cornell in 16:25. The race was not that close, though.
Only two other runners finished within 25 seconds of Cornell.
“I knew I could kick it with the best in the state,” Cornell said. “It was a huge day for the team as well not just for me.”
Hickman coach Steve Kissane has seen Cornell improve from a 31st as a sophomore to a two-time state champion.
“Today was Tim’s last chance and he went for it,” Kissane said. “He works hard for what he’s gotten.”
Cornell paced the Kewpies to a fifth-place finish. Liberty won the boys’ division with 80 points. Hickman had145.
Hickman’s girls’ team finished eighth with 182 points. Lee’s Summit North took the girls’ division with a 98.
Aileen Gallagher led the Kewpie girls, finishing fifth in 19:54. It was the second race in a row she placed ahead of sister Brianne Gallagher who placed eighth in 19:59 and is normally Hickman’s top finisher.
“Both are very hard-working girls and tenacious competitors,” Kissane said. “The last two races of Aileen’s career were her best.”
Eureka’s Merideth Snow won the girls’ title in 18:52.
Senior Kurt Schauwecker’s ninth-place finish was perhaps the biggest surprise for Hickman.
A back injury has plagued Schauwecker for the past few weeks and hindered his training. After missing the state meet last year with a broken left foot, Schauwecker hoped to finish in the top 10 at the state meet.
Still, he said his placement was unexpected.
“This was a huge surprise for me today,” Schauwecker said. “I wish I were injury-free, but I can’t ask for any more than I got.”
Cornell was left wondering how the season could have been different if Schauwecker was at top speed the whole year.
“It makes me mad knowing he can race this well after not having a lot of training this season,” Cornell said. “Who knows what he could have done if he was healthy all season.”
Kissane said his 21st season with the program went by faster than any other thanks to the group of kids he was coaching.
“It was a real nice day for the program,” Kissane said. “We had real deserving kids get their rewards today. They capped off their cross country careers in real fine fashion.”
Rock Bridge’s boys’ team finished 14th in the 16-team field. It was the highest finish ever by a Bruins’ boys’ squad. Senior Jimmy Keown led the young team earning All-State honors in 22nd in 17:01.
“A great season had a great ending for Jimmy,” Bruins coach Neal Blackburn said. “After the race, I gave him a big hug and said ‘You deserved it.’ He told me to throw anything at him that I could, and he put in the time and handled it.”
Two freshmen, Ben Keown and Samuel Thompson, and one first-year runner, sophomore Phillip King, were three of the Bruins’ top five runners.
Blackburn said that youthfulness has him hoping for a bright future for a Bruins team that had only qualified for the state meet one previous time in school history.
“We’re building a future here with these young kids,” Blackburn said. “This is the first of hopefully three more times they will get to run in the state meet.”