Have four of top eight finishers in St. Joseph meet Tuesday (Sept. 24), get clinching finish from Burk

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Chillicothe High School’s 2019 cross country running Lady Hornets continue to explore new territory in program history.
Bulwarked by four runners – three of them freshmen or sophomores – placing in the top eight, the Lady Hornets outdistanced Kansas City: Lincoln Prep in a close battle for the second time in as many meets Tuesday (Sept. 24) to claim the team championship of their gender in the annual Duane Kimble Invitational meet hosted by St. Joseph: Benton.
With the quartet of Clarissa Nivens, Kadence Shipers, Aliyah Briner, Juliann Gabrielson, and Emma Burk generating a fastest-5 team score of 29 points, the CHS girls shaded Lincoln Prep by seven points after having bested it by a solitary point in the small-schools division of last Thursday’s Platte County Invitational.
The team championship is the CHS’ girls’ third in four 2019 meets to date. That’s the most in a single year in Lady Hornets history, which dates back to the 1980s (there was no cross country running program at CHS for several years in the late 1980s and early 1990s).
The 3-of-4 performance deserves an asterisk. Had it not been for a health issue which developed for Shipers early in the Chillicothe Invitational Sept. 10, forcing her to quit the race, the Lady Hornets likely would be four for four, since they finished only a few points behind meet champion Kirksville and Shipers, had she completed the race at anything approaching her normal time, would have finished high enough to drop the CHS team score by enough points to surpass Kirksville.
Tuesday’s race at St. Joseph also saw the best finish, in terms of individual ranking, by a Hornet so far this fall and, in the view of first-year coach Michael Creekmore, continued improvement of the inexperienced boys’ squad overall.
Although his time was not his fastest this season, Hayden Simmer came in 11th in the 72-runners varsity boys’ division in 20:02.3 for the 5-kilometers (approximately 3.1 miles) race.
In the varsity girls’ competition, while Lincoln Prep had two of the top four finishers to fuel its bid for the team title, Chillicothe had three in the top six – senior transfer Nivens third in 23:08.6, sophomore Shipers fifth in 23:23.8, and frosh Briner sixth in 23:40.5 – and four in the top eight. Gabrielson, another ninth grader, ran a 23:59.3.
However, because the Kansas City had four in the top nine, each team had 18 points from its fastest four. That left the team championship to be decided by the squads’ fifth finisher.
Almost exactly a minute after Lincoln Prep’s fourth runner finished barely a second behind Gabrielson, the Lady Hornets wrapped up the meet crown when junior Emma Burk crossed the finish line in 25:00.6, good for 13th place overall and 11th among runners on teams involved in the team-scoring competition (minimum of five runners).
As it turned out, not only did Burk complete the 5K distance before Lincoln Prep’s fifth finisher did, Lady Hornets Callaway Chapman and Kathryn George did, as well.
Senior Chapman was 18th overall in 26:33.8 and sophomore George 22nd in 27:55.7. Lincoln Prep’s last scoring runner took 24th overall and 18th among team-scoring runners.
“We had one of our strongest showings on the girls’ side,” Creekmore states.
The varsity girls’ division at the Kimble Invitational had 41 entrants. The race winner for Lincoln Prep was junior Story Downing, coasting home well in front of the runnerup in 21:52.7.
On the boys’ side, Simmer was joined in the top 30 by sophomore teammate Stephen Parkes, who ran a 21:48.3, his fastest yet by over a half-minute.
Also in the top 50 was Hornets freshman Clayton Savage (44th in 23:14.2).
“Many boys are showing signs of improvement and are competing very well,” Creekmore salutes.
Rounding out the Chillicothe boys’ scoring quintet, freshmen Logan Gregory (27:19.8) and Gavin Funk (28:38.9) were 65th and 67th overall, respectively. Taking 71st was CHS’ Nathan Toole (30:14.4).
The boys’ division team champion was Savannah with 48 points. Chillicothe was last among the nine teams with 177.
The boys’ individual champion was Mound City’s Lane Zembles in 18:10.
Tuesday’s Duane Kimble Invitational was run in, by far, the best running conditions of the season to date.
“We are finally getting a break from the extreme heat and humidity and looking forward to the cooler temperatures,” the Chillicothe coach gratefully acknowledges.
Next for Chillicothe’s long-distance runners is due to be another meet at St. Joseph next Tuesday, that one hosted by Lafayette.