Best league showing as a team for CHS girls in 22 years. Three Lady Hornets, one Hornet medal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With two freshmen leading the way, the 2019 Chillicothe (Mo.) HS cross country running Lady Hornets produced their best Midland Empire Conference meet showing in over two decades Tuesday, Oct. 22.
With ninth graders Aliyah Briner and Juliann Gabrielson coming across the finish line at the end of five kilometers a second apart and in fifth and sixth place, respectively, the CHS girls’ team posted a team score of 62 points, nosing out Cameron for second place by two points.
The last time Chillicothe took second in the MEC meet was 1997. In 14 of the intervening 21 years, CHS did not even have enough girls competing in the sport to formulate a team score.
Host Kansas City: St. Pius X romped to this year’s league title with a score of 27, fueled by having three of the first four finishers and four in the top 10.
Joining the two freshmen in posing team-scoring finishes were senior Clairissa Nivens (11th), junior Emma Burk (20th), and sophomore Kadence Shipers (22nd).
By virtue of her finish, Nivens – a transfer to Chillicothe from Manhattan, Kan., this school year – claimed a conference-meet medal in her lone opportunity.
Joining her, Gabrielson, and Briner in earning individual medals from the meet, as well as all-conference status, was Hornets junior Hayden Simmer. He took 12th place in the boys’ race. The top 15 finishers in each gender earned varsity medals.
Briner and Gabrielson paced each other around the unfamiliar course and spurred each other on over the final 200 yards to finish 2-3 seconds ahead of Cameron’s second-fastest runner – Briner in 23:09 and Gabrielson in 23:09.9. Had that Lady Dragon, who ran a 23:11.2, beaten them to the finish line, Chillicothe would have dropped to third place in the team standings, it turned out.
Nivens, who has been nursing an injury of late, was solidly in the medal ranks as she finished at the front of a gaggle of four runners who ended the race within less than three seconds of each other. Nivens got 11th with her 23:56.2.
Burk and Shipers crossed the finish line barely three seconds apart, but with a Cameron runner between them. Burk was clocked in 24:55.6 and Shipers in 24:58.7. Cameron’s fifth-fastest runner was three places behind Shipers, clinching the Lady Hornets’ runnerup team finish.
Rounding out the Chillicothe girls’ lineup were senior Callaway Chapman in 26th (26:55.2) and another freshman, Kaylynn Cranmer, in 29th out of the 35 runners. Cranmer recently moved into the seventh and final spot in the Lady Hornets’ varsity lineup, all but one of which will be eligible to return next year. St. Pius X, however, had only one senior among its half-dozen runners, so displacing it from the conference throne in 2020 will be very difficult.
Chillicothe’s equally-young boys’ team had lesser success Tuesday, which was not a surprise.
While Simmer cruised to his medal by a comfortable margin with his 20:23.6 clocking, the next-fastest Hornet needed almost 3-1/2 more minutes to reach the end of the race.
Freshman Clayton Savage (23:52) placed 37th, sophomore Stephen Parkes (25:12.6) 39th, frosh Logan Gregory (25:42.1) 40th, sophomore Brady Bernskoetter (26:49.4) 41st, and junior Nathan Toole (31:50.5) 44th.
The boys’ team title was secured by Maryville with 28 points, 14 less than Savannah. The boys’ race winner was junior Garrett Dumke of Maryville, who ran an 18:16.3. The girls’ champion was SPX’s Gretchen Rock, a sophomore, who finished in 21:56.5.
The Chillicothe runners now will spend another 10 days preparing for their Class 3 district meet at Platte City. Most of the MEC schools will compete in that meet, as well, including both MEC team champs.
The top 15 individual finishers of each gender at district, along with the top two teams of each gender, will qualify for the state meet at Columbia in a couple of weeks.

VOLLEYBALL
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — In a wildly-uneven performance, Chillicothe (Mo.) HS’ volleyball Lady Hornets completed a winless 2019 Midland Empire Conference season Tuesday (Oct. 22) with a 3-games loss at St. Joseph: Benton.
CHS’ 25-23, 7-25, 21-25 setback sends them into next week’s Class 3 District 9 Tournament at Centrali with a 7-16-1 record. Despite that relatively-lowly mark, the Lady Hornets are the No. 4 seed in the 7-teams tournament.
In Tuesday’s loss at Benton, the Lady Hornets, as they did in their previous outing at Maryville, produced an excellent opening-game performance.
However, after not being able to “close the deal” and win the first game at Maryville before dropping the second decisively, they delivered the goods this time, winning the last rally to post the 2-points victory.
Somehow, though, instead of that springboarding CHS to a confidence-reinforced second game, the seniorless Lady Hornets collapsed while Benton raised its game when play resumed. The result was an ugly blowout loss in which Chillicothe never was a factor.
Given the dichotomy of its play in the first two games, which path the deciding game would take was anyone’s guess.
It turned out, in their last opportunity to salvage a MEC win from their campaign, the first-game Lady Hornets reappeared. However, BHS’ host Lady Cardinals had just a bit more to bring to the action than Chillicothe, securing a 25-21 triumph which gave Benton the match, 2-1.
Statistically for Chillicothe, a trio of hitters with four “kills” (spikes) apiece – Lucy Gaston, Gracie West, and Maya Snyder – spiced the match. Jessi Reeter led the setting with seven assists, supplemented by five from Haylee Coplen, who paced the floor defense with four “digs.”
At district next week, the Lady Hornets will open against fifth seed Fulton in a 5 p.m. match Tuesday, Oct. 29.
If Chillicothe prevails, it would make the 2-hours trip back to Centralia the next day for another 5 p.m. clash, this time with top-seeded Kirksville. Kirksville, which has won at least 20 matches, is one of only two teams in the tournament with a winning record (Marshall is the other).
Chillicothe lost an Oct. 1 home match to Kirksville in straight games on Oct. 1, one night after losing in two games at Marshall.