Eight CHS cross country runners medal in sparse MEC meet

Hornets, Lady Hornets each second as team Tuesday

As reported to C-T

ST. JOSEPH — With the boys’ field involving only six of the eight possible teams and 44 of the potentially-56 total runners and the girls’ division being far-more-radically sparse with only 25 participants and two teams involved, the Chillicothe High School cross country running Hornets and Lady Hornets each secured second-place team finishes in Tuesday’s Midland  Empire Conference Championships and put eight individuals in the medaling and all-MEC ranks.

The Lady Hornets came close to unseating Kansas City: St. Pius X in the distaff division, being beaten out 24-31 by the defending champs.

St. Pius X had the Nos. 10 and 11 overall finishers with its fourth and fifth runners, while, less than a half-minute behind that duo, next came Lady Hornets Aliyah Briner and Alice Hurtgen in 12th and 13th.

Had that been reversed – the CHS duo being 10th and 11th and Lady Warriors pair 12th and 13th, Chillicothe would have nosed out the KC team by a point.

The Hornets’ fastest-5 team score of 76 had them far behind champion Maryville’s nearly-perfect 17 points total – MHS had five of the top six finishers, but handily ahead of third-place-sharers SPX and St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond.

Individually, with the top 14 finishers in each gender receiving medals and earning all-MEC status (top seven first-team, next seven honorable mention), Chillicothe had five girls and three boys in those ranks.

The Lady Hornets again were topped by lone senior Kadence Shipers, who took fourth in 23:53.12 on the tougher-than-expected Missouri Western State University campus course.

Just missing the top five by five seconds was freshman Yoo Jung Lee, who was sixth in 24:00.1, while junior Juliann Gabrielson was a third CHS presence in the top 10. Her 24:09.8 had her eighth.

Those three, along with Briner and Hurtgen, reaped the hardware and honors reward.

On the boys’ side, freshman Cain Evans, the Hornets’ top finisher in every meet to date this season, took eighth place in 19:24.5, 100 seconds behind champ meet winner Jag Galapin of Maryville.

Joining him in the top 14 were sophomore Austin Lyford, who took 12th in 20:14.9, and junior Clayton Savage, who was 14th in 20:47.87.

“Still very proud of how they competed and raced,” salutes Jennifer Dickson, Chillicothe head coach. “It was a pretty tough course and almost all of our top-5 runners passed opponents in the final 20 feet of the race.

“They fight to the end every race and it's so hard to do in those final minutes when it hurts the most. It's very easy to give in, but they don't.

“You can't coach/teach grit and perseverance; you either have it or you don’t. I’m very proud to have runners that compete and fight no matter what!”

The MEC meet wrapped up Chillicothe’s regular season. It will spend about 10 days prepping for the state-meet-qualifying Oct. 30 Class 3 District 4 meet on the same MWSU course, which Dickson assessed as “hillier than expected.”

At district, with a couple dozen schools of similar or larger size involved, Chillicothe will look to get as many individuals qualified for the Nov. 6 state meet at Columbia.

To advance, a runner will need to place in his or her gender’s top-30 finishers. Team-wise, four schools from each district will advance to state, but the large field figures to make that a greatly-daunting task.

Rounding out Chillicothe’s performances at the league meet, Lady Hornet Kaylynn Cranmer ran 19th (27:27.1) and Karissa Fostek 22nd (28:19.1), while, for the boys, frosh Carter Shipers was 20th (out of 44) in 21:19.2, classmate Alton Keller 22nd (21:40.3), senior Stephen Parkes 23rd (22:25.06), and junior Logan Gregory 25th (22:46).

“Carter’s and Alton's finishes weren't quite enough to earn them all-conference honors, but they definitely contributed to the second-place finish as a team,” notes Dickson. “The fourth- and fifth-place runners are usually key to an overall team finish.”