By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
After a sixth-place finish in 2016, Carl Junction head coach Krista Otto figured her team was close to a breakthrough.
The Lady Bulldogs returned the entire roster, and focused on preparing for the difficult state course this season, according to head coach Krista Otto.
“Our plan all year was to go out and run well at state,” Otto said. “We knew that we could after finishing sixth last year, and we had every girl returning. We’ve been trying to run hard courses and had some injuries throughout the year, but we were all healthy today and tried to go out and do our best.”
The move paid off, as Carl Junction placed all five runners in the top 66 to edge out Bolivar for fourth place, 63-67. Festus won the team competition with 108 points.
“They’ve ran near each other and pushed each other all season long,” Otto said. “None of them ran their PRs today, but they all ran well.”
Carl Junction’s top finisher was senior Madison Beecher in 30th (22:40.89). The race was won by John Burroughs freshman Kylie Goldfarb (19:00.54)
The area’s top finisher was Reeds Spring senior Rachel Bagg.
Bagg’s sixth-place finish (19:57.97) was a result of leaving everything out on the course.
“This is my senior year, and my thing was no regrets,” Bagg said. “I didn’t want to regret anything, so I made sure that I ran my race and didn’t let how everyone else was running get in my mind. If I run my thing and start out slow, I’ll just catch them, so that was my plan. I didn’t expect to be that high up, but I’m OK with that!”
Other area finishers in the top 25 included Bolivar junior Anna Bandy in 7th (19:58.11), East Newton senior Kinsey Sorrell in 17th (20:14.64), Cassville freshman Brylee Wilson in 19th (20:16.52), Bolivar junior Laci Lindsay in 20th (20:16.63), Springfield Catholic sophomore Anna Burson in 22nd (20:18.34) and Cassville sophomore Zoey Brookes in 24th (20:20.98).
In the boys’ race, Warrensburg senior Edward Wilhite pulled away from Festus junior Maxwell McDaniel to win in 15:42.27.
The area’s top finisher was Buffalo’s Trenton Wells in 10th place (16:43.75).
After the race, Wells talked about his plan to attack Fireman’s Hill, a steep, quarter-mile incline near the end of the race that sets up the course’s final, uphill climb to the finish.
“The plan was to finish in the top ten,” Wells said. “I started to pick up speed right before the second mile, and then I used the downhill before Fireman’s Hill to throw myself up and then grinded through the incline, thinking ‘don’t die and don’t get passed.’”
Other area runners in the top 25 included Bolivar junior Caleb Pyle in 15th (16:50.42) and Springfield Catholic’s Stephen Kielhofner in 16th (16:57.87).
The team competition was won by Festus with a total of 55 points. Bolivar was the top area team in 5th place with 165.