Springfield Catholic hosted the first expanded Big 8 cross country meet at the Springfield Underground on Tuesday. The East Newton boys and Hollister girls came away with a pair of team titles that have been a long time coming.
The Big 8 competition on the boys’ side has been dominated by Lamar in recent years with the Tigers winning seven consecutive titles. Prior to that, East Newton had won seven straight Big 8 titles of their own.
The East Newton Patriots are back on top after that seven-year hiatus. They scored 47 total points well ahead of Cassville’s 113 points in second place. The seven-time defending champion Lamar Tigers were third with 119 points.
“We got spoiled because we won seven straight between 2004 and 2010 and then we had one down year and then it spiraled into Lamar winning seven straight Big 8 titles, so we split the last 14,” East Newton head coach Jake Holt said. “We knew coming in that we were going to be pretty good. We have trained for this since June. We had an idea that we were going to be pretty good. It means a lot to these kids. They have worked really hard. This has been one of our red letter days. We have focused on this day for the last five months.”
East Newton is a young squad with six underclassmen in the top seven and no seniors. Kelton Sorrell land Jacob Bennion led the way in fourth and fifth place. Sorrell posted a time of 17:12.00 while Bennion was just behind him at 17:12.60. Gabe Bergen (9th), Garrett Downum (14th) and Layton Earll (15th) rounded out the scoring runners giving the Patriots five all-conference performers.
The individual race was dominated by Lamar’s Kolin Overstreet. He used his experience from last year on this course to help his race strategy on Tuesday.
“I learned from last year that if you run on the line you will see if there are any (holes) because of the white painted on it, so I just ran on the line and was safe,” Overstreet said.
He led the whole race, but was trailed closely by Rogersville’s Jay Strausbaugh and Landon Hendrickson for much of the five kilometers.
“I was going to hold off a little bit and not push too much because it is kind of a rough course and rough weather, so once they caught me I just took off,” Overstreet said.
Overstreet finished with a time of 16:33.20. Strausbaugh was second place with a time of 16:44.10 with Hendrickson third in a time of 16:51.70.
Hollister spent a decade in the COC Small and never won a girls cross country team title. That will not be the case in the Big 8 as the Lady Tigers easily won the team championship in their first season as a part of the conference.
Hollister scored 38 points to easily beat second place Lamar’s 64-point output.
“They knew they had a chance and to see them get rewarded for their hard work. We have a group of girls that gets along really well. They work hard together and encourage each other and it was just nice to get rewarded for that,” head coach Scott Wenger said.
Patience Pinson (8th), Kylee Winkert (9th), Craigon Bradley (11th) and Alexia Hackman (13th) gave Hollister four all-conference runners. Kendrick Bailey rounded out the scoring five with a 23rd place finish.
The Lady Tigers ran this course for the second time in seven days on Tuesday, which helped with race strategy at the conference meet.
“We came up to Springfield Catholic’s meet last week so we would have a chance to run the course and get familiar with it,” Wenger said. “(We wanted them to) stay upright. Which sounds silly, but we just (wanted them) to take the corners a little wider than they normally would; just watch footing.”
The individual championship went to Nevada’s Calli Beshore who posted a time of 20:26.70. Rogersville’s Faith Stark was runner-up while Aurora’s Kaci Singer, East Newton’s Laynee Casady and Cassville’s Jordyn Stafford rounded out the Top 5..