By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Columbia, Mo. — Missouri unveiled a brand new location its 2019 state championships in Columbia’s Gans Creek cross country course.
Designed specifically for cross country events by Columbia Parks and Recreation and the University of Missouri, the brand new course is the first to host the state meet following Jefferson City’s 42-year run.
1,369 runners in four classes descended on the area for Saturday’s championship races.
In the Class 1 girls event, Blue Eye’s Riley Arnold cruised to her second-straight championship with a wire-to-wire victory in 18:53.8.
According to Lady Bulldogs head coach Jacob Thompson-Krug, Arnold’s race went exactly as planned.
“She was just going to start out fast,” Thompson-Krug said. “Her splits all season long, from the first and second to the last mile, have been pretty consistent. She settles into a fast tempo, and then she’s able to maintain that the whole race.”
From the opening gun, the sophomore pushed the pace with the knowledge her closest rival would, once again, likely be twin sister Avery.
“I knew I might not have anyone next to me, but I still pushed myself and talked to myself just like any other meet,” Riley Arnold said. “The temperatures today were amazing, and I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Just as they did last season, the sophomore twins completed a 1-2 sweep, with Avery Arnold finishing in 19:17.5. Classmate Braylynn Siercks finished fifth in 20:18.5.
With its top three finishers in the top five, Blue Eye cruised to the overall team title, as well.
“I thought everybody landed right where I was expecting,” Thompson-Krug said. “My biggest surprise was the kick that everybody had. That last 800-1200 meters — all those girls — they really left some juice in there to make sure they could pass at the finish.”
Class 1 O-Zone Girls All-State Finishers
1. Riley Arnold, Blue Eye (18:53.8)
2. Avery Arnold, Blue Eye (19:17.5)
5. Braylynn Siercks, Blue Eye (20:18.5)
12. Mia Wiley, Fordland (21:10.7)
16. Cailee Lake, Liberal (21:22.1)
18. Bethany Kincaid, Stoutland (21:26.0)
22. Kayce Collins, Fordland (21:37.2)
23. Kaylee Foster, Fair Play (21:40.8)
24. Christina Halferty, Winona (21:41.0)
Class 1 O-Zone Girls Top Team Finishes
1. Blue Eye – 56
6. Fordland – 173
In the boys race, Fulton’s Jace Cavness took top individual honors with a finishing time of 16:39.7.
Blue Eye sophomore Ryan Cardenzana — the area’s top finisher — notched a third-place finish in 17:00.9.
“It was crazy,” Cardenzana said. “They went out really strong, and I think that kind of killed me. I mean, I wanted the one, but I’m so happy.”
Other area finishers in the top ten included Fair Play’s Codey Shuler (fourth), Greenwood’s Nathan Fletcher (fifth) and School of the Ozarks’ Titus Thompson (ninth).
In the team competition, Oak Ridge took first-place honors with 89 points. Blue Eye finished in second with 140 points.
Class 1 O-Zone Boys All-State Finishers
1. Ryan Cardenzana, Blue Eye (16:39.7)
4. Codey Shuler, Fair Play (17:02.8)
5. Nathan Fletcher, Greenwood (17:05.2)
9. Titus Thompson, School of the Ozarks (17:17.1)
13. David Heid, Plato (17:26.6)
24. Kaiden Van Winkle, Winona (17:39.0)
25. Thaysen Feldbaumer, Winona (17:39.3)
Class 1 O-Zone Boys Top Team Finishes
2. Blue Eye – 140
4. Fair Play – 148
5. Liberal – 162
6. Winona – 190
10. Dora – 216