It took three tries, but once the Class 2 Boys race was finally started, Lamar rolled to a team victory.
Twice the Class 2 race was started and twice it was called back due to a runner falling the first 100 meters. It would have been easy for a team to get frustrated and knocked off their game, but Lamar had strong senior leadership that kept the Tigers focused on the task at hand.
“We have three seniors in our top seven and the mental toughness of them flows over into the others. They kept them under control, so I wasn’t too worried,” Lamar head coach Rodney Baldridge said.
He was right not to be worried as one of those underclassmen found the good in the extra starts.
“I was thinking that somebody is trying to mess us up, but I decided that those were just two extra warm-ups,” Kaden Overstreet said.
Overstreet, just a sophomore, finished second in the race in a time of 17:11.14. His finishing mile time of 5:41.65 was the fastest in the entire Class 2 field.
The sophomore admittedly did not have his best day on the course last year, but he used the experience to his advantage in his second go around.
“I knew the hills were and I knew how the course was going to go. I wasn’t as nervous this year as last year,” Overstreet said.
Using experience from 2011’s ninth place finish as a team has been fuel all season for a Lamar team that returned all of its runners.
“It (2011) made all the difference in the world. After we left here last year they committed themselves to coming here this year and winning this year,” Baldridge said.
That mission was accomplished emphatically as the Tigers won by 39 points over second place Herculaneum.
Ava finished fourth in the team race and Springfield Catholic was seventh.
Stockton’s Tommy Garcia was the next best local finisher in seventh place in a time of 17:31.43. Overstreet’s teammates Zachary Ray and Drew Buckner came in at 14th and 20th place, respectively. Strafford junior Jackson Eiken didn’t have a full team to run with, but that did not stop him from claiming 17th place. In places 21 to 25 were Fair Grove’s Zach Smith, Ava’s Dakota Renner, Catholic’s Jacob Eck, Ava’s Luke Shortt and Catholic’s Neal Ukena.
On the girls’ side, Stockton was the story with the best area finish for a team and an individual in the race.
Rachel Wheeler improved on her sixth-place finish from a season ago with a fourth-place finish to cap her senior year. This year she focused more on cross country after doing both cross country and softball in years past.
“I have always doubled sports, so this is the first year that I have actually gotten to run just straight cross country all season and my goal was to be in the top five,” Wheeler said. “I was really happy with fourth.”
Wheeler still played some softball this year, but her focus on cross country paid off on Saturday as she ran a time of 19:31.82. She was in 15th place at the mile, but was strong in her second two miles to move up which was her strategy coming in.
“(My strategy was) to stay comfortable the first two miles because I knew that if I stayed comfortable I could stay with the top 10 runners and then just get out the last mile,” Wheeler said.
Her teammate Alexis Smith finished in ninth to buoy Stockton to a fourth place finish as a team. The Tigers finished third last year, but lost one of their top runners to transfer.
Stockton cross country, only in its fourth year, took the loss in stride.
“This team is really resilient,” Stockton head coach TJ Sanderson said. “Last year we did get third and we were hoping to do that or better, but one of our better runners moved to another school. So for our team to bounce back after losing that talent and still be in the top four is amazing.”
Springfield Catholic and Strafford finished fifth and sixth in the team competition, respectively.
Kelly Devlin led the Irish with an eighth place finish, while Strafford was paced by Rachel Barford’s 22nd place finish.
CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE BOYS RESULTS
CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE GIRLS RESULTS