Republic’s Ryan Way ripped off his third win of the season in a time of 16:13.80, which was four seconds ahead of second place Matt Petersen of Branson.
Way was out front for the entire last stretch, which is a part of the race he has the most confidence in himself.
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“I felt like someone was coming for me, but I knew that if it was going to come down to a foot race, I was going to outsprint him,” Way said.
Way may have been the first to cross the line, but he was the last to leave the finish area as he made it a point to shake the hand and congratulate every finisher.
“I like making sure that everyone knows that just because they didn’t win that they still went out and ran their best and their hardest that they could that day and I think that deserves recognition,” Way said.
Carthage’s Ben Southwick finished third in a time of 16:33. McDonald County’s Caleb Littlefield was fourth at 16:38. Jonathan Murphy of Buffalo was just behind him at 16:41 to round out the top five.
In the team race, Sparta took the title in the Class 1-2 race for the four team win in six meets. Sparta has only lost twice this season and both times were to Class 2 Lamar.
The Trojans used their superior pack to pull out the win, which has been the consistent feature of this team all season long.
“We have talked about it from the beginning of the season going in that we had to run as a pack and we had to stay within 10 to 15 places of each other and that is what is going to make us successful in any meet that we run in,” Sparta head coach Monica Wallace said. “It is never about that one or two runner, it is where three, four and five come in behind them at is where it ends up making the difference.”
Traven Eaton was the top finisher for Sparta in 16th-place overall at 17:22, as all of the Sparta scorers were under 18 minutes according to Wallace. Ava finished second and Springfield Catholic was third in the Class 1-2 team race.
Carthage, Branson and Republic went 1-2-3 in the Class 3-4 team race on the boys’ side.
On the girls’ side, it was a bit of déjà vu as Willard’s Bailey Hession found herself battling a familiar face in Megan Hergesheimer of Republic.
The two have faced off several times this year and been close each time. On Tuesday the story was the same as Hession and Hergesheimer battled along with Stockton’s Rachel Wheeler for much of the race.
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Hession waited until late to go for the win as she knows her best asset against Hergesheimer is her kick.
“She has a longer kick and I have a shorter kick at the end, so usually if I can hang with her I can usually get her,” Hession said.
Hession broke the tape at 19:10.90, while Hergesheimer was just behind at 19:17.6. Wheeler fell off to third in a time of 19:23. A gap then opened up to fourth place that saw Stockton’s Alexis Smith outkick Catholic’s Kelly Devlin for fourth.
Hergesheimer may only be a freshman, but Hession has known she would be good competition for a while.
“Some of the girls talked about her; about how good she was coming up, so I kind of suspected it was going to be rough in these first few (meets),” Hession said.
The Catholic girls took home the Class 1-2 team title at their home meet with 41 points, which was 10 points ahead of second-place Strafford.
This big home meet was a good measuring stick for Catholic head girls coach Nick Russo, and his girls rose to the occasion.
“We knew that today would be a good defining race for us because we have probably three of the best schools in Southwest Missouri in Stockton, Strafford and ourselves,” Russo said. “We knew it was going to be a competitive race and the girls ran tough. The have to be happy. You have to see that half full glass and right now it may be a bit more than half full.”
The winning streak is made more impressive when all the outside distractions are thrown into the equation for the Catholic girls.
“We have been a little dysfunctional as a team this year. A bulk of our runners are juniors and as juniors they start taking a lot of AP classes. They have a lot of academic demands (and) some of our girls are involved in other athletics,” Russo said.
The Irish have even been racing minus junior Andrea Lampe, who finished 23rd at state last year. Lampe ran her first race today as she won the junior varsity competition.
Stockton settled for third with 60 points.
Bolivar took home the large-class team title with 70 points. Willard, buoyed by Hession’s first-place finish, was second with 88 points. Branson was right on Willard’s heels with 89 points for third.