Area Boys Cross Country Runners to Watch in 2021

By Chris Parker

There are many talented cross country runners across our coverage area. Below are some of the boys XC runners to watch this season.

NOTE: The athletes are listed in alphabetical order.

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Daelen Ackley, El Dorado Springs Senior
Ackley has been one of the state’s top distance runners since his freshman year. This year, he will look to stake claim as THE best distance runner in the state. Last year, Ackley ran a 15:41.10 at the state meet to claim a second consecutive state title. His time is the second-fastest returning mark from last year’s state meets regardless of class. On the track, Ackley pulled off the distance triple on the track winning the 800 (1:58.85), 1600 (4:22.11) and the 3200 (9:13.71). He also ran a leg on El Dorado Springs’ sixth place finishing 3200-meter relay. That is 6400 meters of racing for three gold medals and four all-state finishes in just one day of competition.

Colby Adams, Stockton Junior
Adams ran a time of 17:20.30 at the Class 2 state meet to earn a 19th place finish and all-state honors as a sophomore. He was the Class 2 District 5 runner-up. On the track, Adams ran a leg on Stockton’s third-place finishing 3200-meter relay squad.

Connor Ayres, Parkview Senior
Ayres earned all-state honors in Class 5 last year, as he ran a time of 16:10.40 to earn an 18th place finish overall. He dropped time throughout the post-season going from a seventh-place finish at the Ozark Conference meet in a time of 17:36.42 to a district runner-up finish in a time of 16:16.06 ahead of his 16:10.40 at the state meet.

Zaben Barnes, Joplin Senior
Barnes was Joplin’s top finisher at the Class 5 District 6 meet finishing seventh overall with a time of 16:44.62. He was the No. 2 runner for Joplin’s third-place finishing squad a the Central Ozark Confernece meet with a 13th place finish in a time of 16:48.01. He will look to climb the state leaderboard this year after finishing 128th overall last season.

Gabriel Bauer, Ozark Senior
Bauer will look to work his way up to all-state honors this year after finishing 81st overall in a time of 16:59.80 at last year’s Class 5 state cross country meet. Bauer proved what he was capable of with a fifth-place finish at the COC meet in a time of 16:32.97 and a third-place finish at the Class 5 District 6 meet with a time of 16:26.71.

Gabe Bergen, East Newton Senior
Bergen was East Newton’s top finisher at the Class 3 state meet in a time of 16:45.40. He was fifth place at the Big 8 cross country meet. Bergen has a skillset many cross country runners don’t as he showed on the track in the spring. He finished third in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 40.40. While also running legs on East Newton’s state champion 3200-meter relay team and state runner-up 1600-meter relay team.

Roman Borboa, Webb City Senior
Borboa is known more for his speed on the track, but showed off his distance running strength last year on his way to an all-state finish in Class 4. He was 21st overall in a time of 16:39.00. He claimed the Class 4 District 6 individual championship (16:30.10) and was 10th at the COC Championships (16:42.41). On the track, Borboa qualified for the Class 4 state meet individually in the 800 and 1600. He earned an all-state finish in eighth place in the 1600. He also ran legs on Webb City’s all-state 1600-meter (3rd) and 3200-meter relays (4th).

Tristen Bough, Branson Sophomore
Bough is poised for big things. He finished 64th at the Class 5 state cross country meet last year with a time of 16:48.50. The most impressive thing about that finish was that Bough was the fifth-fastest freshman at the state meet last year regardless of class.

Dustin Brockmiller, Webb City Senior
Brockmiller just missed out on all-state honors as a junior finishing 26th overall at the Class 4 state meet in a time of 16:48.10. He finished seventh at the Class 4 District 6 meet (17:01.38) and was 15th overall at the COC meet (16:55.07).

Hobbs Campbell, Joplin Junior
Campbell finished 34th at the Class 5 state cross country meet last year with a time of 16:30.30. He finished 12th overall at the COC meet where he posted a time of 16:45.97. At the Class 5 District 6 meet, Campbell finished 13th overall. On the track, Campbell broke out in a big way with sixth-place finish in the 1600-meter run at the state meet posting a time of 4:20.58. He also ran a leg on Joplin’s fourth-place finishing 3200-meter relay team that went 7:55.66.

Ryan Cardenzana, Blue Eye Senior
Cardenzana is a three-time all-state runner who is aiming for a state title this year. Two years ago, Cardenzana finished third overall in Class 1. Last year, he ran a time of 17:04.70 to finish fourth. He brought home an all-state honor in track by finishing sixth in the Class 2 3200-meter run.

Kaden Cole, Neosho Senior
Cole earned all-state honors at the Class 4 state cross country meet where he ran a time of 16:26.00 to finish 14th overall. He had matching fourth-place finishes at both the COC and Class 4 District 6 track meets. On the track, Cole qualified for state in the 1600-meter run where he finished 11th overall in a time of 4:28.51.

Brooklyn Creehan, Kickapoo Junior
Creehan was the second Kickapoo Chief across the finish line at the Ozark Conference cross country meet where he finished third overall. He posted a sixth-place finish at the Class 5 District 6 meet before finishing 43rd overall at the state meet in a time of 16:34.80. He ran a leg on Kickapoo’s ninth-place finishing 3200-meter relay team at the Class 5 state track meet.

Jack Creehan, Kickapoo Junior
Creehan had a strong sophomore season that saw him finish 13th at the Ozark Conference meet and 12th at the Class 5 District 6 meet. At the state meet, Creehan was 79th overall with a time of 16:57.50.

Collin Emmert, Carl Junction Senior
Emmert saved his best post-season race for last as a junior. He posted a time of 16:34.80 to finish 18th place overall at the Class 4 state meet. Prior to that, Emmert was 11th at the COC Championships (16:43.65) and fifth at the Class 4 District 6 meet (16:40.89). On the track, Emmert was a state qualifier in the 3200-meter run where he finished 11th (9:55.58) at the Class 4 meet.

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Justin Fleetwood, Branson Junior
Branson had a breakout sophomore season for West Plains last year. He transferred to Branson after last fall and he will be an immediate contender in the COC. Fleetwood finished 29th at the Class 4 state meet with a time of 16:54.20. He was fifth place overall at the Ozark Conference championships. At the SWCCCA meet to open last season, Fleetwood finished 31st overall just two spots behind current teammate Tristen Bough. That duo will be formidable for Branson for the next two seasons.

Tyler Harris, Kickapoo Junior
Harris is the state’s fourth-fastest returning cross country runner from last year’s state meet. He finished fourth overall at the Class 5 state meet with a time of 15:46.60. He was also the Class 5 District 6 champion with a time of 15:48.90. Harris finished as the Ozark Conference runner-up to eventual Class 4 state champion Riley Simpson from West Plains. On the track, Harris was a state qualifier in the 3200-meter run where he finished 16th.

Wes Hatman, Nixa Senior
Hatman had a tough state meet that saw him finish 159th overall, but that doesn’t take away from what he did leading up to that meet. At the COC championships, Hatman finished seventh overall in a time of 16:35.68. At the Class 5 District 6 meet, Hatman took fifth place in a time of 16:34.77. He is capable of an all-state run in his senior season.

David Held, Plato Senior
Held started out his junior year proving he could run with anybody by finishing 19th out of 293 runners at the SWCCCA meet to open the season. He continued that success through the season winning the Class 1 District 5 individual title. At the Class 1 state meet, Held ran a time of 17:03.80 to finish as the state runner-up. On the track in the spring, Held finished fourth in Class 2 in the 1600 (4:30.50) and fifth in the 3200 (9:55.77) to earn two all-state honors. He also qualified in the 800.

Zane Hull, Pleasant Hope Senior
Hull has built himself into one of the area’s top small-school runners. As a sophomore, Hull finished 55th at the Class 2 state cross country meet. Last year, Hull shot up all the way to 10th place in Class 2 with a time of 16:54.50. He was also a dominant district champion winning the Class 2 District 5 championship by 41 seconds.

Evan Matlock, Joplin Senior
Matlock was the third Joplin Eagle across the finish line at both the conference (14th place – 16:48.62) and district (14th place – 16:54.06) meets. At the state meet, he broke through and came across the finish line in 51st place with a time of 16:41.20 as the second Eagle across the finish line. On the track, Matlock ran a leg on Joplin’s fourth-place finishing 3200-meter relay team.

Grant Musick, Kickapoo Junior
Musick was unable to run for Kickapoo last fall, but his performance on the track shows that he will be a force on the cross country course for Kickapoo. As a sophomore, Musick finished fifth overall in the 1600-meter run at the Class 5 state track meet with a time of 4:19.63. He will form one of the state’s best 1-2 punches with teammate Tyler Harris this fall.

Nate Pohlsander, Rolla Senior
Pohlsander was an all-state finisher at the Class 4 state meet last year with a time of 16:32.40, which was good enough to finish 16th place overall. At the Ozark Conference meet, Pohlsander finished fourth overall in a time of 17:13.78. He won the Class 4 District 2 individual championship. On the track, Pohlsander finished third in the 3200-meter run (9:31.03) and fourth in the 1600-meter run (4:28.59) at the Class 4 state meet.

Thomas Shuster, Willard Senior
Shuster established himself as one of the state’s top distance runners last year. He claimed the Central Ozark Conference (16:12.68) championship and then followed that up with a third-place finish at the Class 4 District 5 meet (17:17.90). At the Class 4 state meet, Shuster posted a time of 16:08.30 to claim a fifth-place finish. On the track, Shuster brought home three all-state honors with a third place finish in the 1600-meter run (4:28.27), a sixth place finish in the 3200-meter run (9:39.10) and a fifth-place finish as a part of Willard’s 3200-meter relay squad.

Mariques Strickland, Carthage Junior
Strickland will look to compete for the COC individual title this year after finishing runner-up to Willard’s Thomas Shuster last year. He posted a time of 16:25.26 in that race. Strickland finished ninth at the district meet and 62nd at the Class 5 state meet in a time of 16:46.50.

Tanner Talley, New Covenant Senior
Talley will be a favorite in whichever class he runs in this year coming off a fourth-place finish at the Class 2 cross country meet last year. He posted a time of 16:32.00. The New Covenant senior made a big statement on the track winning the Class 2 800 (1:56.71) and 1600 (4:20.56) titles.

Kelton Sorrell, East Newton Senior
Sorrell missed out on all-state honors as a junior by three spots. He finishes 28th overall in the Class 3 race with a time of 17:23.30. He is capable of much more than that as evidenced by his run up to the state meet. He finished third at the Big 8 Championships with a time of 16:29.80. He dominated the district meet winning the Class 3 District 6 championship in a time of 16:41.86, which was 30 seconds clear of the runner-up. As a sophomore, Sorrell finished 11th overall at the state meet. Expect Sorrell to be up in the front pack at the state meet this year.

Drew Stewart, West Plains Junior
Stewart was one of two all-state finishers for West Plains last year. He posted a time of 16:41.00 to finish 23rd overall at the Class 4 state meet. He was 10th at the Ozark Conference Championships and ninth at the Class 4 District 5 meet.

Cale Thiessen, Bolivar Senior
Thiessen claimed one of the final all-state spots in Class 4 with a 24th place finish (16:42.40) last year. He was fourth place at the Class 4 District 5 meet with a time of 17:21.40. Look for him to compete for a top spot in the Ozark Conference in Bolivar’s first year as a part of the conference. On the track, Thiessen ran a leg on Bolivar’s state runner-up 3200-meter relay team.

Sean Walker, Buffalo Junior
Walker earned all-state honors in Class 3 with a 23rd place finish in a time of 17:12.70. Walker was the Class 3 District 5 champion in a time of 17:25.13. On the track, Walker qualified for the Class 3 state meet in the 3200 (6th place – 9:41.04) and the 1600 (12th place – 4:37.57)

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