By Chris Parker
There are many talented cross country runners across our coverage area. Below are some of the girls XC runners to watch this season.
NOTE: The athletes are listed in alphabetical order.
Avery Arnold, Blue Eye Senior
Arnold missed most of her junior season due to injury including the post-season series, but she is back healthy and ready to join her sister at the front of many races. As a freshman and sophomore, Arnold was the state runner-up to her sister, Riley, in both seasons. On the track this past spring, she showed off her speed by earning a sixth-place all-state finish on Blue Eye’s 400-meter relay. She also ran legs on the state qualifying 800 and 3200-meter relays.
Riley Arnold, Blue Eye Senior
Arnold is the area’s best cross country runner. Not just the best small school runner, but the best runner. Full stop. She is a three-time defending state champion on the cross country course. Her time of 18:45.20 to win Class 1 last year also would’ve won Classes 2 & 3. She toed the line at the SWCCCA meet with more than 200 other athletes from all classes in the first race of the season and dominated competition from all classes. Her 18:21.54 to win that meet was 53 seconds faster than the runner-up. On the track, Arnold brought home all-state finishes in the 800 (seventh – 2:25.36), 1600 (third – 5:21.92) and 3200 (third – 11:43.95).
Alicen Ashley, Nixa Senior
Ashley claimed the final all-state spot in Class 5 by finishing 25th overall with a time of 19:31.30. She was the Central Ozark Conference champion in 2020 with a winning time of 19:09.23. At the Class 5 District 6 meet, Ashley finished third overall. On the track, Ashley was a state qualifier in the 3200-meter run and ran a leg on Nixa’s 3200-meter relay squad.
Justine Barb, Skyline Senior
Barb, who is an all-state basketball player in the winter, is equally as strong on the cross country course. The senior ran a time of 20:32.80 to finish sixth overall at the Class 2 state meet a year ago. She was also the runner-up at her district meet.
Klarie Brown, Kickapoo Junior
Brown built off a strong freshman year with another Class 5 all-state finish as a sophomore. She was the area’s top finisher in Class 5 placing 11th place with a time of 18:51.80. Brown was also the Ozark Conference and Class 5 District 6 champion. On the track, Brown was a state qualifier in the 1600 where she finished 12th in Class 5 with a time of 5:19.42.
Galiena Colon, Kickapoo Sophomore
Colon had a strong freshman season for Kickapoo. She was the top freshman finisher at the Ozark Conference meet taking eighth overall in a time of 21:19.70. She was also the top freshman finisher at the district meet in ninth place (20:06.29). At the Class 5 state meet, Colon posted a time of 20:15.10 to finish 71st overall.
Kopelyn Delong, Ozark Junior
Delong posted almost matching times in the Central Ozark Conference and Class 5 District 6 races. At COC, Delong finished seventh overall in a time of 20:10.67. At districts, she was eighth place in a time of 20:04.88. She cut serious time at the Class 5 state cross country meet finishing 37th in a time of 19:43.20.
Daphne Dollins, West Plains Junior
Dollins was the No. 5 runner for West Plains at the Class 4 state meet in a time of 20:12.20. She finished 35th overall for the state champion Lady Zizzers. Dollins was 12th at the Ozark Conference meet and 10th at the Class 4 District 5 meet.
Jennalee Dunn, Joplin Senior
Dunn started her post-season by finishing as the COC runner-up in a time of 19:16.45. She matched that runner-up finish at the Class 5 District 6 meet with a time of 19:20.17. She saved her best for last running a 19:11.90 to finish 18th overall at the Class 5 state meet. In the spring, Dunn was an all-state finisher in the 1600-meter run (5:08.81) with an eighth place finish in Class 5. She also qualified for state in the 800.
Isabella Frost, Rolla Junior
Frost dipped just under the 20-minute mark at the Class 4 state meet with a time of 19:59.70 but just missed out on an all-state finish by taking 26th place. She was a seventh-place finisher at the Class 4 District 2 meet and 10th overall at the Ozark Conference meet. On the track, Frost was the area’s lone all-state finisher in the 3200-meter run. Her time of 11:25.73 was good enough for fifth place. She also qualified for state in the 1600.
Lilah Genel, Parkview Senior
Genel showed consistency in the post-season last year. She started by finishing seventh overall at the Ozark Conference meet with a time of 21:14. She followed that up with a fifth-place finish at the Class 5 District 6 meet. At state, Genel posted a time of 19:40.80 to finish 34th overall. She had a standout track season earning all-state honors in the 3200-meter run in Class 5. She was the lone area runner to finish all-state in that race.
Jayna Gunter, West Plains Senior
Gunter gave West Plains three runners in the top nine of the Class 4 state meet with her time of 19:13.40 to finish ninth overall. She was among the top finishers at both conference (fourth – 20:40.87) and district (second – 20:30.70). Gunter earned all-state honors on the track as a part of West Plains’ 3200-meter relay while also qualifying in the 3200-meter run individually.
Emily Harris, Nixa Senior
Harris will be looking to build off a strong junior season this year. She just missed out on breaking 20 minutes at the state meet last year running 20:04.70 to finish 64th overall at the Class 5 meet. Harris was eighth overall at the COC meet and fourth overall at the Class 5 District 6 meet.
Riley Hawkins, Webb City Senior
Hawkins turned in a 15th place finish at the Central Ozark Conference meet with a time of 21:08.97. She followed that performance by winning a district title on the same course 11 days later with a time of 20:22.95. At state, Hawkins finished 57th overall in Class 4 with a time of 20:33.60. Hawkins qualified for the state track meet as a part of Webb City’s 3200-meter relay squad.
Lily Hunsucker, Spokane Junior
Hunsucker had a strong sophomore debut last year posting a 25th place finish at the SWCCCA meet with a time of 21:02.90. Her postseason got off to a good start with a runner-up finish at the SWCL meet to eventual Class 1 state champion Riley Arnold. She then placed third overall at the Class 2 District 6 meet. Hunsucker finished off her sophomore season with a 17th place finish at the Class 2 state meet in a time of 21:35.60. In the spring, Hunsucker went to state in four events with an all-state finish in the 1600-meter run with a time of 5:26.03. She also qualified in the 800 and on Spokane’s 1600- and 3200-meter relay squads.
Braydon Kantola, West Plains Senior
West Plains was a dominant force on the way to a Class 4 state championship last year and Braydon Kantola was the leader of that group. She was the Ozark Conference runner-up (19:46.75) and the Class 4 District 5 champion (20:16.00). Kantola finished her run through the post-season with a third place finish in Class 4 with a time of 18:43.70. On the track, Kantola earned all-state honors in the 800 by finishing 4th (2:21.34) in Class 4. She also ran a leg on West Plains’ all-state 3200-meter relay squad that finished seventh.
Jordan Kantola, West Plains Senior
Kantola posted matching third place finishes at the Ozark Conference (19:52.47) and Class 4 District 5 (20:34.00) meets. She saved her best for last with a time of 19:02.40 finish at the Class 4 state meet to take sixth overall. On the track, Kantola was an all-state finisher in the 1600. She took fifth lplace in a time of 5:15.50 at the Class 4 state meet. She was also a part of West Plains’ all-state 3200-meter relay.
Piper Keith, Strafford Sophomore
Keith claimed the final available all-state spot in Class 3 taking 25th overall in a time of 21:00.90. She was the No. 3 overall finisher at the Class 3 District 5 meet.
Allie Keizer, Joplin Sophomore
Keizer got just under the 20-minute mark at the Class 5 state meet with a time of 19:58.60, which earned her 50th place overall. She was 12th at the Central Ozark Conference meet (20:38.76) and 10th at the Class 5 District 6 meet (20:09.20).
Elizabeth Kitchin, Ozark Senior
Kitchin posted her top post-season finish at the Central Ozark Conference meet where she placed fourth overall in a time of 19:58.83. She followed that up with a seventh place finish at the district meet. Her season finished with a 60th place finish at the Class 5 state meet. Kitchin was 15th overall (5:39.89) in the 1600-meter run at the Class 5 state track meet.
Hannah Klaiber, El Dorado Springs Junior
Klaiber had a strong sophomore season that saw her finish fourth overall in Class 2. Last year, El Dorado Springs moved up to Class 3, but that did not deter Klaiber. She ran a time of 20:34.10 to finish 16th overall and earn all-state honors. She was also the Class 3 District 7 runner-up. On the track, Klaiber earned all-state honors in the 800 by finishing fifth (2:23.74) in Class 3.
Madison King, Spokane Sophomore
King showed it is not how you start, but how you finish. Her high school career started off with a 60th place finish at the SWCCCA meet in a time of 22:51.91. By the time the SWCL meet rolled around, she was down to a 20:52.09 time which was good enough for third place. King then dipped under 20 minutes to finish runner-up at the Class 2 District 6 meet in a time of 19:58.51. Her freshman season ended with a ninth place finish at the Class 2 state meet with a time of 20:42.00.
Macy Kopp, Nixa Senior
Kopp was a solid and reliable No. 3 runner for a Nixa team that found a lot of success last year. She finished 11th at the COC meet (20:29.96) and 14th at the district meet (20:47.37) before posting a time of 20:10.80 at the Class 5 state meet. She finished 69th overall. On the track, Kopp was one of the area’s top 800-meter runners. She finished 13th in Class 5 with a time of 2:23.46.
Kaylee Lambe, West Plains Senior
West Plains was dominant as a team at the Class 4 state meet a year ago, and that is going to be the case when you put four runners in the top 12. Lambe was the fourth Lady Zizzer across the finish line at state and 12th runner overall in a time of 19:27.90. She finished fourth at the district meet and fifth at the conference meet.
Mihane Nambara, Republic Senior
Nambara showed marked improvement from her sophomore to junior seasons going from 50th at state as a sophomore to 21st last year. She ran a time of 19:23.70 to earn the all-state honor. Nambara finished third overall at the Central Ozark Conference meet and was fifth at the district meet.
Kiersten Potter, Lamar Junior
Potter will be one of the favorites in Class 3 this year. She ran a time of 19:30.70 to finish third overall last year. The two runners who beat her were both seniors, so Potter is Class 3’s top returning runner. She was also the Big 8 Champion, as she dominated the race by 61 seconds in a time of 19:19.91. On the track, Potter earned all-state honors in both the 1600 (seventh place – 5:27.62) and 3200 (fourth place – 11:39.16).
Kasey Richards, Licking Senior
Richards was the area’s top finisher in Class 2 placing fifth overall with a time of 20:27.40. She dominated the Class 2 District 5 meet winning the race by 65 seconds with a time of 21:20.84.
Rylee Simons, Mt. Vernon Sophomore
Simons started her run through the post-season with a fourth place finish at the Big 8 championships with a time of 20:52.76. She was the Class 3 District 6 runner-up with a time of 20:07.07. Simons finished her post-season program with a 19th place finish at the Class 3 state meet in a time of 20:44.40. On the track, Simons finished just off the podium in ninth place in the Class 3 3200-meter run.
Kacie Singer, Aurora Senior
Singer claimed the Class 3 District 6 title with a time of 19:40.80. The next week, she went to the Class 3 state meet and posted a time of 19:59.80 to finish ninth overall. At the Big 8 meet, Singer was runner-up to Lamar’s Kiersten Potter.