Pirates, Jays punch tickets for state meet

For the second straight year, the Platte County boys cross country team finished second at the Class 3 District 8 meet, which automatically qualified the entire team to run in this weekend’s state meet in Jefferson City. Of course, the ultimate goal of the Pirates is to win a state championship. The team finished eighth overall last year. Platte County’s best-ever finish was third in 2004. But just below the aspirations of winning a state title is the desire to beat rival Liberty North, which won the district meet for the third straight year last weekend in Smithville. If the Pirates are to beat the Eagles one last time — they edged them in an early-season meet this year in Liberty — the state meet is their final chance as Liberty North will move to Class 4 next season. “We really want to beat Liberty North,” senior Kevin Schultz, the team’s No. 3 runner, said. “That would make for a great ending to the season.” Platte County’s top runner, junior Nathan Straubel, who finished third overall at the district meet, echoed Schultz’s sentiments about beating Liberty North. He also said the team has two other goals. “We need three in the top 25 – that will probably get us a (top-four) medal,” he said. “Personally, I’m looking at a top-25 or maybe even top-10.” Straubel’s best-ever finish at state was 44th last season, while Schultz’s was 70th. But both runners said this team looks strong enough to make some noise at Jeff City. In addition to themselves, the starting squad includes three other returning runners from last year’s squad: seniors Kirk Blakley (No. 6) and Chris Phan (No. 5) and junior Nolan Orf (No. 4). New to the starting lineup this year are sophomore George McMillian (No. 7) and freshman Hunter Long (No. 2). “Our team has a lot of talent and the chemistry is great – probably the best we’ve had,” Schultz said. Straubel was joined on the all-district team by Orf (6th), Schultz (10th) and Long (15th).Phan (19th), McMillian (20th) and Blakley (22nd) rounded out the Pirates’ finishers. On the girls side, Sam Geddes finished 11th and is the only Lady Pirate to move on to this weekend’s state meet. Ryleigh Nicholson (16th) and Katana Audas (17th) just missed the cut. Katie McCoy (21st), Nicole Futch (25th), Haley Valentine (26th) and Sara Wyss (27th) also ran, helping the Lady Pirates to a third place finish. The boys team and Geddes will run Saturday at the Oak Hill Golf Center in Jefferson City. The boys run at noon and Geddes will run at 1:05 p.m.