Nathan Straubel put in the work during the summer with the goal of developing into a college prospect, and he suddenly looks improved — a scary ascension for an already accomplished runner.
Last Thursday, the Platte County senior claimed his third victory in three races on the season, this time at the Platte County Invitational held at Platte Ridge Park. Straubel scorched the field in a new course record of 16 minutes, 6.8 seconds — exactly 48 seconds in front of the next closest finisher.
O’Hara’s Max Storm, who graduated, held the previous record at 16:16. The meet has been held at Platte Ridge Park each of the past 12 years.
“I didn’t expect (the start) to be like that, no,” Straubel said of the first three wins of his career. “I’m extremely blessed to be in this place, but I certainly wasn’t expecting it.”
Already a three-time Class 3 Missouri State Cross Country Championships qualifier, Straubel led Platte County to the team title at its home meet by a significant margin. The Pirates placed six runners in the top 24, five in the top 15, with a score of 33 — 39 better than second-place Park Hill.
Platte County freshman Rebeka Geddes topped the girls field, helping the Pirates to a third-place finish and a near sweep on its home course.
Strabuel commandeered much of the attention with his brisk navigation of the hilly course. He continued to his strategy of jumping to an early lead and maintaining the advantage, crossing the finish line with second-place Evan Peterson of Pembroke Hill not yet on the straightaway ahead of the final curve.
“I’m just taking off that first half mile and then not letting down,” Straubel said. “It seemed to pay off so far. I usually go out really fast, but I’m not used to sustaining it.”
Geddes held off a late challenger to secure her first career win.
Park Hill South sophomore Lexi Maddox charged toward the finish line before Geddes pulled away to finish in 19:47.2. She has now finished in the top 10 at all three meets so far this season.
“I knew if I kept going with (Maddox) I would be able to (win),” Geddes said, “but if I let her get in front of me, I probably would’ve lost it. I think this is kind of challenging because it helps me know what I can do, but I have to try and keep it up.
“Now, I know what I can do.”
Maddox and her teammates debuted a new pack strategy to encouraging results, leading Park Hill South to the team title.
The Panthers’ seven runners all secured medals given to the top 30 finishers, and all were 23rd-place or better. Maddox came in 2 seconds back of Geddes, and sophomore Jasmine Crawford (fourth, 20:26.0), and freshman Emma Roth (fifth, 20:32.0) were shortly behind in the next pack.
Marti Heit, another freshman, rounded out Park Hill’s quartet of top 10-finishers.
The seven runners ran in a fairly tight pack for the first half of the race before Maddox made her move toward Geddes at the 2½-mile mark along with Crawford. Maddox and Crawford were both state qualifiers as freshmen and helped the Panthers qualify for Class 4 Sectional 4 as a team.
“We think we’re going to have a really good shot to go further this year than last year just with the freshmen we have because they’re a lot faster, and our fifth runner is a lot faster than in the past,” Maddox said.
Park Hill senior Mercedes Robinson busted up Park Hill South’s top trio by placing third in 20:22.4. The Trojans were second in the team standings out of 11, 26 points back of Park Hill South’s winning total of 34, with sophomore Madison King (sixth, 20:39.9) and Chais Wright (ninth, 20:54.3) also in the top 10.
Platte County’s boys were even more dominant than the Panthers girls.
Park Hill senior Hanok Tekle came in fourth (17:24.9) to pace the second-place Trojans, who like Platte County earned six medals despite competing without senior Kyle Pudenz, who pulls double duty for Park Hill as a member of the soccer team. Third-place Smithville took two more top-10 spots, but Platte County garnered four of them.
Nolan Orf, another Pirates senior, wound up fifth behind Tekle by 0.1 of a second, and Hunter Long followed in seventh with freshman Evan Edwards 10th. George McMillian (15th), a junior, and Casey Geddes (24th), a sophomore rounded out Platte County’s top five.
West Platte junior Daniel Cicha came in 13th for West Platte’s lone medal. The Class 1 Bluejays did not field a full five runners to qualify for the team standings, which featured 17 total on the boys side.