Park Hill South boys claim district XC title; girls make sectionals, too

Park Hill South’s boys edged Liberty for the Class 4 District 8 team title Oct. 25 at Platte Ridge Park behind a pair of top-10 finishers.The first six runners for the Panthers all were in the top 23 of the 73-runner field, including a tightly packed quartet that helped ensure the championship. Senior Tucker Melles came in third at 16 minutes, 34.80 seconds, and fellow senior Darrien Case followed in 16:58.10 – good enough for 10th.

The top four teams advance to Nov. 1’s Class 4 Sectional 4 race at Jesse James Park in Kearney, Mo.

Park Hill South has never qualified for state as a team in program history and finished as runner-up to Liberty last year in Class 4 District 8. The top four teams at sectionals plus any runner in the top 30 not from the automatic qualifiers move on to the Missouri State Cross Country Championships. A three-time state qualifier, Melles looks to run the season’s race for the first time since placing 43rd as a freshman. He’s the only returning qualifier for Park Hill South, who lost Gus Whitman to transfer prior to the season.

Park Hill South totaled 70 points to beat Liberty by three. Eli Guzman came in 18th (17:30.00) with Tristan McCoy, Andrew Reece and Ewan Frick finishing back-to-back-to-back in 20th, 21st and 22nd with McCoy and Reece finalizing the team score, separated by just .2 of a second.

Park Hill and Platte County each netted three individual sectional qualifiers.

Platte County senior Nathan Straubel came in second at 16:11.80, the only runner near winner Clayton Adams of Kearney (15:59.20). Straubel has placed first or second at every meet this season and looks to qualify for state for a fourth time — his first try since the Pirates moved up to Class 4 prior to this season.

Behind Straubel, Platte County finished sixth in the team standings with 128 points, 14 back of St. Joseph Central in the final automatic team qualifying spot. Pirates sophomore Hunter Long (14th, 17:20.90) and senior Nolan Orf (17th, 17:27.20) also seek return state trips but will have to go alone this year.

Long ran on last year’s seventh-place Class 3 state finisher, as did Orf along with his experience on the eighth-place state team in 2012.

Park Hill senior Kyle Pudenz earned his shot at a second straight state berth.

A two-sport athlete, Pudenz finished 10th in 17:07.30 for the eighth-place Trojans. Christian Fisher (23rd) and Hanok Tekle (29th) also made the sectional cut but will need strong improvements next week to push for state qualification.

Class 4 District 8 Girls

Park Hill South came in well back of team champion Kearney, but the Panthers wound up second overall, holding off four other contenders.

Kearney ran away with the meet at 77 points, and Park Hill South came in 24 back – separated from sixth place by just 25 points. Sophomore Lexi Maddox led the Panthers’ effort with a fourth-place finish (19:20.50), and freshman Emma Roth rounded out the top 10, coming in at 19:55.20.

Park Hill South’s girls have never reached state as a team in Class 4 but improved on last year’s fourth-place district finish.

To reach state, the Panthers will have to do so without returning state qualifier Jasmine Crawford, a sophomore and all-state finisher in 2013 (18th place). Marti Heit continued to impress and help make up for Crawford’s absence, finishing 12th in 20:04.90.

Park Hill South senior Erin Stump came in 27th.

Park Hill earned three spots in sectionals, while Platte County freshman Rebekah Geddes turned in an impressive postseason debut to nab the Pirates' lone spot. Geddes came in sixth (19:38.60) – the top freshman finisher.

Chais Wright, a freshman, and Mercedes Robinson, a senior, have Park Hill’s best shot to become the Trojans’ first state qualifier on the girls side since 2011. Wright came in 20th (20:26.70) and Robinson followed just more than 4 seconds behind in 22nd (20:30.80).

Park Hill sophomore Madison King also snuck into the sectional field, placing 30th and edging Kearney’s Kyla Anderson by .1 of a second to take the last available spot. Anderson qualifies anyway as a part of the Bulldogs’ championship team.