Park Hill South’s girls come at the opposition in a pack. In a strategy developed last season and still being honed, the youthful Panthers with no seniors as main contributors again displayed the ability to bunch individual finishes together on Thursday, Sept. 17 at Platte Ridge Park in Platte City. All five runners placed in the top 15 at the Platte County Invitational.
Park Hill South totaled 27 points to run away with the team title behind a 2-3-4-5 finish.
“We know that we can run as a pack so it helps going into the race knowing that we can,” said Park Hill South junior Lexi Maddox, who finished the course modified by construction at Platte Ridge Park in 20 minutes, 55.5 seconds to place second.
Maddox again led the pack for Park Hill South, which has yet to lose to a Missouri team this year — topping the field at Platte County and the previous week at the Raymore-Peculiar Invitational. The Panthers were second to host St. Thomas Aquinas earlier this month in the Gary Wilson Classic.
Holden’s Alice Evans won the race in 20:46.8 with Maddox just a bit back. The next three runners were separated by about nine seconds with junior Jasmine Crawford (21:24.5), sophomore Keely Danielsen (21:30.33) and sophomore Marti Heit (21:33.7) all bunched together for Park Hill South.
The result showed off the strategy, which the Panthers hope leads to additional success this season.
“I think we’re always also thinking about our individual times,” Maddox said, “When one person sees that they can, we kind of all tell ourselves, ‘Well, if she can do it; I can do it, too,’ so we all end up pushing together.
“We’re competitive, but we’re a team. And I think that comes first.”
Last season, Park Hill South suffered through injury and illness late.
The Panthers went from Class 4 District 8 runner-up to eighth out of eight teams the following week at Class 4 Sectional 4. That left them well out of contention for an automatic team berth to the Class 4 Missouri State Cross Country Championships.
With all of the contributors back, the pack mentality reigns early with Maddox, Roth and Heit hoping to bring the whole team back with them for another trip to state. Crawford and Maddox went to state as freshmen with an injury keeping Crawford from making it back last season.
“Coaches told us our order is probably going to change every race,” Maddox said, “and that’s good because it means we’re all really close. It just depends on who has a good race that day.”
North Platte brought only four runners with Bailee Romaker leading the way for the Panthers in 81st. West Platte did not have any varsity runners, while Platte County opted to rest standout sophomores Rebekah Geddes and Erin Straubel.
Geddes won last year’s race in a record-setting season.
Platte County still managed to place eighth out of 12 teams with a 208 team total, just two back of Smithville. Pirates sophomore Lauren Johnson (35th, 23:42.2) and senior Sara Wyss (39th, 24:05.2) made the top-40 cut for medals in the 103-runner field.
On the boys side, Platte County freshman Jackson Letcher produced another solid showing and placed in the top 10. The rebuilding Pirates have only one senior on the roster but have some experienced runners to count on for leadership.
Hunter Long, a junior, placed 19th in 18:43.4 as the top returner for Platte County, back in Class 4 for a second straight year. He reached Class 4 Sectional 4 competition last year when the Pirates learned a lot about what competing at that level takes.
“It’s a very humbling to go from a top-tier school in the state to the smallest Class 4 school in the state,” Long said. “From that, we kind of learned that just because you’re not at the front of the race doesn’t mean you’re not running well.”
Letcher finished in 18:08.1 in 10th and showed off part of the reason for optimism. Fellow freshman Keegan Cordova posted a 18:54.7 to take 26th, while sophomore Evan Edwards rounded out the top four for the Pirates with one of the last medals (39th, 19:30.5).
“We have a really young team, and it’s kind of cool to see,” Long said. “The team camaraderie has been a lot better this year. We’re not running outstanding times right now, but we’re slowly progressing.
“I think by the end of the year we’ll be a well-oiled machine.”
Like Platte County, Park Hill South nabbed four medals and placed third as a team with a 103 total, 34 in front of the Pirates.
Eli Guzman and Ewan Frick — a pair of sophomores — finished 12th and 13th for the Panthers, less than 2 seconds apart. Trey Rouse, another sophomore, placed 17th with junior teammate Brendan Briody right behind in 18th.
North Platte used the meet as a chance to condition and run against a competitive field. Just two days removed from winning the Cameron Invitational, the Panthers were 14th out of 23 teams with a 428 total, just nine back of Excelsior Springs. North Platte senior Dylan Stockman placed 36th to win a medal (19:24.8).
“It’s a lot different feeling,” Stockman said. “There’s a lot of people you don’t know running with you so it’s hard to know where you are. You have to stick around the people that you know, follow some of the teams that you normally run with and that can be hard because there’s a lot of people in between them.”
Park Hill junior Hunter Lund, a transfer from Virigina, took eighth to lead the local medalists. The Trojans medaled three total and placed sixth as a team with a 168.
West Platte did not bring a varsity team due to injuries and other absences.
North Platte swept the team titles in a small field Tuesday, Sept. 15 in Cameron, Mo.
For the Panthers, Stockman came in fourth, just a fraction of a second behind Princeton’s Logan Duncan, while North Platte freshman Tyler Meadows edged senior teammate Eric Brown by little more than half a second for eighth. North Platte totaled 40 points and edged Cameron by one point for the title with five teams in the final standings.
North Platte’s girls were the only qualifying team with just 15 runners entered. Cameron runners took the top three spots, but the Dragons only had four runners competing. For the Panthers, Shelby Fisher, Katie Parkhurst and Rayanne Daniel went 3-4-5 with Hannah Rice and Romaker not far back in eighth and ninth to round out the team score.