West Platte's Moose breaks state cross country medal drought

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo West Platte freshman Lea Moose, right, sprints to the finish during the Class 1 Missouri State Cross Country Championships on Saturday, Nov. 7 at Oak Hills Golf Center in Jefferson City. Mo. JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — West Platte’s Lea Moose surprised even herself after running right with the leaders in the Class 1 Missouri State Cross Country State Championships on Saturday Nov. 7 at Oak Hills Golf Course.

The Bluejays freshman became a part of the tightly packed group about 30 seconds behind leader and eventual state champion Claire Workman of Summit Prep. Moose remained in the same position at the 2-mile mark before finishing in 23rd place (22 minutes 6.9 seconds), good for one of the final places on the all-state team made up of the top 25. She shattered her previous personal record and held on to the all-state spot with a gutsy effort in the final 150 yards.

Moose became the first girl from West Platte to earn all-state honors since Cecily Waddell in 2009.

“It really did boost my confidence (running up front),” Moose said. “I wasn’t too sure about this race. When I was running up there, I was like, ‘I can actually do this; I’m running really good.’”

West Platte sent a pair of individuals to state after both started the fall playing on the Bluejays’ softball team.

Rachel Heili, a sophomore, ran 4 seconds faster in her second effort at the state course but fell back one spot — from 34th as a freshman (22:51.7) to 35th (22:47.0) this season — in the final rankings. She came up about 40 seconds off the No. 25 runner.

North Platte sophomore McKenna Fulton runs during the Class 1 Missouri State Cross Country Championships on Saturday, Nov. 7 at Oak Hills Golf Center in Jefferson City, Mo.

“We sit there and we keep asking ourselves, ‘What could Lea and Rachel do if they weren’t playing softball at the same time?’,” West Platte coach Mike Lowe said. “It was great effort on both of their parts. We look forward to having them back next year and see if Lea can drive her time down and Rachel can finally break the barrier and get on stage.”

North Platte qualified two individuals for state a year after earning the school’s first-ever team berth to state, and sophomore McKenna Fulton improved on her 114th -place finish a year ago to come in 40th (22:54.80). North Platte junior Shelby Fisher placed 101st (24:27.30) after finishing 77th in 2014.

On the boys side, West Platte made its 16th straight appearance as a team at state a week after winning the program’s 16th straight district title. The Bluejays were 10th out of 16 in the final team standings with 244 points, one spot better than a year ago.

West Platte didn’t have any all-state finishers, and neither did North Platte —14th in the final team standings after earning the program’s first team berth with a runner-up finish to West Platte last week.

“We talked all week about just running our best and letting the outcome take care of itself, and I think we did that,” North Platte coach Brendan Cary said. “We had five runners PR at state, which is never an easy feat. Dylan Stockman and McKenna Fulton had the highest individual placing and fastest times we’ve ever run at state, and McKenna broke her own school record with her run.

“For the boys team, we had aspirations of cracking the top 10, but we leave with the experience and knowledge that if we put in the work over the next year, we can get back there and be even more successful.”

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo North Platte senior Dylan Stockman runs in a pack during the Class 1 Missouri State Cross Country Championships on Saturday, Nov. 7 at Oak Hills Golf Center in Jefferson City, Mo.

North Platte’s Dylan Stockman improved 17 places after qualifying as an individual last year. The senior finished 43rd (18:33.62) to lead the Panthers, who also featured senior Eric Brown (76th, 19:08.75), freshman Tyler Meadows (90th, 19:26.19), sophomore Caleb Crumley (113th 19:46.37) and freshman Joe Demarcus (138th 20:16.85) in their top five.

West Platte senior Daniel Cicha did not grab an all-state place after finishing painfully close at 27th a year ago. He fell back to 35th place (18:18.13) in his third state race. Younger brother Andrew Cicha, a sophomore, improved his state time by more than a minute, setting a personal best 18:26.44 to finish 39th.

“I learned that I have it in me,” Andrew Cicha said. “I was ecstatic when I saw the 17 (minutes on the clock) at the 3-mile split. I was just praying for low 18s all season, and I finally got it.”

West Platte freshman Max Davies (89th, 19:24.29), junior Conner McNair (114th 19:49) and senior Conner Penrod (119th 19:54.70) rounded out the five counting scores for the Bluejays. McNair set a personal record and broke 20 minutes for the first time.

There were four seniors on the roster for West Platte this season, but four of the top five and five of the seven to run at state return next year.

“We got 10th,” Lowe said. “You come back and you improve on that next year.”