KEARNEY, Mo. — McKenna Fulton continued her penchant for showing up in the biggest races of the season.
North Platte’s top senior comfortably finished in the top 15 of the Class 2 District 8 race Saturday, Oct. 28 at Jesse James Fairgrounds. After struggling in the weeks since joining the team after softball season, she posted a season-best time of 22 minutes, 59.90 seconds to take 12th and earn a fourth straight berth to the Class 2 Missouri State Cross Country Championships, scheduled for next week in Jefferson City, Mo.
Fulton became the first in the program’s young history to reach state all four years with her inspired district performance.
“I was motivated. I wanted to be the first (four-time qualifier),” Fulton said.
In a spaced-out field, Fulton entered the final stretch of the 5k district course in 13th and passed Mid-Buchanan sophomore Alyissa Kleinsorge to move up to 12th. Fulton was nearly a full minute off her career best set on the same course at districts last year but remains confident in her chances to improve again, hoping to go from 55th at state last year to all-state (top 25) this year.
Fulton earned her first state berth as part of North Platte’s first and only qualifying team when the Panthers were in Class 1. She returned as an individual in 2015 and last year became the first Class 2 qualifier in program history.
North Platte has yet to have an all-state runner in its history.
“Something just clicked the beginning of the week. I started working harder,” said Fulton, who was 114th and 40th at state in her two Class 1 trips. “It would be cool to be the first all-state runner. I haven’t run to my capability yet, but I’ll give it my best shot.”
North Platte finished fifth out of six qualifying teams in the final standings. Bailee Romaker — another senior — finished her career with a 24th-place showing, about a minute off the time needed to earn a return to state for the first time since going as a freshman in 2014.
Romaker was the only other senior out of six runners in North Platte’s lineup.
On the boys side, North Platte just missed a state breakthrough while competing in Class 2. The Panthers didn’t advance anyone out of districts for a second straight year since moving up from Class 1.
With just two seniors in the lineup, North Platte finished seventh out of 11 qualifying teams, just nine points out of fifth but well back of the top two spots for automatic state qualifiers.
North Platte junior Joe DeMarcus jumped up to lead North Platte’s lineup, finishing in a career-best 19:18.30 but coming in 5½ seconds behind 15th-place Ty Peppers of East Buchanan for the final state spot. Tyler Meadows and Zach Lee — also juniors — came in 18th and 21st and were all just off the qualifying pace.
Caleb Crumley and Ben Heese — North Platte’s only two seniors — were 55th and 62nd.