Platte County XC finally wins other half of battle with Kearney

KEARNEY, Mo. — Platte County finally won the other half of the battle with Kearney.

NICK INGRAM/Citizen photo Platte County junior Jackson Letcher leads the pack at the start of the Suburban Conference Blue Division Championships on Saturday, Oct. 7 at Jesse James Fairgrounds in Kearney, Mo.

NICK INGRAM/Citizen photo
Platte County junior Jackson Letcher leads the pack at the start of the Suburban Conference Blue Division Championships on Saturday, Oct. 7 at Jesse James Fairgrounds in Kearney, Mo.

For the first time in program history, Platte County earned the Suburban Conference Blue Division Championships team title over their biggest rival. Jackson Letcher won the individual title for the Pirates on Saturday, Oct. 7 at Jesse James Fairgrounds to lead a dominant showing.

While the postseason still awaits, Platte County enjoyed a rare chance at bragging rights over Kearney.

“We’ve been talking about it for weeks,” said Platte County sophomore Evan McPhatter, one of five in the top eight for the Pirates. “When we got done, we kind of knew we won. It was kind of obvious. It was very exciting.

“We were very, very happy because we’ve tried for many years to do this.”

With the fastest collective group of times in program history, Platte County knocked out one goal for the season with the title.

Letcher won his second race of his junior season, also the second of his career, in 17 minutes, 25.40 seconds. He ended up beating Belton senior Kory Snyder by nearly 15 seconds for the top spot, while Kearney junior Mason Marshall struggled to finish the race and came in all the way back at 10th.

NICK INGRAM/Citizen photo Platte County junior Keegan Cordova, left, and senior Nick Bjustrom battle for position in the race.

NICK INGRAM/Citizen photo
Platte County junior Keegan Cordova, left, and senior Nick Bjustrom battle for position in the race.

With Marshall off the pace, Kearney finished with a team total of 41 points. Platte County was a runaway winner at 24.

Platte County senior Nick Bjustrom (fourth, 17:47), junior Kegan Cordova (fifth, 17:47.30) and McPhatter (sixth, 17:54.20) also earned first team all-conference honors.

Matthew Sullivan, a sophomore, also showed off his continued improvement with an eighth-place finish to round out the Pirates’ team score, and junior Peter Doole joined him on the all-conference second team in 11th.

While senior Evan Edwards came in 15th, Platte County again showed off its pack mentality behind Letcher, a two-time state qualifier.

“It’s been pretty competitive all season,” McPhatter said. “We’ve been trading off almost every race. I think we need everybody on the team (to be at our best in the postseason); it’s not just Jackson.”

On a cool, wet morning, Platte County’s girls nearly finished the sweep.

A trio of seniors led the Pirates, while a solid group of four freshmen continued to impress. Erin Straubel, a senior, finished second overall (21:31.20) for the best conference showing in her four-year career, coming in behind only Kearney freshman Jillian Vaughn (21:10.60).

The win for Vaughn led a team total of 24 for Kearney — seven better than Platte County.

NICK INGRAM/Citizen photo Platte County senior Lauren Johnson (197) battles with a Kearney runner near the finish line of the Suburban Conference Blue Division Championships on Saturday, Oct. 7 at Jesse James Fairgrounds in Kearney, Mo.

NICK INGRAM/Citizen photo
Platte County senior Lauren Johnson (197) battles with a Kearney runner near the finish line of the Suburban Conference Blue Division Championships on Saturday, Oct. 7 at Jesse James Fairgrounds in Kearney, Mo.

Lauren Johnson came in fifth at 21:46.70 for the Pirates’ only other first team all-conference finish, while freshman Taylor Giger (seventh), senior Lindsay Johnson (eighth) and freshman Mara Gullett (ninth) rounded out the team score and made second team all-conference.

The finish could have been even better, but freshman Maddie Klippenstein battled illness and finished in 15th, two spots behind freshman Kaylee Major.

“With it being seniors and freshmen, I didn’t know exactly what to expect at the beginning of the season,” Lindsay Johnson said. “As we progressed, I was able to see the potential, and I knew that we had a good shot (to beat Kearney). I’m still proud of how we finished.”

Platte County retooled its roster using the youth following the offseason departures of Rebekah Geddes (early graduation) and Lexi Elmore and Jessica Clark (moved out of district).

Straubel and the Johnson twins were all three four-year varsity contributors who nearly led the Pirates to a second straight Blue Division title. Straubel was first team all-conference for a fourth time finishing sixth twice (2014 and 2015) and fourth as a junior in 2016.

The Johnsons slowly progressed into all-conference performers by their senior year.

“My goal was to get first team all-conference, which is something I wasn’t able to do until this Saturday,” Lauren Johnson said. “I was happy that I could make that goal, and hopefully, I can continue to chase my goal in districts.”

Platte County takes this weekend off before competing in the Class 4 District 8 meet Saturday, Oct. 21 in Liberty, Mo. The Pirates’ will be hoping to advance both teams to Class 4 Sectional 4 on Saturday, Oct. 28 in Kearney, Mo.