KEARNEY, Mo. – Rebekah Geddes crossed the finish line, expecting a short wait for her first teammate.
Instead, Platte County’s junior ended up wandering back to incounter an unexpected sight. Pirates sophomore Jessica Clark ended up walking the final few steps of the Class 4 Sectional 4 race Saturday, Oct. 29 at Jesse James Park after falling three times in an effort to traverse the last 25 yards of the course.
Clark went from 12th to 29th during her struggles but came across the line with the second-to-last qualifying spot.
“I knew she’d be coming in quick,” said Geddes, who finished third in 19 minutes, 7.50 seconds to earn her third straight state berth. “I saw her fall, and it got me worried. I saw her get up, so I was yelling at her to go. And then she fell again.”
Clark became a first-time state qualifier, continuing her breakout season with a gutty effort. She crossed the line in 20:22.20 and ended up comfortably in the qualifying spots with 31st place Lilly Abdulla more than 18 seconds behind.
The finish was anything but comfortable.
With about 25 yards to go, Clark fell to the ground and attempted to get back up before crawling ahead a short distance. She eventually regained her feet but stumbled down again, a process she repeated once more before regaining her footing and walking the final stretch.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Geddes said. “You could tell she gave it her absolute all. I was really proud of her.”
The District 8 champion, Geddes’ third-place finish led Platte County’s team effort. The Pirates qualified for sectionals for the first time in program history and advanced out of districts for the first time since going to state in Class 3 in 2010.
Platte County ended up sixth out of eight in the final standings with a 126 and were 29 points out of fourth place and the final automatic team berth.
Erin Straubel, a junior, came up agonizingly short of an individual berth, placing 32nd in 20:42.10 in her second straight trip to sectionals. Pirates freshman Lexi Elmore (46th) and junior Lauren Johnson (57th) completed the team score, while Lindsay Johnson, another junior, and senior Grace Gullett rounded out the fastest team in program history.
“It’s definitely disappointing, but I’m proud of everyone,” Geddes said, “because everyone definitely worked their hardest and gave it their all this season.”
Geddes, who placed second last season at sectionals, came in aiming for an 18:30 but came up off of her lofty goal. Only four runners hit that mark at state last season, and Geddes hopes to drop her time next week in Jefferson City, Mo. to record a third straight all-state showing.
“That was the plan, but it didn’t really work,” Geddes said. “I’ll probably just keep trying to get that time, and keep (my miles) steady – anything under 19. That’s where I’m trying to get.”
Park Hill South’s dream season as a team did continue.
With senior Lexi Maddox turning in a rejuvenated effort after battling illness for part of the season, the Panthers bunched their top four inside the top 20, and freshman Olivia Roth came in 27th as part of a 52-point team showing. They beat Blue Springs South by 14 points and advanced back to state for a second straight season.
Park Hill South has now won back-to-back district titles in addition to the first sectional championship in program history.
“It’s so awesome to have a team that’s so close together,” Park Hill South junior Marti Heit said. “If you have a bad day, you always know there’s someone pushing you and making up for you if you don’t run well.”
A team used to revolving the top runner, Park Hill South put all of the performances together Saturday.
Heit came in fifth at 19:33.90 with Maddox right behind her in sixth at 19:38.60, outracing a pair of runners for the spot. Jasmine Crawford, the second of three seniors in the Panthers’ top seven, placed 13th, and junior Emma Roth placed 17th.
Now, Park Hill South aims at improving its state finish from ninth a year ago.
Heit, Maddox, Crawford, Emma Roth, junior Keely Danielsen and senior Mallory Michel all have prior state experience. Crawford earned all-state honors as a freshman, and Emma Roth did so as a sophomore in 2014.
Last season, the experienced group struggled at state, leading to a disappointing showing, and this marks the last chance to perform together.
“We’ve been thinking about this year for a while,” Heit said. “I remember I always used to think, ‘Oh, well, we’re young,’ but it kind of dawned on me this year: this is it. We really have to go out and hammer it, but we just like to have fun. We don’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves because this sport is about having fun and making memories.”
Park Hill South’s boys did not end up with a second state berth in three years.
In the final standings, the Panthers placed fifth and missed the final qualifying team spot by 19 points. Brendan Briody (19th), a senior, and juniors David Rouse (21st) and Eli Guzman (26th) all placed in the top 30 for individual spots, while junior Ewan Frick wound up 4 ½ seconds behind the final qualifier.
Frick and Guzman were qualifiers each of the past two years, while senior Alex Lee (49th) couldn’t get back after going as a sophomore on the 2014 qualifying team.
Platte County sophomore Jackson Letcher earned a second straight state berth with a strong showing in a fast field. Kearney senior Clayton Adams put up a nearly unbelievable 15:49.78 to take medalist honors while Blue Springs junior Victory Mugeche ended up 11 seconds back.
Letcher (16:44.38) maintained his own pace and came in ninth, up from his 16th-place effort at sectionals as a freshman. He identified the quick pace from the beginning and ended up running about 20 seconds better than his previous best time in three other runs on the same course.
“The first mile was very fast,” said Letcher, who placed 75th at state last year as one of only 14 runners to qualify in Class 4 as a freshman. “I could just feel it. It hurt a lot more than usual. You have to get comfortable in your own comfortable zone.”
Park Hill senior Roman Ortiz (48th) – the Trojans’ lone sectional qualifier on either side – and Platte County sophomore Keegan Cordova (57th) also missed state berths. Both advanced out of districts for the first time.