LIBERTY, Mo. — Park Hill South still might not know the full potential of the lineup, but the Panthers have seen some signs.
Emma Roth, a senior, took the individual title in the Class 4 District 8 race Saturday, Oct. 21 near Liberty North High School, leading Park Hill South to a third straight team title. The Panthers totaled just 41 points with four runners in the top 10 — three of them seniors.
One of three seniors at the top, Roth won her third race of the season in 18 minutes, 36.18 seconds — pulling away late as she fruitlessly chased the utility vehicle leading the runners through the course.
“We have not run our full team very many times this season; we haven’t always been 100 percent healthy, but we’re there now,” Park Hill South coach Pam Jurgensmeyer said. “It was great to see Emma run with that pack at the beginning and pull away again and having that sight of the Gator helps her a lot to kind of keep driving for the first-place spot.”
Roth, senior Marti Heit (fifth, 19:26.31) and senior Keely Danielsen (eighth, 19:50.12) ran together for just the third time this year.
All three were on the past two district championship teams for Park Hill South, including last year’s Sectional 4 winner that went on to place fourth in the Class 4 Missouri State Cross Country Championships. Olivia Roth, a sophomore, also ran at state for the Panthers, and she finished 10th on Saturday to round out a solid top four.
Paige Snider, a sophomore, completed Park Hill South’s team score with a 17th-place showing. Now, the Panthers can shift the attention to next week’s Sectional 4 meet Saturday, Oct. 28 at Jesse James Fairground in Kearney, Mo. — looking to defend another title and at the least grab another one of the four automatic qualifying spots.
“Paige Snider and Olivia Roth ran really well today, and they’ve been right by each other,” Jurgensmeyer said. “They know kind of where they need to be, and it’s a beautiful course and it was a good day so yeah, we’re happy.”
Platte County ended up with a stinging finish.
Behind seniors Lauren Johnson (11th, 20:24.15) and Erin Straubel (24th, 20:46.84), the Pirates finished fifth and just missed an automatic team spot for sectionals. They went last year in a record-setting season but were forced to rebuild after the departure of three non-seniors in the offseason.
Platte County ran three seniors and four freshmen at districts with Taylor Giger also advancing as a top-30 finisher. The freshman posted a time of 20:30.72 to place 22nd.
With freshman Maddie Klippenstein in 36th and senior Lindsay Johnson in 37th, Platte County ended up with a team total of 130 — just seven behind St. Joseph Central for the fourth and final automatic sectional qualifying spot.
“At the beginning of the season if you had told us that we were going to get fifth place at districts and qualify three girls, I would have called you a liar because we weren’t sure we were even going to have a team,” Platte County coach Chris Stubbs said.
While the girls entered the year with uncertainties, Platte County’s boys were the best full team in program history. The Pirates continue to compete as one of the smallest Class 4 teams, and despite the solid individual times, they also wound up fifth and just outside of an automatic team spot.
Platte County junior Jackson Letcher (fifth), sophomore Evan McPhatter (22nd), senior Nick Bjustrom (28th) and sophomore Matthew Sullivan (29th) all finished in the top 30 to advance. However, junior Keegan Cordova started slow and couldn’t close the gap late, finishing 32nd.
Last season, only Letcher and Cordova competed at sectionals for Platte County. McPhatter, Bjustrom and Sullivan all advanced to the second round of the postseason for the first time, while Letcher will seek a third straight state berth after a bittersweet day.
Had Cordova also finished in the top 30, Platte County still could have taken its top five and posted a team score at districts despite finishing 26 points behind Park Hill South for the final automatic spot. Individuals must again finish in the top 30 at sectionals to advance on to state.
“It was a tough race for (Keegan),” Stubbs said. “He got behind at the mile and couldn’t catch up. Nick Bjustrom is a senior and has been running for us all four years, was really happy for him because this is first time qualifying.
“We’re happy with who we got qualified in a very, very tough district. I can’t say anything more about the effort we have had this year.”
Park Hill South just missed a team state berth last year and will seek to break back through next week behind talented seniors.
Eli Guzman (fourth), David Rouse (eighth) and Ewan Frick (17th) led the Panthers at districts after being on last year’s sectional qualifying team. They ended up with a team total of 87 to finish comfortably ahead of Platte County but also just 18 back of champion St. Joseph Central.
Park Hill South junior Christian Ludtke (27th) and sophomore Bret Worley (32nd) rounded out the Panthers’ top five. After finishing fifth at sectionals last year, the top four finishers at districts know how tight the margins can be on earning a state spot.
In 2015, Park Hill South finished fifth at districts coming off a team trip to state in 2014.
“My guys fought and did what we wanted to do, we wanted to get out of districts and move on to sectionals and now’s the time to think about next week,” Park Hill South coach AJ Roth said. “We have three seniors that are really looking forward to running in there with the big guys and try to get back to that state championship.”
Park Hill ended up with just one sectional qualifier. Grace Fink placed 19th in 20:36.36, and both teams finished ninth out of 10 teams in the final standings.