Park Hill South’s long list of returners should have the girls hoping to finally reach their full potential, while the boys will have sights set on a return to the elite.
Last season, the Panthers won the Suburban Conference Red Division, Class 4 District 8 and Class 4 Sectional 4 titles before finishing ninth in the final team standings for the Class 4 Missouri State Cross Country Championships. Nine of the top 10 runners from last year return, including all seven state runners.
The first state qualifying team in school history didn’t have an all-state performer with Marti Heit posting the top finish at 40th.
Heit, a junior, is one of three runners to reach state multiple times. Lexi Maddox, a senior and last year’s Red Division individual champion, has made state each of her three seasons, while junior Emma Roth has gone twice, including an all-state showing in 2015.
Other runners with state experience include seniors Jasmine Crawford (all-state in 2014) and Nicole Gardner and junior Keely Danielsen. In addition, coach Pam Jurgensmeyer said senior Mariah Martin, junior transfer Justine Aiello and a handful of freshmen could be in the mix for spots in the top 10.
“Last year was our team’s most successful season to date, and we hope to better the results we saw last year, while also having a good time and making great memories,” Jurgensmeyer said.
Park Hill South’s boys ended up third in the Red Division, fifth in districts and seventh in sectionals during a rebuilding year.
However, juniors Ewan Frick and Eli Guzman both qualified for state as individuals one year after the Panthers earned a state berth in a historic season. They also have senior sectional qualifiers Brendan Briody and Andrew Reece and junior Trey Rouse back. Guzman, Frick, Lee and Reece were all on the 2014 state team and hope to lead another postseason charge.
Alex Lee, Jake Prososki and Ryan Rippy will also be in the mix along with sophomores Cole Mazeitis, Ashton Amann and Christian Ludtke.