Both of Park Hill South’s teams start the season with similar replacement plans.
The Panthers’ boys and girls lost three seniors each off of solid teams but still return plenty of runners with Class 4 Missouri State Cross Country Championships’ experience. This leads to high expectations for one of the best programs in the area during recent years.
Park Hill South girls coach Pam Jurgensmeyer knows what to expect from her four varsity returners, but the standards will be high coming off the best season in school history.
“We did a solid summer of running and of course our returning varsity girls are looking really good,” she said.
Park Hill South qualified for state for a second straight season after winning the first sectional team title in program history. The Panthers were Suburban Conference Red Division, Class 4 District 8 and Class 4 Sectional 8 champions before earning a state trophy with a fourth-place finish.
The seniors contributing to that run all signed Division I scholarships after the season, including four-time qualifier and 2016 all-state performer Lexi Maddox and two-time all-state runner Jasmine Crawford. Mallory Michel ran at state the past two years before signing a rowing scholarship with Kansas State.
Park Hill South returns seniors Emma Roth, Marti Heit and Keely Danielsen from last year’s top seven along with sophomore Olivia Roth. The Roths and Heit were apart of the scoring top five at state.
In addition, senior Justine Aiello returns coming off a strong track season that included a state medal as part of the 4x800-meter relay team.
Heit and Emma Roth are three-time state qualifiers, while Danielsen has been a part of the past two Park Hill South state teams. Paige Snider, a sophomore, rounds out the Panthers’ returning letterwinners.
Park Hill South’s boys were the Class 4 District 8 champion and just missed a state berth with a fifth-place finish at Sectional 4. The Panthers lost state qualifier Brendan Briody plus Alex Lee and Jake Prososki from last year’s top seven.
Lee also had previous state experience.
In addition to Briody, Trey Rouse and Eli Guzman — both now seniors — qualified for state, while senior Ewan Frick just missed a third state trip. Christian Ludtke, a junior, was also in the top seven at sectionals. Guzman has been to state all three years, first with a state qualifying team in 2014 and then as an individual in his sophomore and junior seasons.
“Our team is solid,” Park Hill South coach AJ Roth said. “I think we have a solid seven guys and then our young guys are coming in and looking good. Most of them have been running over the summer so I think our future is looking pretty nice too so it’s a good group of guys all around.”
AJ Roth expects senior Mitch Pyles and sophomores Ethan Mick, Quinten Worley and Corwen Gentry to push for time the varsity level.
“We’re already looking forward to state this year as a team,” Rouse said.