West Platte girls find right mix to win district XC title

SMITHVILLE, Mo. — The late season additions were enough.

NICK INGRAM/Citizen photo West Platte senior Rachel Heili runs in the Class 1 District 8 race Saturday, Oct. 28 at Smith’s Fork Park in Smithville, Mo.

NICK INGRAM/Citizen photo
West Platte senior Rachel Heili runs in the Class 1 District 8 race Saturday, Oct. 28 at Smith’s Fork Park in Smithville, Mo.

West Platte put six runners in the top 15 of the Class 1 District 8 race Saturday, Oct. 28 at Smith’s Fork Park. The third, fourth and fifth finishers all came out to the team full time after the end of softball season to provide the push needed to win the program’s first district title since 2012 — just the third in program history.

Lea Moose (ninth) and Rachel Heili (14th) were both in the top five to earn return trips to state, but their first as members of a West Platte team.

“I’m really excited because we finally have a team this year,” said Heili, a senior and now a four-time qualifier. “The girls came out and it’s just a lot more fun and it’s a lot easier to run hard and give it your all when you’re running for the other girls on your team.”

Moose and Heili no longer have to be the leaders.

Lexi Elmore, a sophomore transfer from Platte County, qualified for sectionals as a freshman and now leads West Platte’s lineup. She finished in a season-best 20 minutes, 50.33 seconds, good enough for third in the individual standings.

West Platte freshman Sophia Rush was sixth (21:41.31).

The new additions combined with junior Lindsay Goodwin (eighth, 22:26.57), Moose (ninth, 22:49.18) and Heili (14th, 23:18.11) to post a team score of 40. The Bluejays finished just seven points clear of St. Joseph Christian for the team title.

West Platte coach Mike Lowe credited Heili for some of the success after she ran just her second race of the season.

NICK INGRAM/Citizen photo West Platte freshman Lexi Elmore, left, runs in the Class 1 District 8 race Saturday, Oct. 28 at Smith’s Fork Park in Smithville, Mo. The Bluejays won the team title to earn the first team berth to the Class 1 Missouri State Cross Country Championships since 2012..

NICK INGRAM/Citizen photo
West Platte freshman Lexi Elmore, left, runs in the Class 1 District 8 race Saturday, Oct. 28 at Smith’s Fork Park in Smithville, Mo. The Bluejays won the team title to earn the first team berth to the Class 1 Missouri State Cross Country Championships since 2012..

“Just a great kid. What a leader for them, too,” Lowe said. “She pushes for them over the top, and we probably wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for her.”

In addition to the top five, West Platte freshman Katy Tharp came in 15th — just two seconds back of Heili — to also earn all-district honors. The Bluejays’ final member of the state team will be freshman Bella Clark, who came in 28th and shaved nearly a full minute off her previous best time.

Moose earned all-state honors each of the past two seasons but has continued to deal with a foot injury. With Heili the lone senior, this weekend’s Class 1 Missouri State Cross Country Championships has the potential to be the start of a strong run for West Platte, which finished seventh out of 14 teams in 2012 and fourth in 2007 during its only other team state appearances.

“We’re really looking forward to the future here,” Lowe said. “You never thought they were going to be that good. The end of junior high track season back in May, I had a little inkling that a couple of them might come out for cross country and would run pretty good and you throw in Elmore who moves in, then Lea comes back full strength, you couldn’t ask for a better ending so far.”