Max Davies went into the race thinking about a top-10 finish.
Halfway through the Platte County Invitational, West Platte’s standout junior looked content to meet his goal and finish fourth. Then he came to the closing stretch and changed his mind.
“I kind of was starting to give up hope on passing those two guys in front of me until that last hill where I came up and realized I was a lot closer to them than I was at the bottom,” said Davies, who went from fourth to second in the closing stretch Thursday, Sept. 14 at Platte Ridge Park. “I guess they slowed down or something, so I just decided what did I have to lose at that point.”
Davies came in at 17 minutes, 49 seconds — a good 8 seconds back of winner Caleb Feuerbacher of Maryville and 7 seconds in front of Platte County junior Jackson Letcher, who wound up third.
In a 118-runner field, Davies received his first full chance to test himself against runners from larger schools. He pulled out midway through the Raymore-Peculiar Invitational the previous weekend due to illness, and the Platte County Invitational provided a second opportunity for the two-time Class 1 Missouri State Cross Country Championships qualifier.
“As long as I don’t pass out, I’m confident in what I can do,” Davies joked.
Davies came to the end of the switchbacks on the 5k course in the back of a three-man pack. He then sprinted away from Letcher and Excelsior Springs sophomore Michael Rebello. Letcher rallied late to claim third in 17:56.1, beating Rebello to the line by less than a second.
Letcher — a two-time Class 4 state qualifier — led five runners for Platte County in the top 12, and the Pirates ran away with the team title in the 17-team field. They totaled 34 points with Pembroke Hill in second at 81.
Platte County entered off of a win the previous week at Oak Grove, and with small schools prominent in both fields, the Pirates now switch their attention to the harder part of the season. The Pirates opened with a disappointing showing in a small Liberty Invitational field but have quickly rebounded with a roster filled with returners capable of running the best collective times of any team in program history.
“As a team, I think we kind of underestimated ourselves going into the season,” Platte County senior Nick Bjustrom said, “especially that first meet out in Liberty. I don’t think we placed as well as we wanted to, didn’t get as many medal as we wanted to. That gave us the kick in the butt we needed to really push our training a little bit harder and dial in and start pushing harder in workouts.
“We’ve really seen an improvement.”
Platte County’s Keegan Cordova, a junior and Class 4 Sectional 4 qualifier in 2016, came back to edge Bjustrom by 0.2 of a second with the duo finishing fifth and sixth. Evan McPhatter, a sophomore was about 12 seconds back in eighth, and Evan Edwards — the second senior in the Pirates’ top seven — rounded out the team score with a 12th-place showing.
The key to Platte County’s success moving forward will be the balance in the top five providing motivation for lowering individual times.
“Just seeing these guys compete is a huge inspiration to why I run,” Edwards said. “It helps immensely to push myself when I see Nick, Keegan, Evan McPhatter or Jackson killing a race.”
Behind Davies, West Platte finished seventh — the top Class 1 team at the meet.
Phillip Pattison, a developing sophomore, grabbed a medal with a 17th-place finish (18:59.8), while Andy Cicha — a senior — placed 30th while continuing to battle knee soreness. The Bluejays entered their season having won 17 straight Class 1 district titles, a state record set last year, and the strong showing against stiff competition provided more confidence that this year’s postseason could include a return to the top four and another state trophy for the storied program.
“We’re going to the podium this year for sure,” Davies said.
North Platte ended up ninth and didn’t have any medalists. Tyler Meadows (41st), Zach Lee (45th) and Caleb Crumley (48th) finished in a pack to lead the Panthers.