JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — West Platte didn’t even have a team until three weeks ago. By the end of the Class 1 Missouri State Cross Country Championships, the seven runners in the lineup earned a title very few expected.
In the final team standings, West Platte totaled 104 points and finished five points ahead of New Haven to become the first girls state championship team in school history for any sport. The Bluejays entered the Saturday, Nov. 4 race at Oak Hills Golf Center off of a somewhat unexpected District 8 championship the week before when coach Mike Lowe started to look at the qualifying times.
“You assume the courses are fairly similar to each other and I thought, ‘We’ve got a shot here,’” he said.
West Platte ended up combining a sophomore transfer, three freshmen and three softball-players-first to form a championship team.
Lexi Elmore, who competed at Platte County as a freshman, led the lineup from the start of the season. A Sectional 4 qualifier in 2016, she quickly became a standout before cementing herself as one of the best in program history already.
In the state race, Elmore set a school record and finished 10th in 21 minutes, 25.09 seconds to beat the mark Cecily Waddell set at state in 2009. Elmore spent much of the season competing individually before the arrival of the softball players just ahead of the postseason.
“It was really cool for us to make it as a team,” Elmore said. “We’ve been working really hard this season and I didn’t get to go to state last year and I was able to make it this year and then run with my friends.”
West Platte’s two most experienced runners didn’t have to lead the way after joining the team after softball season.
Lea Moose, a junior, earned all-state honors each of her first two seasons as an individual qualifier, but she placed 46th on Saturday — the fifth runner to cross the line for the Bluejays. She battled the effects of an offseason foot injury and didn’t run at full strength at any point in the season.
The first four-time state qualifier in program history, senior Rachel Heili ended up 69th and did not factor into the team score.
“To finally get Rachel and Lea a state trophy after those two have been running the last three years with just them two,” Lowe said, “this was huge not only for them but for me just to be able to get a team together and see them have some team success, too.”
Lindsay Goodwin — the third softball player transitioning to runner — ran a personal-best 22:05.12 to place 19th, earning all-state honors as a junior in her first season participating. She ran up front with Elmore for much of the race before dropping back but holding on to a key position in the team race.
In addition, Sophia Rush ended up 28th and about 12 seconds out of an all-state spot in a time of 22:30.27. She spent much of the season with Elmore as the Bluejays’ lone runners and remained the top freshman
“Lindsay really stepped up to the plate,” Lowe said. “Without her finishing second for us, we’re not standing where we’re at so kudos to those two for battling through everything they did.”
West Platte freshman Katy Tharp came in 44th, just a couple seconds ahead of Moose. Tharp’s time of 23:12.97 set a new personal-best and provided another key finish in the team chase.
Isabella Clark, another freshman, rounded out the seven runners on West Platte’s historic team. Prior to this season, the Bluejays had three teams compete at state with state trophies earned in 2006 (third) and 2003 (fourth). They were seventh as a team after their last district championship in 2012.