Platte County’s Jackson Letcher doesn’t mind taking the lead. Just a sophomore, he became the No. 1 runner for the Pirates in his first meet and continues to hold that title, coming off a trip to the Class 4 Missouri State Cross Country Championships.
Letcher didn’t lead at all in the Platte County Invitational on Thursday, Sept. 15, but he found himself running alone in second place at Platte Ridge Park. He came in 49 seconds back of race winner Clayton Adams but 14 in front of third-place Layne Worman of Chillicothe.
Behind Letcher’s strong showing, Platte County finished second as a team, continuing to show off youthful depth that makes the Pirates good now and potentially better in years to come.
“I’ve learned to keep my mind in the race a lot earlier,” Letcher said, “so I can focus on it and plan it out in my head.”
Adams ran away with the race, finishing in 16:51.0, while Letcher was at 17:30.1. The first eight runners were pretty well spaced out before the finishes became more bunched.
Platte County junior Evan Edwards took the seventh spot (18:20.0), while junior Nick Bjustrom (12th, 18:46.9) and sophomore Keegan Cordova (15th, 18:52.4) were also in the top 15. The Pirates totaled 58 points but couldn’t overcome Kearney’s quartet of top 10-finishers, and the Bulldogs finished with 48 points to top the 17-team final standings.
Evan McPahtter, a freshman, came in 25th to round out Platte County’s counting scores with seniors Jared Maksudian and Hunter Long in the top 45 and adding experience for one of Class 4’s smallest teams. The Pirates remain in Missouri’s largest classification for the next two years which can skew the results for a talented team.
Platte County has turned in back-to-back big showings in smaller races, winning at Oak Grove the previous week ahead of the runner-up showing at home.
“We’ve learned that pack running is a great thing to do during races,” Letcher said.
West Platte placed three in the top 31 and ended up ninth in the team standings with 245 points. The Bluejays had three of the seven runners in the top 31 to come from Class 1 or Class 2 schools, including Max Davies’ 16th-place showing.
Just a sophomore, Davies ran a season-best 18:59.4 but continues his quest to lower his times into the mid-18s. He’s developed into West Platte’s top runner with focus on helping the Bluejays set a state record with a 16th consecutive Class 1 district championship this season.
“This is kind of where I was expecting to be at this point in the season, but I’m hoping to get (my time) down,” Davies said. “I’m hoping everyone is going to continue getting much better, and I just can’t wait for districts this season. We’ve got to go. We have to be running as hard as we possibly can every single race.”
West Platte freshman Philip Pattison came in 30th, just one spot in front of junior teammate Andy Cicha. North Platte’s Tyler Meadows came in 77th, and the Panthers were 14 out of 17 qualifying teams.
On the girls side, Platte County junior Erin Straubel found herself in the uncustomary position of leading the Pirates with coach Chris Stubbs holding out school-record-holding junior Rebekah Geddes (rest) and sophomore Lauren Clark (illness) at the home meet. Geddes didn’t run in her home meet for a second straight season and instead meandered around the course and offered encouragement to teammates.
Straubel, who finished third in 21:29.1, found herself in the middle of a top-four pack that separated from the field but missed having her other top teammates in the race.
“To be honest, it wasn’t really me by myself. I had my team behind me, my coaches behind me and my family,” Straubel said. “That’s what got me through the race and carried me across the finish line. I wish Rebekah ran today. I like her running with me and in the race with me, but it was nice to have her cheer for me. She was all over the course.”
With Straubel leading the way, Platte County still managed to finish fifth out of nine teams with a 131 total — eight better than sixth-place Lawson. Lauren Johnson and Lindsey Johnson, both juniors, came in 24th and 25th separated by a little more than a second, and Pirates junior Grace Gullett was 51st in the 73-runner field.
Straubel has started strong this season, providing support for Geddes at the top of the lineup along with Clark. Straubel suffered a foot injury during track season but appears fully recovered at this point while looking to become a first-time state qualifier.
Letcher and Geddes were the only representatives for the Pirates last season with Geddes taking all-state honors for a second straight year.
“It was a lot to get back in shape, but God just pushed me back in shape,” Straubel said. “I’m just ready to go and excited to see what’s next. I think having three girls like that helps us in practice to push each other to want to be better and a little competition is always good. They inspire me to keep running hard.”
Missouri Southern Stampede
Park Hill sophomore Parker Canfield turned in an impressive 16:29.50 performance Saturday, Sept. 17 in Joplin, Mo. His time placed him 30th out of 372 runners in the large meet, and the Trojans’ were 18th out of 46 teams.
On the girls side, Madison King came in 31st at 19:50.08, and Grace Fink was 55th, helping the Trojans to 12th out of 36 teams.