With a Class 4 Sectional 4 field that included Rockhurst’s William Thompson and Truman’s Cole Rockhold, Stephen Mugeche knew he would “have to go out extremely hard” at Saturday morning’s race.
And he did.
The Blue Springs junior quickly took the lead in the 5-kilometer boys race at Raymore-Peculiar High School and eventually won in 15 minutes, 46.3 seconds. Thompson finished about 100 yards behind in 15:59.5, followed by Rockhold in 16:01.3.
“I had some separation (early), so I was proud (of that),” Mugeche said. “The lead just kept growing further and further, so I’m overall happy with the race.”
Blue Springs boys coach Frank Gallick said the competition helped fuel Mugeche’s running.
“This sectional here, it’s always very competitive and you can always expect some good competition,” he said. “We had it last year and pretty much anticipated (it) this year.”
Rockhold was expecting a tough battle with Mugeche and Thompson. They gave him what he had expected.
“I hung in there as long as I could,” Rockhold said. “They just were stronger than me today and they raced well.”
Mugeche was the sole Blue Springs qualifier for this Saturday’s Class 4 state meet at Jefferson City. The top 30 finishers and top four teams advanced, including runners on teams that qualified.
Rockhold was among three Patriots to qualify. Advancing three runners will make the trip to state feel “more of a team-like atmosphere,” according to Truman boys coach John Steele.
“The last couple of years, we’ve just had one or two go,” Steele said.
Lee’s Summit North was the lone area school to qualify as a team in either Class 4 meet. Led by Kyle Dean’s ninth-place time of 16:17.6, the North boys placed third with 100 points – 41 points behind sectional champion Liberty and 27 points behind host Ray-Pec.
The North girls, led by Elizabeth Carpino’s second-place time of 18:57.5, took second with 82 points – three points behind meet champion Lee’s Summit West.
Both Blue Springs schools produced at least one girls qualifier apiece. Grace Klausen and Ashton Henson qualified for Blue Springs South. Junior Maria Wendell of Blue Springs placed 28th in 19:59.8 to advance.
Klausen, who placed fifth in 19:15.1 and qualified for state for the third time, is viewing the state meet as a chance to display the results of her offseason training regimen.
“I ran every day this summer,” she said. “I think I was ... almost at 500 miles for the end of the summer.”
Since June 1, Klausen has run more than 1,000 miles, according to South coach Ryan Unruh. That mileage, in turn, will allow the Jaguars to taper her training leading up to state, he said.
“Once we back off a little bit, I really feel like she’s going to feel super fresh and ready to go,” Unruh said.
CLASS 3 DISTRICT 7: Ray-Pec also hosted the Class 3 District 7 competition Saturday, and Grain Valley qualified for Saturday’s Class 3 state meet in Jefferson City. In Class 3, the top 15 finishers and top two teams advanced, including runners on teams that qualified.
Led by sophomore Cameron Tecce’s third-place finish of 17:58, the Eagles won their first district cross country title with 29 points. Still, Tecce expressed disappointment with the team’s overall performance.
“We could’ve done better, I feel,” he said. “I feel we should’ve had a ... (few) more people up with me.”
However, Grain Valley boys coach Nick Small was pleased.
“We ran really well,” Small said. “We ran our race – and our boys have kind of been able to do that all year. We just told them coming into this that it was just another (meet). We didn’t want to put too much pressure on them.”
The Grain Valley girls also qualified for state by placing second with 82 points (Notre Dame de Sion won with 19 points). Sophomore Hannah Coons paced the Eagles, finishing 13th in 21:48.4.
Oak Grove produced two Class 3 boys qualifiers: senior Garrett Cross and sophomore Aaron Carpenter, who placed 10th in 18:22.9 and 11th in 18:28.4, respectively.