As a cross country coach, Ryan Unruh doesn’t buy into the survive-and-advance cliche of district meets. Unruh and his Blue Springs South girls have a higher purpose.
“We’re not just coming out here to qualify and survive,” Unruh said. “We’re coming out to run well.”
Blue Springs South did run well, well enough to place second and grab one of the four team sectional qualifying spots in the Class 4 District 7 meet Saturday at Lee’s Summit North. And the Jaguars survived despite the absence of No. 3 runner Paige Fallis.
Fallis has a twisted ankle, but Unruh said she will be ready to run at next week’s sectional meet in Liberty.
“The girls did a good job of filling that gap and I think we will be a better team because of it,” Unruh said. “We were looking at the positive side of that – what an amazing opportunity for our sixth and seventh runners to be better today because of the absence.”
Blue Springs South’s top five ran fast enough to score 53 team points, right behind powerhouse Columbia Rock Bridge (38). Sophomore Mya Trober led the way for the Jaguars, finishing the looping, 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) course in 18 minutes, 35.7 seconds.
Trober, who powered her way to a surprising victory in the Suburban Big Six race on the same course two weeks ago, couldn’t catch Rock Bridge freshman Carolyn Ford, who led from start to finish in 18:11.8. Annie McCord of Lee’s Summit North took third in 18:45.9.
“I think we saw the state champion today,” Unruh said. “The Rock Bridge girl is the best runner in the state right now. Mya being second and putting a little scare in her shows that she’s on a good level.
Lauren Low (19:10.6) finished fifth overall for Blue Springs South, followed by McKenna Ledgerwood in 12th, Caitlin Groves 16th and Amy Woolsey 18. Even if they hadn’t cracked the top four as a team, all five Jaguars would have advanced by finishing among the top 30 individuals.
“Rock Bridge is a podium team,” Unruh said. “We had a plan and we executed that plan; we just got beat by a better team today.”
Blue Springs South’s boys also finished second and like the girls, had to overcome a missing runner. Dylan Grover, the Jaguars’ No. 1 runner, was held out to heal an injury.
Without Grover, Blue Springs South still managed to score 78 points and have five runners among the top 30. Jack Klassen’s seventh place finish in 16:24.0 led the Jaguars, followed by Alex Jackson (13th), Zachary Carter (14th), Jackson Lile (17th) and Evan Holland (27th).
Rock Bridge, which placed five runners in the top 10, won easily with 29 points.
“We didn’t have our best races today but we felt pretty solid,” Blue Springs South boys coach Kyle Plummer said. “We were hoping to take second so we expected it.”
Blue Springs junior Brock Wooderson expected to be among the top runners in the boys race, and he didn’t disappoint. Wooderson ran stride-for-stride with Rock Bridge’s Matthew Hauser after they broke away from the rest of the field early.
But when Hauser kicked over the last half mile, Wooderson couldn’t answer. Hauser won in 15:38.10, followed by Wooderson at 15:42.80 and Grain Valley’s Royce Fisher in 16:00.9.
“We were battling back and forth the whole race and then he just kind of left me there,” Wooderson said. “We were pushing each other and it was a good race overall.”
Wooderson’s finish helped Blue Springs place fourth and qualify as a team with 97 points. The Wildcats also had Ryan Chelugat place 18th, Kevin McClain 19th, Justin Stetzler 28th and Matthew Higgins 30th.
Blue Springs’ girls also finished fourth and advanced as a team. The Wildcats, who scored 87 points, had Alyna Thibault (19:07.9) in fourth, I’yana Foster eighth, Allie Wharton 20th, Lia Hanson 29th and Kyla Weems 31st.
Grain Valley’s boys, who finished fifth, had two other sectional qualifiers along with Fisher: Colling Clemens (11th) and Mason McCain (24th). Ella Casey (17th), Valerie Holcomb (19th), Peyton Bell (24th) and Lexi Nicholson (25th) advanced for Grain Valley’s girls, who took sixth.
Lee’s Summit North, the fifth-place girls team, also qualified Lily Madden (21st) and Cassidy Montgomery (28th) along with McCord. The Broncos’ Carson Clancy (ninth) advanced in the boys race.
Truman had two boys qualifiers: Joshua Nunn (21st) and Jack Getman (26th). MIchael Reddick of Fort Osage placed 15th and also advanced.
The Class 4 sectional meet will take place Saturday at Wildflower Cross Country Course in Liberty.