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Blue Springs cross country sends both teams to state

By Cody Thorn
The Examiner
Blue Springs' Brock Wooderson turns the corner toward the finish line during the Class 5 District 7 cross country meet Saturday at Lee's Summit North High School. Wooderson won in 16 minutes, 12.82 seconds to help his team take second and earn a team state berth.

It had been a while since both the Blue Springs boys and girls cross country teams had gone to the state meet at the same time.

That changed Saturday when the Wildcats brought home second-place finishes at the Class 5 District 7 meet at Lee’s Summit North High School.

It marked the first time since 2016 that both Wildcats programs reached the MSHSAA State Cross Country Championships and the first since the state series shifted from Jefferson City to Columbia.

Blue Springs’ Brock Wooderson won his first district title, which came after winning the Suburban Big Eight championship on Oct. 17. He will enter the Class 5 finals – which will be held Saturday at Gans Creek Cross Country Course in Columbia – as one of the favorites.

He will also be taking his whole team with him after the Wildcats held off Lee’s Summit North for the final spot to state. Rockhurst won the team title with 67 points, followed by Blue Springs with 73 and Lee’s Summit North at 83.

“I knew we were there with Rockhurst, Lee’s Summit North and Ray-Pec,” Blue Springs boys coach Frank Gallick said. “I knew if we ran as close as we are capable of we’d have a chance, but to have three in the top six was amazing. It was everything I could ask for. The other two, I thought we would have to finish in the top 30 and we were 30th and 31st. I couldn’t script it any better.”

Wooderson blazed the course in 16 minutes, 12.82 seconds and had an 11-second margin of victory over Luke Voelker of Raymore-Peculiar.

Truman senior Josh Nunn took third, followed by Lee’s Summit North junior Carson Clancy. Blue Springs junior Kevin McClain and freshman Keagan Enicks were fifth and sixth, respectively. Lee’s Summit North sophomore Logan Binger also advanced to state.

Truman's Josh Nunn leads a big pack of runners down the course during the Class 5 District 7 meet Saturday at Lee's Summit North High School. Nunn finished third to qualify for state.

The top 15 runners qualified for the state meet, which also factor runners from the qualifying schools. Rockhurst and Blue Springs accounted for seven of those 15 spots.

Truman, which finished sixth in the team standings, had the two close misses with Jack Getman and John Crump finishing 16th and 17th – the first two spots beyond the cut.

Unlike past years the larger school runners moved from district to sectionals before going to state but that round of the postseason was eliminated this year with the number of classes going from four to five.

That means a rematch between Wooderson and Columbia Rock Bridge’s Matthew Hauser is set for 11 a.m. on Saturday. The two have battled twice this year and Hauser has gotten the best of Wooderson each time, once in Liberty and the other in Columbia on the state course.

Wooderson becomes the Wildcats’ first district champion in Class 5 – the state’s newest classification – and the first for Blue Springs since Victor Mugeche the Class 4 District 7 meet in 2017. Since then, Blue Springs had a pair of runners-up: Gabe McClain in 2018 and Wooderson last year coming in behind Hauser.

“It is great,” Wooderson said of winning the district meet. “Great pride to me for carrying on the Blue Springs tradition. … We always had good runners in the past winning district, sectionals and doing well at state.”

His goal now turns toward winning a state championship, his goal since finishing 18th in the Class 4 race last year. Hauser was third at state last year and is the highest returning finisher in Class 4.

“I’ve just got to finish the job next week,” Wooderson said. “Whatever the results are, the results are and I know I left everything out there. (Hauser) is a great competitor and a great sportsman. He has always battled well and it will be a fun race for sure and we will give the people what they want.”

The team results on the girls side were much closer with Blue Springs coming in two points behind Ray-Pec (41 to 43). Lee’s Summit North was a distant third with 69 points.

Blue Springs freshman Abigail Brackenbury came in third in a race dominated by the top three runners. Ray-Pec’s Ashlyn Smith won, followed by Makayla Clark of Lee’s Summit West.

Right behind Brackenbury was teammate I’yana Foster and Lia Hanson also snuck into the top 10 for the Wildcats.

“It was a good race,” said Brackenbury, who finished in 19:52.02. “It is exciting to go to state, especially with my team. I’m ready for sure. At the beginning of the summer, we didn’t know if we would have a season. It is awesome we all get to go to state.”

The Wildcats had a total of four runners in the top 15, matching Ray-Pec’s four. Junior Allie Wharton was 13th for Blue Springs, while sophomore Macy Baldwin placed 14th.

Another team with four state qualifiers was the host Broncos.

Senior Lily Madden was eighth, followed by senior Katie Mead in 10th and Cassidy Montgomery in 11th. Senior Brianna Fee got the final state qualifying berth, taking 15th.

CLASS 4 DISTRICT 7: Van Horn will send a record number of qualifiers to state with four boys going and two girls from the Class 4 District 7 meet, also held at Lee’s Summit North.

On the girls side, freshmen Keyra Castillo and Betsy Guzman finished back-to-back in ninth and 10th to earn a spot at state. Considering St. Teresa’s Academy finished 1-7, that left only eight spots for the remaining runners in the field.

“They have been beasts all season and their hard work during the summer showed up,” Van Horn coach Julie Crowell said of her Falcons. “They are great kids. I’m excited to see how they handle themselves at the state meet. It will be their first opportunity as freshmen and hopefully we have them for three more years – cross your fingers – so they can be the first four-time state qualifiers at Van Horn.”

Van Horn cross country coach Julie Crowell, right, hugs one of her runners after the Falcons qualified a record number of runners for state. Van Horn will send four boys and two girls to Friday's state meet in Columbia.

The Falcons had four runners in the top 20 on the boys side but it wasn’t enough for the team to move onto the state meet. Seven points was the difference between first and third place, with Lincoln Prep scoring 39 points, followed by 44 by Grandview. Van Horn’s 46 was a close third.

Van Horn was one spot away from taking five runners to state, but Steven Campos placed 16th and missed the cut by seven seconds.

Senior Angel Marmolejo led the Falcons by placing sixth (18:01.40), with sophomore Osmar Cruz taking 12th. Juniors Cameron McCormick and Peyton Bass were 13th and 15th, respectively. 

“It is one of those things you work hard and sometimes the chips fall in your favor and sometimes they don’t,” Crowell said. “We had 46 points and they had 44. A point here or there always adds up. As a coach there is disappointment. They have trained together and you want them to experience the state today. We are very lucky. I think this is my 13th year here and since Van Horn joined Independence (School District) and this is the most (combined) we have qualified. We missed out last year but the five years prior we had qualifiers, so it will be nice to be back and experience a new course for us in Columbia. We will do our best and represent Van Horn and the Independence School District proudly.”

The Class 4 races are scheduled for Friday morning, at 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.