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Jaguars bring home another state trophy

By Cody Thorn
The Examiner
Members of the Blue Springs South girls cross country team pose with the state trophy after capturing third in the Class 5 state meet Saturday at Gans Creek in Columbia.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Blue Springs South maintained its spot as Kansas City’s top girls cross country team on Saturday.

The Jaguars finished third in the Class 5 Missouri State High School Cross Country Championships, marking the fourth year in a row they brought home a plaque. Five of the top 10 in the state’s largest – and newest – classification hailed from the metro area.

Liberty was fifth, followed in order by Blue Springs and Park Hill South, and Raymore-Peculiar took ninth.

After taking fourth in the three previous years, the third-place finish signified a jump for Blue Springs South, which won the Suburban Big Eight championship and Class 5 District 5 championship in previous weeks.

Blue Springs South's Caitlin Grover, left, runs to a 13th-place finish in the Class 5 Missouri State High School Cross Country Championships Saturday at Gans Creek. Grover had her team's top finish as the Jaguars captured the third-place team trophy.

“This is five (trophies) in seven years and we have never finished lower than fifth,” Blue Springs South coach Ryan Unruh said. “I feel pretty good about what we have done. The top end of this race was real competitive with Lafayette, Parkway West, Liberty and Rock Bridge. It was such a deep race and to come out third … we wanted more but we are happy with third. We are happy with how we raced and happy with the season. Even that we had a season was such a blessing.

“At the end of the day if they are better than you, so be it. Two teams were better than us and beat us. Anytime you can bring a trophy home, you feel like you did really well.”

Lafayette-Wildwood won the state championship with a score of 80 and Parkway West was next with 98. The Jaguars had 98, 20 points clear of Rock Bridge.

The first Class 5 champion was Wentzville Liberty’s Ally Kruger, who ran a course record 18 minutes, 3.1 seconds.

The leader for the Jaguars was a new runner for the first time all season with sophomore Caitlin Grover finishing 13th and earning all-state honors. She finished the 5-kilometer course in 18:55.2.

Blue Springs South's Mya Trober runs to a 26th-place finish to help the Jaguars claim third place as a team, their fourth straight year with a team trophy for a top-four finish.

Mya Trober, the runner-up in Class 4 last year, took 26th place and just missed a spot on the all-state podium that the top 25 runners earned.

“It was kind of strange because Mya has been leading us the whole year and I knew I had to help our team do the best we could and I knew Mya would do the best she could too,” Grover said.

Grover had an improvement of nearly 80 spots from her debut at state on the Gans Creek Cross Country Course. She was in the top third of the pack through each of the kilometer markers, moving from 17th to 13th at the 2K mark and stayed there the rest of the way.

“It was a lot easier this year,” said Grover, who took 102nd last year. “I suffered quite a bit last year and this year was a lot more fun and I was able to enjoy it and have fun. Last year I was so nervous.”

Trober stood in line for another all-state medal but the junior fell two spots on the final kilometer.

Magdalene Boley placed 32nd, followed by Emmerson Allen (43rd) and McKenna Ledgerwood (45th). For a while the Jaguars were in first place on the live scoreboard.

“You know once you get here so many things can happen and you need to have everything go right,” Unruh said. “Our No. 2 to 6 ran lights out and couldn’t have had a better day, and everyone can have an off day and Mya had a little bit of an off day today. I’m much more proud of her this year than last. When she had a rough day she fought through it. We aren’t on the podium if she doesn’t pull it together. Her and Grover basically flipped spots.”

Blue Springs took sixth overall in the team standings and was led by sophomore I’yana Foster, who ran 19:36.5 and took 30th. That was a marked improvement over her 132nd-place showing last year.

Blue Springs sophomore I'yana Foster (1316) leads a pack toward the finish line in the Class 5 girls state meet Saturday at Gans Creek in Columbia. Foster finished 30th, 102 spots better than last season,

Foster was in 43rd place after the first kilometer but then moved up and passed two runners down the stretch to come up short of an all-state spot.

“Last year, as a freshman, I was probably freaking out too much, but this year I knew I could do it,” Foster said. “I didn’t know how to pace myself last year but I knew I could do it this year. At the beginning of this season I had a tough time with my mindset. I wasn’t confident and I got injured. It was a big jump. I have been in a more healthy mindset. I’m very proud of myself.”

Six of the seven runners at state will return for the Wildcats.

Grain Valley was the other team in the Class 5 meet and placed 16th overall, led by Ella Casey’s 99th-place showing. Lee’s Summit North senior Lily Madden placed 53rd in her last race, one of three qualifiers for the Broncos.

Van Horn had a pair of runners in Friday’s Class 4 race, both making their debuts at the state meet.

Freshman Keyra Castllo was the top runner, taking 120th, while classmate Betsy Guzman took 136th for the Falcons.

In Thursday’s Class 3 race, sophomore Aubrey Johnson of Oak Grove took 34th and St. Michael the Archangel senior Eva Petrini placed 54th.