Pierson topples familiar foe

Photos by Chris Auckley http://motrackfanatic.com/

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Marquette junior Hannah Pierson has some familiarity with the Oak Hills Golf Center course, which is the site of the Missouri state cross country meet.

Pierson, who finished 11th in Class 4 at state last year (19:04), returned on Saturday to claim first in the girls’ Class 3-4 race of the Capital City Cross Country Challenge in 19:07.43. Pierson led the whole race, but she said she was really more focused on getting even better acquainted with the seemingly countless hills.

“My goal was to get to know the course and find places where I could push myself and really evaluate the up hills and down hills so when I come to state I’m ready to go,” Pierson said. “I wasn’t really worried about time on this course. I just wanted to know where my strengths and weaknesses are in a race so throughout this whole month of October, I can just focus on improving upon those.

“Going into this, I thought the second mile was going to be a lot longer, but it ended up going really quick for me. That was actually one of my other goals too, was to make sure I don’t daze out in the second mile but really push myself.”

It was Pierson’s fourth time on the course after running in two state meets and taking fourth in the inaugural Capital City Challenge last year. There was a slight change to the course layout from the state meet. There were some wet spots at the back part of the course near hole No. 12, and that forced a little longer loop coming off Firehouse Hill. TRXC Timing’s Rich Schilling said the alteration was to make up for about 100 feet lost to avoid the really muddy parts.

Runner-up Rebekah Geddes could not boast the same awareness of the Oak Hills course as she’s only a freshman for Platte County.

“(My teammates) told me the back mile was really hilly so to be ready for that,” said Geddess, who was second in 19:24.

Geddes surged into second place on the downhill after the two-mile mark and used the momentum to keep pace coming up Firehouse Hill. She said she could see how the early glimpse of the course could benefit her at the state meet.

“I think it will help me because I’ll know what to expect,” Geddes said.

Lee’s Summit North and Lee’s Summit West both made the trip to continue their rivalry, with North earning the three point victory, 97-100. Jefferson City was third with 140.

North was boosted by the pack running of its 3-5 runners – freshman Samantha Simpson, freshman Shelby Wiseman and sophomore Maleah Ahuja – who finished 26th, 27th and 28th, respectively.

“The only reason we came out to is to get on the course and feel it out before it really means something,” Lee’s Summit North coach Ryan Shortino said. “We have a couple freshmen who have never seen it. Running against West … we knew a uniform so we could pick somebody to run against, so that helped.

“I think this course is always the villain to most people, and now they see it and it’s not near as bad. We’ll see how it works in November. It’s way easier they actually ran it than pointing at a map and saying, ‘You have to do this here.’ They know what it actually feels like, each hill, which is not easy.”

North did not make the trip for last year’s Capital City Challenge, but the Broncos did get on the course for the state meet and finished sixth in Class 4.