The long wait is finally over. The district (and, subsequently, sectional) assignments have officially been released by the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA).
Several coaches have speculated as to why MSHSAA waited so long to drop the lists, but the delayed release was a result of a desire to avoid misclassifying schools who may have the resources for a cross country team, but do not field any athletes on their roster. While this affected very few teams above Class 2, the ramifications the delayed release had on those lower enrollment classes is distinct.
In Class 4, the biggest shifts came in the St. Louis and Columbia areas. District 1 remained relatively unchanged, but did add two private school powerhouses in St. Louis University High and Nerinx Hall, as well as Webster Groves and early MO No. 1 performer Charlie Teeter. They will link up at Hillsboro for the Sectional meet with a District 2 that took from North St. Louis County as well as parts of West County and eastern St. Charles County. In the past, this makeup has usually been seen in District 3, but now it will shift to District 2 and Sectional 1.
Sectional 2 received a major makeover as much of District 2's old teams shift to District 4 and many of District 4's teams shift to District 3. The Columbia schools have moved to the other side of the spectrum as they populate District 7, but Jefferson City remains in a Sectional packed with talent. Notably, too, is the addition of Helias Catholic and former Class 3 favorite Jack Crull. Crull will now get to face off against Class 4's stars in his quest for his first state cross country title.
The big notes on the western side of the state involve the addition of Rock Bridge and Hickman to Sectional 4. After stealing several spots in Sectional 2, they will now compete with some of Kansas City area's best, including Blue Springs and Blue Springs South in the district, and Liberty, Liberty North, and Central St. Joseph in the Sectional. Lucky for them, they will still have the fortune of avoiding Lee's Summit West and Raymore-Peculiar, who will still do battle with the Springfield area schools in Sectional 3, as well as West Plains, and now Rockhurst and St. Teresa's Academy.
With the departure of Jack Crull from Class 3, and the addition of Lamar's Kolin Overstreet, the Class 3 individual race just got even more interesting. Lamar makes a surprising leap into Class 3 to add to the intrigue, but it would appear that Festus remains unchanged as the favorites on the boys side.
Smithville's Olivia Littleton and John Burroughs' Kylie Goldfarb both get boosts in their quests for an individual title this fall as Christian's Mercedes Schroer follows her squad down to Class 2. Carl Junction steps back down into Class 3, though, which means Alanza Montez will enter the fold in the individual race, too.
A stacked District 1 does not get much of a makeover once again, leaving some of the state's best to battle it out for a measly two spots, but the rest of the districts sure got a new look. MSHSAA decided to completely reshape the way they drew the districts, opting for a south-to-north "snaking" technique with Districts 2 and 3 hitting St. Louis and Northeastern Missouri while District 4 takes Central Missouri, 5 takes South Central, 6 getting the Springfield/Joplin area, and Districts 7 and 8 getting Kansas City and Northwestern Missouri. This technique was in some way, shape, or form used for all three of the non-sectional Classes.
In Class 2, the afore-mentioned addition of Schroer throws a wrench into the best laid plans of Fatima's Kendall Haller and Alexis Fischer, as well as Brookfield's Alex Sharp. For fans of the sport, though, this should provide great entertainment value as all four battle it out for the individual victory this November. North Callaway's Kaleigh Moore and Clark County's Grace Buschling provide even more intrigue the individual race in Class 2.
On the boys side, front-runners Malik Stewart and Daelen Ackley will benefit from the departure of Lamar, but will have to compete with the arrival of East Newton and their young studs. Stewart and Ackley have both already shown they are for real this season, but it is hard to belive that we have seen the best from Jacob Bennion and Kelton Sorrell in these early goings. East Newton becomes a front-runner for the team title, now, too, but will still have to compete with Fatima, Hermann, Stockton, and Steelville, among others. West Platte will throw their name in on the girls side, no doubt, as they have shown in track and field that jumping up a classification has not affected their ability to compete at the highest level.
Class 1 received a major facelift this year as whole districts were scrapped for completely new team compositions. While their weren't many additions, the subtraction of West Platte surely affects the way the boys and girls team races look. Beyond that, much of the overall look of the classification remains unchanged with Blue Eye's Avery Arnold and Riley Arnold, as well as Marion County's Delaney Straus being the favorites individually on the girls side and School of the Ozarks' Titus Thompson and Blue Eye's Ryan Cardenzana leading the way on the boys side.
In the early goings, Blue Eye has shown that they could very well sweep both races in Class 1, but several of the state's best appear to have a relatively clear path to the state championship meet with the new district alignments.
While some districts and sectionals appear to be lopsided in their strength (Class 3 District 1, Class 4 District 4, Class 4 District 6, etc.), it would also appear that this year's districts should still prove to, overall, allow the best teams their chance at a top four finish on November 9th. In this author's opinion, while the wait may have been disadvantageous from a scheduling standpoint (i.e., a team's ability to preview their championship course during the season), MSHSAA got it right this year, at least as opposed to previous years.
Click through the links below for full district lists and to see how each district shifted. Please send any additions or corrections to firstname.lastname@example.org.