Very quietly, Liberty North's Ethan Lee put together one of the state's most successful freshman campaigns in its history last year.
On the cross country course, Lee ran 16:32.72, MO No. 36 all-time among freshman, and finished 66th at the Class 4 State Meet. He was the top freshman in Class 4 on the day and the year.
After that, he took to the indoor track to tune up for a spring campaign in which he ran MO No. 6 all-time in the 1600 among freshmen of 4:25.47. With four marks at 4:30 or better last spring, Lee was easily the best miler among the Class of 2022 athletes. His 9:54.77 was No. 31 all-time among freshmen and No. 3 in 2019.
Lee was one of three sophomores between 26th and 30th place at this year's hotly contested Class 4 meet at Gans Creek. His 15:59.10 personal best earned him 29th and the fifth fastest time among sophomores. He broke 17:00 eight times. It's safe to say that Ethan Lee will be one of the hottest names in the state for the foreseeable future.
Only 25 athletes earn a spot on the podium in each of the races at the state championship meet making 26th the most dreaded position of all. Unfortunately for Central St. Joseph's Corbin Cera, that was his position when the dust had settled this past November.
Fortunately, though, Cera has two more years to push his way into the top 25. In fact, that should be no problem for the prolific sophomore moving forward.
Cera headed into his second cross country campaign after a strong first track season. He went 4:32.54 and 10:27.18 and finished 5th in the hotly contested Class 5 District 8 1600.
His 15:58.70 personal best at Gans Creek will set him up nicely moving forward as he will be one of the top cross country runners in the western part of the state and headlines a dangerous Central St. Joseph squad heading into the 2020 season.
Jefferson City High School's young depth took a hit with the addition of Capital City High to the fold. Luckily for the Jays, Thomas Roehl stuck around at the city's flagship school as he is quickly becoming one of the state's top runners.
Roehl was one of 9 freshman to break 17:00 in 2018, landing him a spot on the 7th place team in Class 4. He took that experience to the rubber where he ran 4:37.33 and 9:59.33 in the 1600 and 3200.
He then proceeded to drop two sub-16:00 performances as a sophomore this fall, and his 15:58.80 personal best netted him a 27th place finish at the Class 4 state meet. The rest of his mates from that state qualifying squad are graduating this spring so Roehl will have to lead a whole new crew to the big dance.
The southeastern part of Missouri has been crawling with talented cross country athletes and teams for decades and over the past couple of years, the Desoto Lady Dragons have been emerging as one of the next big programs in the area.
Led by Kayla Vogelsang, Desoto earned their second straight state trophy in the Class 3 division this fall. Vogelsang, the team's top runner, finished 16th as a freshman in 2018 when her squad earned fourth. This fall, she jumped up to 12th as a result of her shiny new 19:26.10 personal best. The ladies grabbed the second place trophy this time around.
Vogelsang's first track campaign was solid - 5:39.33 in the 1600 and 11:54.44 in the 3200 - but after closing out her sophomore year of cross country with a bang, there's no doubt the hits were going to keep coming this spring.
Parkway North's Tabitha Bevan has been one of the St. Louis's areas best kept secrets over her first year and a half of high school, but the state level breakthrough is fast approaching.
After a freshman campaign which ended too soon with a 3rd place finish at the Suburban Conference Championships, Bevan hit the indoor track, breaking 12:00 in the 3200 before the MSHSAA season even started. A 5:20.43 1600 and 11:46.23 in the 3200, along with a trip to Washington for the Class 4 state meet in the 3200, followed.
Bevan got to close out the fall at the state championships this year and took 43rd in the star-studded field. She added another top 5 finish at the Suburban Conference Championships in her 19:17.16 personal best and proceeded to another strong indoor season in which she posted a personal best in the 800.
Keep an eye out for Bevan as she challenges the best of the best over the next two years.
Nixa's Alicen Ashley closed out her sophomore year as the 6th fastest girl among the Class of 2022. Her 18:46.50 earned her 6th at Class 4 Sectional 3 and placed her among the best of the best in her grade.
But before that, Ashley showed off her talent during a stellar freshman campaign. In the 1600, she closed out the season in a personal best 5:17.64 before closing out the season for good at the Class 5 State track meet in the 3200. Her 11:30.11 best was second among all Missouri freshmen.
With a 15th place finish at State XC to her name now, Ashley is poised to make a run at bigger and better things over the next two years.