This year's MSHSAA State Cross Country Championships featured a pair of familiar names winning state championships.
For the second year in a row, a runner with the surname Blay won the Class 1 boys title and another Hauser reigned supreme in the Class 5 boys race.
However, this year's champions were the little brothers of last year's champions.
Nodaway Valley sophomore Riley Blay took 16th place in the 2020 Class 1 race, while his older brother, Tyler, was the state champion. A similar instance happened for Andrew Hauser, who took 12th last year, while his brother, Matthew, won the state crown for Columbia Rock Bridge. This season both younger brothers followed their older siblings' footsteps to win individual state titles in their respective classes.
"It feels amazing," Blay said. "I dreamed of this day forever. I never thought it would happen until my brother won last year and I trained with him all summer. It feels amazing. I wanted to fill my brother's spot so badly and it happened."
Riley Blay held the lead in the Class 1 race on Saturday, Nov. 6 from the start but was consistently challenged early on by Plato's David Held - who took second behind Tyler Blay last year.
Riley Blay pulled away late and won the title in 16:05.9 - 24 seconds ahead of Held - but more importantly to him was almost 25 seconds faster than his brother's winning time.
"I stuck to the race plan, went out hard, opened up a gap, and survived," said Riley Blay, who ran 16:19 on the Gans Creek Course in September.
Incidentally, the same day that Riley Blay was winning a state championship, Tyler Blay was in Joplin running in the NCAA Division II Central Region meet. The Missouri Western freshman took 47th place and set a new school record in the 10K race at 31:29.9.
COVERAGE: 2021 Missouri XC State Championships| MileSplit MO Boys All-State Team | MileSplit MO Girls All-State Team
Andrew Hauser ran a sub-15 minute time to win his first state championship (14:52.7) to follow in the footsteps of his brother, who now runs at Kansas State. Matthew Hauser's winning time last year was 15:34.5.
This past weekend, Matthew Hauser took 88th place in the NCAA Division I Midwest Region in Ames, Iowa.
"It was incredibly special for Andrew to win after his brother did," Rock Bridge coach Neal Blackburn said. "They have such a great relationship and so much of Andrew's mind for the sport has been cultivated by that of his brother. It was very much a shared experience for them both. It's obviously a big deal to our program. To have back-to-back state champions, and a girl's title too from the year before, that is such a credit to the way these kids learn from one another in their attempts to better themselves."
This isn't the first instance of brothers winning state titles but it is only the second time there have been brothers winning in consecutive years.
The now-closed St. Mary's of Independence had back-to-back Fugates winning the title in 1994 with Chris Fugate winning the Class 1-2A title and the next year, Bryan Fugate.
Blue Springs brothers Stephen Mugeche (2014) and Victor Mugeche (2017) were the most recent examples of brothers winning state titles. Whitfield's Nate Gelbert won in 2014 and Simon Gelber won a championship in 2016.
In the early era of racing, Richard Gregory won the 1950 title - when there was only one class - and Ronald Gregory won the 1954 and 1955 titles for Sumner.
On the girls' side, Brianna Haller of Fatima won in 2016 and Kendall Haller won in 2018.
There were a number of familiar ties that did well in this year's finals. The Snoke brothers from Lutheran South (Adam, 4th, Andrew, 5th) and the Sorrell brothers (Kelton, 10th, Chase, 13th) from East Newton were all-staters in the Class 3 race.
In the Class 1 boys race, Marion C. Early (Morrisville) saw Gavin Duchscherer take ninth and Landon Duchscherer take 10th.
Sisters Jordan and Brayden Kantola went 1-2 in the Class 4 girls race to help West Plains add another state championship to the ledger.