Julie McConkey, South Nodaway/Platte Valley
There is no room for error when you have just five runners on a cross country team. The co-op cross country team of two schools, Jefferson in Conception Junction and South Nodaway in Barnard, compete as Platte Valley, though MSHSAA recognizes them as South Nodaway.
The ladies from northwest Missouri, near Maryville, returned one state qualifier from the 2021 state meet. Andrea Riley placed 16th as a junior in the Class 1 race in 2021. That was a race where the ladies from Van Buren in south central Missouri, went low, very low. The Lady Bulldogs, who were 4th in 2019 and 2020, put four runners in the top-22 and scored just 43 points to claim the 2021 state title. Their score multiplied by three would have nearly won the title at 129, as 2nd and 3rd place totaled 122 and 128 points.
The Van Buren ladies entered the 2022 season and state meet as heavy favorites, looking to repeat after the dominating 2021 performance. However, coach Julie McConkey's girls had other plans.
Four freshmen joined Andrea Riley on the team for the 2022 season, including her younger sister Allison Riley. The pair's older sister, Ashley Riley went to Jefferson (Conception Junction) and was the 2017 State Champion for South Nodaway. Ashley now runs at Creighton University. Mom Wendy Riley is the Platte Valley/South Nodaway assistant coach.
Van Buren held the early lead in the second to last race of the 2022 MSHSAA state cross country championships, with Platte Valley/South Nodaway in 2nd at the 1k and 2k marks. But the ladies from the northwest took control in the 3rd kilometer and held on for the victory.
Freshman Mya Wray was 3rd, Andrea Riley 4th, and freshman Allison Riley was 29th. Freshmen Emalee Langford and Mylie Holtman were 45th and 66th. The ladies totaled 75 points to edge Van Buren by 8 points (83). The state trophy was the first for the team and both schools.