2023 Missouri XC Season Preview: Class 3 Boys

The 2023 season is officially upon us! We are ready to preview all of the craziness that comes with it. 

Class 3 features a changing of the guard in the individual race, a dynasty looking to earn state title number 14, and one of the most impactful freshmen in the entire state.

Take a look at the athletes, teams, and storylines to watch for in Class 3 this season. The final two classes will be released over the coming days.


BOYS: Class 5 | Class 4 | Class 3 | Class 2 | Class 1

GIRLS: Class 5 | Class 4 | Class 3 | Class 2 | Class 1 


Top 7 Contenders

Ben Chance - Bowling Green

Bowling Green senior Ben Chance has really taken off over the last calendar year and appears poised to cap off his illustrious career with a state gold on the cross-country course. 

Chance won 6 of his 9 races last fall, finishing 2nd in the other 3, all 3 times to all-time great Connor Burns. The Class 3 cross country runner-up, Chance's 16:02.40 mark on the Gans course is easily the best of any returners and his 15:25.68 overall best is 13 seconds ahead of Class 3's #2. 

He heads into the fall with three new personal bests on the track, too, with 2:01.65, 4:21.58, and 9:32.22 marks from this spring. He has already shown off his chops with a 9:14.17 3k loop around Gans Creek at the Como Kickoff. He is the heavy favorite in Class 3 heading into the season.


Chase Sorrell - East Newton

After an impressive junior cross country season, East Newton's Chase Sorrell is another serious challenger for the Class 3 cross country crown in 2023. 

Sorrell finished out his 2022 campaign with a 15:38.23 mark at the Big 8 Conference Meet at Aurora and a 3rd place medal at the Class 3 State meet. He also picked up victories at the Seneca and Cassville Invitationals, as well as his home invitational. 

The breakthrough fall carried into the spring as Sorrell picked up state medals in the 800, 1600, and 3200, headlined by his 1st-place finish in the 800 in 1:53.60. Sorrell won all 9 of his 800-meter races this spring. He also finished out the season with 4:17.60 and 9:30.77 marks, good enough for 2nd and 3rd at the Class 3 State meet. He's no stranger to the limelight and has unmatched foot speed among the top 7 boys profiled here, so watch for Sorrell to compete for the individual title this November. 


Sam Vaughn - Herculaneum

Herculaneum's tradition of excellence continues and the spearhead this year is senior Sam Vaughn.

Vaughn was 9th at last year's Class 3 state meet but returns with the 3rd fastest time among Class 3 harriers with his 16:07.33 personal best from his runner-up performance at the Class 3 District 1 meet at Arcadia Valley. He was under 17:00 in all 8 races last year and parlayed that into track success.

Vaughn's track season was predicated by a 2nd place finish in the Class 3 3200 in a blistering 9:28.17 personal best. He also finished the spring season with a 4:21.30 1600 best, good enough for 5th at the Class 3 State meet. Vaughn has range and is leading a team title contender. Watch for this Blackcat to make the leap all the way into the top 3 and challenge for an individual title. 


Nathaniel Wright - Herculaneum

The other side of Class 3's most dynamic 1-2 punch, Herculaneum's Nathaniel Wright comes in as a key piece to the Blackcats' return to the top of the state meet podium.

 The rising junior was 17th at the Class 3 State meet last fall, 3rd for his runner-up squad, and enters the 2023 campaign with a 16:22.28 personal best to his name, making him 4th among Class 3 returners in that regard. 

His track season was a similarly successful one, compared to the three boys ahead of him. He capped off the 2023 track campaign with personal bests in the 800 of 1:59.03 and 1600 of 4:21.25 and earned all-state medals in both races. Wright is another one to watch to see how much success on the cross-country course that solid track season will bring.


Nathan Reynolds - Eldon

Though it didn't result in a new personal best in the 5K, the 2022 cross-country campaign was another solid one for Eldon's Nathan Reynolds. 

Reynolds is looking to join an illustrious group of athletes who have earned all-state all four years of high school. Even if he hasn't been the top headliner in many races in his career, it would be a feat that would solidify him as one of the strongest and most consistent athletes in the Class of 2024. 

His 10th place finish was his best of the three all-state finishes so far, with the other two being a 17th and a 19th as a freshman. That 17th-place finish in 2021 brought him his lifetime best of 16:48.60, a mark we are expecting to drop quite a bit in 2023. Reynolds posted personal bests in all 3 distance races this spring and is poised to make a top 5 run this fall.


Stone Gill - Arcadia Valley

Arcadia Valley's Stone Gill will be looking to close out a solid high school career with a bang in 2023. 

The senior enters the fall season with a personal best of 16:31.18 from last year's District 1 meet on his home course and should be looking to build upon his 20th-place finish at the State meet. He was 17th in 2021, but in Class 2. 

Gill missed his entire 2023 track campaign so the jury is out on his health status heading into the cross country season. A fully healthy Stone Gill, though, will be one to watch coming out of that always-stacked Southeast Missouri district as he challenges for a top-five finish this November.


J.R. Lesher - Centralia

Several guys could have earned this 7th spot in our preview, but we decided to give the nod to JJJJJJJJJJ RRRRRRRRRRR LEEEEESHER! 

If you've ever been to a meet with Centralia's J.R. Lesher, you've heard the fan loud and proud on the front fence right after the starting gun (we have to assume that's his proud papa). At this year's state meet, in fact, he had to do it twice after they called the Class 3 3200 back due to a timing error. Those who saw Centralia often this year heard it a lot as Lesher did a lot of racing in the spring. He won his first 11 3200-meter races before meeting Burns and Chance at the District, Sectional, and State meets. But he cleared through both qualifying rounds and ended up with an 8th place medal in his new personal best of 9:40.25. 

Lesher also earned 7th in the 1600 with his 4:23.17 mark and finished in 3rd in the 15-16 division of the 3000 meters at the AAU Junior Olympics in 8:57.44. He has yet to earn state hardware in cross country but appears ready to do so this fall after a breakthrough track season.



Incoming Freshmen To Watch

Wyatt Klaiber - El Dorado Springs

El Dorado Springs freshman Wyatt Klaiber has wasted no time making his name known to the state of Missouri. 

Klaiber heads into his first high school season with impressive personal bests. He has run 2:07.94 in the 800 and 4:29.35 in the 1600 already, to go along with cross country personal bests of 7:28.99 in the 2400 meters, 10:19.40 in the 3200 meters (as a 7th grader), and 10:54.50 in the 2-mile run. 

On Saturday, he ran 17:07.00 at Artesian Park in Clinton, holding off a host of West Plains Zizzers for the individual win there. It's the kind of fearless running that put recent Bulldog graduate Daelen Ackley at the top of his class and should serve Wyatt Klaiber, the brother of former El Do greats Hannah and Garrett, well in his own right.


Michael Gabelsberger - Fatima

Michael Gabelsberger appears to be the next best thing at the storied Fatima High School. 

Gabelsberger enters his high school career with impressive personal bests on the track and cross-country course. Last fall, he posted two 3200 marks under 11:30 and a 2-mile mark of 10:39.64 at the Show Me Conference Championships at South Callaway. On the track, he already ran 2:13.27 and 4:46.32. 

Watch for this Comet to fly in his first high school season.



Top 4 Teams


The historic Herculaneum Blackcats dynasty continues into 2023 as the Blackcat boys look to add trophy number 28 to their overflowing state trophy case. 

A close second to Father Tolton last fall, we are expecting the Trailblazers to move up to at least Class 4 in 2023 which plants Coach Kyle Davis's squad firmly in the driver's seat in Class 3 once again. Led by the 1-2 punch of the aforementioned Vaughn and Wright, Herky also benefits from role-player returners Damian Luther at 17:13.22 and Ashton Parrish at 17:16.66. The rest of their team is deep enough to put at least one more boy under 18:00, which may be all it takes this year with Vaughn and Wright challenging the 15s. Preston Wallman is their top incoming freshman and could make an impact right away as well. 


St. Michael The Archangel

Fourteen measly points separated St. Michael the Archangel from their first-ever trip to the top of the state podium. The former Bishop O'Hara High School had never earned a trophy in cross country but was able to pick up 4th in 2022. 

The 2 points in the championship factor will keep them in Class 3 for now, but should they live up to their preseason billing in 2022, it will be their last year there for some time most likely. A tight group with only 47 seconds of separation between Johnny Joyce at No. 1 and David Rogge at No. 4 is the headline for this Guardians squad. Oliver Hotop returns at No. 2 and Xavier Collins is right behind him at No. 3. An 18:30 at No. 5 at the moment keeps Herculaneum comfortably ahead, but any additions to the depth bode well for St. Michael's chances at climbing all the way to the top in 2023. Again, they were only 14 points back last season and only 9 back of Herculaneum in 2nd. 



Maryville has been quietly solid over the last few years, picking up state trophies in 2020 and 2021, while finishing 10th last season. They return their entire 2022 state team and should be considered a major player for the top spot in Class 3 in 2023. 

Led by Dylan Masters, Bradley Deering, and Connor Blackford, this three-headed monster will be looking to build off truly solid track seasons across the board. The trio teamed up with Colton Berry to finish 3rd in the Class 3 4x800, while Deering grabbed 8th in the 1600 and Blackford finished 12th. It's a crew that could all 3 challenge the 16:00 barrier this fall which would put them in the driver's seat heading into the November Showdown at Gans Creek. 


Knob Noster

Even without the recently transferred Hunter Deleeuw, Knob Noster is still among the top 4 teams heading into the 2023 season. That should tell you they mean business this fall. 

The Panthers are led by returning all-stater Tyler Zink, whose 17:06.50 personal best earned him 24th at the Class 3 State meet last year. He was a state qualifier in the 800 and 1600 this spring, finishing 9th in the 1600 in 4:26.90. Levi Wilhelm is their second fastest returner with a 17:28.00 mark to his name and Noah Wallace follows in 17:41.00. It's a solid crew which will challenge for the first trophy in their school's history this year.


Dark Horse Team To Watch

El Dorado Springs

El Dorado Springs picked up the win with 19 points at Clinton this past Saturday and will receive big boosts from a couple of incoming freshmen. 

We have already mentioned the impact that Klaiber will have on the squad. His 17:07 on Saturday is already 14 seconds ahead of top returner Logan Fisk's personal best of 17:21.48. Braxton Watts heads into the year with a 17:28.80 best and Sylas Antunez owns a 17:48.98 mark. Freshman Shane Fletcher could be a difference maker as he has already built off an 8th-grade year in which he ran 12:22.99 for 3200 meters with an 18:54.80 debut. 

It's a sneaky Bulldog team now that should continue to grow throughout the season and challenge for their first-ever team trophy.