Some of the best Missouri boys and a handful of the top Missouri girls are scheduled to race at the 2023 RunningLane Cross Country Championship in Huntsville, Alabama, on Saturday. The coaching, timing, and events company RunningLane, hosts the annual event with help from the Huntsville Sports Commission and sponsors at the very fast cross country course at the City of Huntsville's John Hunt Park. This year marks the 4th edition of the meet.
The meet is open to all who want to make the trip to Northern Alabama with a community race followed by eight high school races. There are three divisions: Gold, Silver, and Bronze for both genders and an extra Blue and Red division for boys, with the teams and individuals separated by entry seed into the races, with the Gold being the premiere race.
Schedule CT Zone (FINAL) -- NEW SCHEDULE
7:30 a.m. -- Community Race
8:30 a.m. -- Bronze Boys Race
9:00 a.m. -- Bronze Girls Race
9:45 a.m. -- GOLD BOYS RACE
10:30 a.m. -- GOLD GIRLS RACE
11:00 a.m. -- GOLD RACE Awards
11:00 a.m. -- Silver Boys Race
11:30 a.m. -- Silver Girls Race
12:00 p.m. -- Blue Boys Race
12:30 p.m. -- Red Boys Race
Boys Gold Race
The Gold race features a few of the Show-Me State's best boys. While the race will be the last one of the season for just about everyone at the meet, that's not the case for Lincoln College Prep senior Isaac Rivera. Rivera's phenomenal senior season won't end until next weekend.
After a runner-up finish to Platte County's Andrew Johnson at the season-opening Tim Nixon Invitational, Rivera was 2nd at the Forest Park XC Festival in September behind eventual NXN national qualifier Dylon Nalley of Illinois. Rivera then claimed the Gans Creek Classic Gold race to avenge his 2nd place finish to Johnson and beat most of the state's best in 15:15. He followed by winning the Chile Pepper Festival in Arkansas in 15:08. Rivera won the Class 4 state title in 14:54 and helped the Blue Tigers to the 3rd place team trophy. His time moved him to 2nd on the course performance list, until the Class 5 Boys race shortly after. A week later, he placed 17th at the NXR Midwest meet for 3rd-Team All-Region honors.
Then last week in Wisconsin, Rivera ran into the history books. He raced to a 4th place finish in 15:06 at the Foot Locker Midwest Regional to qualify for next week's national meet. Rivera becomes one of less than 15 Missourians to qualify for the 44-year-old national meet on the boys' side. Also last week, Rivera announced his commitment to compete for Iowa State University next year.
Rivera is one of 42 boys named Elite Individuals in the race by RunningLane. He's joined on that list by Rock Bridge sophomore Luke Sievers. Sievers has had an impressive campaign in his 2nd year in the Rock Bridge singlet. Sievers was part of an impressive freshman trio in 2022 that helped Rock Bridge to a standout season. That included a runner-up team finish at State in Class 5, then a 4th place finish at NXR Midwest.
This year, Sievers earned 6th and 8th place finishes at the Memphis and Olathe Twilights to open the season. At the Gans Creek Classic, he faded over the final 2k to take 16th but turned around to take 16th in the championship race at the XC Town Twilight in 15:19 in a field of more than 420.
After a 3rd place finish at Districts where Rock Bridge was edged by SLUH, Sievers had the race of his life, so far, at state. Sievers, teammate Andrew Hauser, and Kirkwood's Levi Rowan pulled away from the Class 5 field at State quickly and battled the whole way. Rowan and Sievers had a homestretch finish that won't soon be forgotten.
The pair made up a 3-second deficit on Hauser, passed him, and dueled the final 100 meters to the finish line. Sievers held off Rowan, getting the win as both broke Hauser's course record of 14:52.7 from the 2021 meet. Sievers finished in 14:51.9 while Rowan clocked 14:52.1. Sievers and Hauser's 1-3 finish helped Rock Bridge win the state title, the 2nd in 4 seasons, giving the Bruins three total.
At NXR, Sievers placed 41st in 15:30 to help Rock Bridge to a 5th-place team finish. Last week at Foot Locker, Sievers ran 15:46 to place 37th. In Huntsville, he'll try to match Hauser and Liberty North's Sage Wilde's amazing sophomore RunningLane performances. Hauser was 25th in 14:38, which gave him the state record for 10 months. Wilde was 33rd in 14:42.
Platte County's Andrew Johnson is looking to cap an exceptional senior campaign. He's seeded 3rd among Missouri boys. Johnson kicked off his final high school season with a big win at the Tim Nixon Invitational, winning by 25 seconds and in a personal record of 15:05. He was 2nd to Rivera at Gans Creek in 15:19 and 8th at Chile Pepper. Johnson improved his mark at Gans Creek with a 15:11 to take 2nd to Rivera in the Class 4 state race.
Last week at Foot Locker, Johnson ran 15:40 in the cold to take 32nd. He earned a team medal as he helped the Missouri boys take 4th among all the states represented. Success from Johnson Saturday won't be a surprise. Not only because of the impressive season he's had but also because he's already had success at RLXC. Last year, Johnson was the Bronze race champion in 15:42 in a field of nearly 300.
Liam Adair/Peyton Willbanks
Fellow Kansas City area standouts Liam Adair of Smithville and Peyton Willbanks of Liberty will also compete in the Gold race, while Liberty's Todd Yeates appears to have scratched. Adair won his division at Tim Nixon in 15:18, was 3rd at Forest Park, and 5th at Rim Rock before winning the KC XC Classic and taking the KC Suburban Blue Conference title.
He placed 5th at State in Class 4 in 15:30. Two weeks ago the junior captured the Boys 15-16 age group title at the Cross Country Coaches National Youth Championships in Kentucky, besting 66 others in 16:18. Adair was behind Johnson last year at RunningLane. He placed 15th in 16:02 in the Bronze race.
Willbanks, a K-State commit, shined in his final season for the Liberty Blue Jays. He ran to 6th and 9th-place Gans Creek and Chile Pepper finishes in 15:38 and 15:32. He captured the KC Suburban Gold/Silver Conference title in 15:23 and earned Class 5 All-State honors for a 2nd year in a row, placing 17th. He led the Jays to a 5th-place state finish. Willbanks has also raced at RLXC, placing 25th in 16:06 in the Silver race last year. He placed 84th at NXR Midwest this year in 15:47.
Bryce Gentry will look to add to his resume for Jackson High one last time. Gentry earned Class 5 All-State honors a year ago while helping Jackson to a team trophy. He moved up from 17th last year to 12th this year at state in 15:33. That came after he was 4th at the Memphis Twilight, was 12th at Gans Creek, and won three other races. Gentry was 49th in last year's RLXC Bronze race in 16:24.
Rolla sophomore Cameron Martensen will also race in the Gold division. Martenson hasn't raced a lot this season but was good when he did. He won the Ozark Conference title after runner-up finishes at the SWCCCA Richard Clark Invitational and the Lebanon Invite. Martensen earned his 2nd Class 4 All-State finish, taking 23rd in 15:41.
Boys Silver Race
Twenty-one boys teams made the cut for the Gold race, while Raymore-Peculiar boys made the 21-team Silver race. The Bronze race also features 21 teams while the Hermitage boys will race in the 19-team Blue race. The final Red race has 16 teams.
Coach Jamin Swift and staff's Ray-Pec squad placed 2nd at Districts behind Nixa and ahead of Lee's Summit and Webb City. At State, Nixa earned the final Class 5 trophy with Liberty 5th while the Panthers placed 7th as Lee's Summit edged them for 6th.
Ray-Pec is led by two All-State finishers in sophomore Gabriel Voelker (10th 15:32) and junior Carter Younger (15th 15:36) while senior Andrew Kemper just missed a state medal, placing 31st in 15:50. Ray-Pec races in the Silver race at 11:00 a.m. Voelker placed 92nd in the Championship race at NXR Midwest.
Ray-Pec Boys Team
Washington's Logan Luttrell 2023 Class 4 All-Stater
Lee's Summit West's Kaden Deain
Lebanon's Peter Stunja
Boys Bronze Race
Robert Humphries Southwest (Washburn) 2023 Class 2 All-Stater
Francis Howell's Sterling Holloman
Boys Blue Race
Coach Mark Sabala has built the Hermitage boys cross country program into a powerhouse. The programs that acts like a finely running machine, captured its sixth state title this season and 3rd in a row. The Hornets scored just 74 points to win the Class 1 title this Fall. Hermitage had four All-State finishers in the first year that the honor was expanded from the top 25 to the top 30.
Bennett Mantooth led the way, taking 5th in 16:45 in cold and windy conditions on day 1 of this year's MSHSAA State Championships. Senior Justus Yates was 11th, just ahead of junior teammate DeJuan Chambers. Junior Jaxon Wheeler earned the last All-State medal, taking 30th.
Hermitage raced at NXR Midwest in the Boys Open Race #2. Mantooth led the way placing 54th in 17:07. In the 4 combined Open races, and 1,314 finishes, Hermitage, or the Hornet Running Club, placed 76th out of 102 teams,
Hermitage Boys Team at RLXC
Branson's Justin Akers
Boys Red Race
Francis Howell's Vince Holloman
Liberty's Dominic Achille
Tour of Cross Country Course @ Hunt Park
Norris, McKenzie, and Jacobs
lead Missouri Girls
Girls Gold Race
The Girls Gold race follows the boys at 10:30. Harrisonville's Kayleigh Norris was named one of 31 Elite Individual Girls in the meet by RunningLane. The junior is only 17 months or so into her long distance running journey, and her last few months have been extraordinary. After running to a 9th-place Class 4 State Track 800-meter run finish as a freshman in 2022, Norris gave up high school tennis to run cross country last Fall. She's not going back.
After an excellent sophomore season, Norris made big leaps last Spring and this Fall. She earned personal bests on the track of 4:53 for a full mile and 10:54 before becoming an upperclassman. Then this season, after winning the Missouri Southern Stampede in 17:41, Norris was 2nd to Natalie Barnard at the Gans Creek Classic in 18:10. She was 2nd in her section and 15th overall at Chile Pepper in 18:08. She ran away with the Class 4 State title and appeared to be headed for a solo sub-18 finish on the Gans Creek Course. She struggled in the final 50 meters though and took a spill about 30 meters from the finish. She had to settle for 18:07 and a nearly 21-second win.
A week later at NXR Midwest, she changed her tactics, going out more conservatively. That gave her the opportunity she rarely has, the chance to chase others. That worked well. She was 122nd at 1-kilometer. She passed 37 others to hit 2k in 60th. At 3k, she was just outside of an All-Region top 21 spot, in 23rd. Norris moved up seven more spots in the 4th kilometer to get to 16th, which she held on to in the final K. Norris crossed the finish in 17:41.4
Norris will be shooting for a top 10 or top 20 finish and RLXC All-American honors, as will Cor Jesu sophomore Mary McKenzie. After winning the Fleet Feet Classic at Arnold City Park and the Forest Park XC Festival, McKenzie was 2nd to Norris at the Missouri Southern Stampede in 17:52. It was only 1st or 2nd-place finishes for McKenzie until State.
The St. Louisan was in a 3-way battle for 2nd in the Class 5 State race with Kirkwood's Josie Baker and Tolton Catholic's Elyse Wilmes. McKenzie ended up 3rd behind winner Natalie Barnard and runner-up Wilmes. She was one of five under the 18-minute barrier in the race, blazing to a new PR in 17:40.9 and leading Cor Jesu to a 7th-place finish. McKenzie didn't race again until last week when she ran at Foot Locker Midwest. She placed 38th in 18:44 in cold conditions.
Gracie Jacobs will wrap up one of the best careers in St. Teresa's Academy cross country history in Alabama. The senior from Kansas City earned her 3rd medal at a state cross country meet this year. The Kansas State commit placed 13th in Class 5 in 18:28. Jacobs won 4 races this year and added two runner-up finishes, including the loaded Olathe Twilight. Jacobs was the 3rd best Missouri finisher in the Championship race at the NXR Midwest meet. She placed 51st in 18:17.
Francis Howell Central's Reese McDevitt had a 3rd straight standout campaign for the Spartans. The junior was 6th at Forest Park, 12th at Gans Creek, 4th at Parkway West Dale Shepherd, and won the Border War XC Championship in a PR of 18:43 before taking 2nd at the GAC conference meet.
Dreams of improving on the school-best 10th-place state team finish in 2022 were dashed late in the Class 5 state race. The sun broke through the clouds late in the Class 5 Boys race and it was strong enough to warm the temperature quickly during the final race of the meet, the Class 5 Girls race. That may have had an impact as McDevitt faded 70 spots in the final kilometer, leaving her out of contention for a 2nd straight All-State finish. Central placed 12th overall.
McDevitt and the Central ladies can keep their heads high as they've raised the bar for the program, won the conference title, and had an excellent season. In Huntsville, McDevitt will spike up one last time this season to have fun, put an exclamation point on a standout season, and gain experience for her final year-and-a-half of high school competition.
Lebanon's Abigail Tague made big strides in her sophomore season. A 37th-place Gans Creek Classic Gold finish in 20:06 was followed by a pair of wins, a 2nd-place Ozark Conference finish, and a 3rd-place District finish. At State, she ran to a 27th place finish in Class 5 to earn All-State honors.
Girls Silver Race
Pierce City All-Stater Emma Hunt will race in the Silver Race. The sophomore improved on her Class 2 state finish from a year ago by one place, taking 12th in 20:16. She earned a PR of 19:12 at the MOSO Stampede. She'll be joined in the Silver race by Central (Cape Girardeau)'s Emily Marriott.
Girls Bronze Race
In the Bronze race, Francis Howell's Rachel Holloman and Lindbergh's Cristina Soto are entered.