Despite the warm temperatures and long rolling hills, some of Missouri’s underclassmen flashed the times and performances that show they’ve arrived on the varsity scene.
Clinton sophomore Nicole Lee won the girls cross country race Thursday at the Grandview Invitational on the campus of Longview Community College, and Park Hill South freshman Tucker Melles took home the boys title. Lee sat off the pace group for the first half of the race, but she found the front-runners were not moving quite fast enough. “When we got out of the little forest area, I decided I had to run my pace,” Lee said. “I was trying to drift off them and just decided it was time to go.”
When Lee went, no one really followed and she opened a huge gap and crossed the finish line in 19:09. Julia Dury of Blue Springs was second at 19:34. Lee, who also won at the Bolivar Invitational and Cass County Invitational this year, said she’ll take away a better appreciation for running hills. “I try to learn something every race, learn a way to get better,” Lee said. “(The hills) hurt, but once you get up them, it’s better, especially on this course. There are a lot of them and it’s up and down and there are not a lot of flat places.”
At the start of the girls race, three Lee’s Summit North Broncos jumped to front of the field. A little more than a mile in and Dury had taken over pacing the race, and it wasn’t long after that Lee moved to the front. Most of the Lee’s Summit North girls were able to stay near the lead, and the Broncos finished with four runners in the top nine places to capture the team title with 37 points. North junior Carson Severson was in the initial lead pack, and she held on for a fourth-place finish (20:03) to lead her team to the title with 37 points. "Our coaches always tell us to get out fast because there are a lot of girls at the start,” Severson said. “That was the plan, to just stick at the front of the pack and push myself and make myself uncomfortable. “Our team motto is to pack without packing. We try to stick with the team, but get as far to the front as we can. I tried to get up with the front girls.” It was North’s first 5k of the season after running in two 4k meets. Severson said she could notice a difference. “Your legs are so tired and so dead, but you just don’t think about it much,” Severson said. “You just kept running.”
Blue Springs was runner-up with 44 points, and Notre Dame de Sion took third with 85.
In only his third meet, Melles continued to lower his time and posted a PR of 17:01. He also won the season-opener at the Bishop Miege Invitational in his first high school race. Melles said he had wanted to dip under 17 minutes Thursday. Not knowing the course may have cost him his goal.“I thought I knew the course until the second lap I had to pause and figure out where to go,” Melles said.That still didn’t stop him from posting a 21-second victory over Rockhurst’s Kevin Jantsch (17:22).“I was going to run with (William Chrisman’s Tristan Laughlin) until the two mile and try to break him there because he has a fast finish,” Melles said. “But the pace slowed down a lot and I kind of moved up.”Laughlin finished third in 17:23.
Despite holding several varsity runners out for Saturday’s Rim Rock Farm Classic, Rockhurst still ran away with the boys’ title with 39 points. After Jantsch, the Hawklets had their next four scoring runners into the chute in the top 13. Lee’s Summit North was second (80), and Blue Springs South took third (98).
In the JV races, Lee’s Summit North’s girls dominated with six runners scoring in the top 11, including the top two places by senior Ebony Hollinger (21:21) and sophomore Jesse Dinkins (21:23). Rockhurst’s Hunter Seabaugh captured the JV boys’ title in 18:12.