JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Herculaneum’s Kaitlyn Fischer was on a mission.
She had her track gold medals, but the state cross country title had eluded her for three years. Both Saga Barzowski and Courtney Rogers, the two girls who account for the past three Class 2 state titles, were in the field once again.
Fischer left little doubt about the race Saturday. She blazed a path to the front of the pack and never looked back to claim her cross country title in a Class 2 record time of 18:40.97.
“I just decided not to worry about anyone else, do my own thing, and see where that takes me,” Fischer said. “I just pretend I’m the only one out there.”
Fischer took a different approach by figuring out how to relax more. She also changed up her training. Instead of trying to push every mile and every stride, Fischer started her training runs at a more comfortable pace and would slowly ramp up to run negative splits throughout the workout.
“Last year, about the end of the year, I decided that I was doing all the wrong things by putting all this pressure on myself,” Fischer said. “I decided that in order for me to succeed I needed to relax more and let things happen the way their supposed to happen and see where it would take me. It took me to the right place.
“I would’ve loved to have been state champion my first three years, but I don’t think I would’ve appreciated it as much as I do now.”
Fischer will take an official visit to Missouri next week while she continues her preparations for the Foot Locker Midwest Regional.
Defending state champion Barzowski was runner-up in 19:35, and Rogers took third in 19:48.
Fischer not only dominated the race, but she set the tone for the Blackcats to win their second consecutive state title with 89 points, and their 11th championship overall. Barzowski’s Arcadia Valley was second with 130.
First-year Herculaneum coach Kyle Davis said there was no pressure to live up to the Herculaneum tradition, and the program’s successes and support the team receives made his transition easier.
It also helped having runners like Fischer and junior Kaylin Manes, who went from being the team’s fifth runner at districts to the No. 2 spot at state with a 25th-place finish.
“It’s not that big of a surprise because our two through five are so close on the girls,” Davis said. “She was obviously ready to run at a slightly higher today and got the last all-state spot. That’s big for her because her freshman year she was 26th, and last year she wasn’t even around it.”
The Herculaneum boys secured a runner-up trophy despite scoring five points less (108) than what last year’s championship squad posted. Lamar was the state champion with 69 points, and Kaden Overstreet led the way with a second-place finish.
Barstow senior Deko Ricketts posted a 17:02 to claim the individual title.