LIBERTY — Prior to the team’s first competition of the season, Liberty cross country coach Jordan English wasn’t sure what he had in his youthful girls varsity squad.
Then, three freshmen finished within the team’s top-4 as the Blue Jays posted a runner-up finish in the Gold Division of the second annual Tim Nixon Invitational Saturday, Sept. 7, on the Wildflower Cross Country Course near Liberty North High School.
It was easy to understand why English didn’t originally know much about his girls team.Freshman Ellie Maynor led Liberty in her debut race, traversing the 5K course in 20 minutes, 9 seconds, placing fifth in the division.
“I think Ellie set the standard for us moving forward to take big risks and benefit from that,” English said. “It’s so fun to see freshmen that are willing to go out there and take a risk in their first 5Ks. We try to preach that, to be willing to take a chance and go.”
Liberty’s next three finishers placed 12th through 14th. Freshman Sutton Richardson finished in 20:46 for 12th while sophomore and state qualifier Brooke Yeates clocked in at 20:51 for 13th and freshmen Ella Lawrence with a time of 20:52 was 14th.
“It’s incredible,” English said of his top female finishers. “And then the other freshmen filling in and our senior closing the door, Taylor (Cummings), and she’ll be a big piece for us moving forward ... . Really excited to get those girls going.”
Cummings, a senior, crossed the line in 21:33 and in 25th to officially put five Liberty runners within the top-25 in the division. Other finishers for the Blue Jays include sophomores Sasha Hough (21:38, 32nd), Kamden Ricklefs (22:02, 40th) and Amanda Seggerman (22:03, 41st).
Liberty’s boys also earned a second-place finish in their debut race.
Senior Ryan Mata ran a 16:21 to finish fifth in the division. The eight other Liberty runners packed together for most of the race and finished between the 18th and 35th places.
“I thought they ran really well,” English said. “They raced really well as a team. That’s the best part — when you look up and see your guys working together on the course. It makes me a proud coach.”
Senior Anthony Savastino was the Blue Jays’ second finisher as he ran a 17:01 to finish in 18th place. Freshman Myles Thornburg registered a 17:09 for 20th place in his first high school race.
Junior Brady Maher finished the race in 17:15 to place 23rd while sophomore Samuel Cleary (17:17) placed 25th, senior Justin Steffensmeier (17:31) took 29th, senior Tyler Bolz (17:31) finished 30th, junior Kenneth Lenger III (17:38) was 34th and senior Phillip Cleary (17:39) was 35th.
Stinson wins gold
Elizabeth Stinson is acclimating well to the now-familiar course in Wildflower, which sits across the street from Liberty North High School.
Stinson, a Liberty North senior, earned top honors in the Gold Division after running a 19:35.
“I was excited to get out here and race, and I hope this shows what this season has in store for us,” said Stinson, who took second overall to Gold Division champ Olivia Littleton of Smithville. “I knew Olivia was a strong competitor so I knew it’d be a good race.”
Stinson paced her Eagles to a third-place finish in the team standings. Junior Brooke Ware finished in 21:05 for 18th place, while senior Shelby Johnson (21:32) placed 24th, freshman Abigail Hedges (21:35) was 27th, junior Kirsten Johnson (21:36) was 30th, junior Kaylee Smith (21:42), sophomore Averi Overcast (22:12) was 44th and junior Hailey Wineland (22:45) was 54th.
It’s a course in which all Liberty North runners are getting more familiar with, Stinson said. The Eagles and other area runners will return to two more times for conference and sectionals.
“It’s definitely our home course now. We come here so much now,” she said. “I like running it because you know all the secret spots where you can surge and where the hills are.”
On the boys side, sophomore Ethan Lee and junior Sam Travis led the Eagles with 11th and 13th place finishes, respectively, as the team placed fifth. Lee crossed the finish line in 16:47 while Travis came in at 16:53.
Senior Jakob Lewis clocked in at 17:25 for 28th place while junior Justin King finished in 17:34 for 32nd. Freshman Grayson Tapp (17:35) was 33rd, junior Jonathan House (18:08) was 45th and junior Luis Perez-Ruiz (18:50) was 62nd.