COLUMBIA — In a preview of this fall’s state cross country meet, Liberty’s boys raced their way to a Gold Division team title while Liberty North’s Elizabeth Stinson and Smithville’s Olivia Littleton battled it out once again, and Kearney’s girls placed third in the Blue Division of the first Gans Creek Classic on Saturday, Sept. 28, at the new course at the Gans Creek Recreational Area.
The Blue Jays’ second through fifth runners packed well and Ryan Mata registered a personal best time of 16:19 to give Liberty a second straight boys win.
“It means a lot, it really does,” Liberty coach Jordan English said. “To win the first annual is something that you can’t take away from us. It’s just fun. It’s kind of the beginning of a new era for our state.”
Liberty beat out Festus by 10 points, the second week in a row the Blue Jays have done so. Festus beat Liberty in the Tim Nixon Invitational back on Sept. 7.
Mata led the Blue Jays in eighth place overall. He was followed by Brady Maher, who finished in 16:58 for 40th place; Anthony Savastino in 17:01 for 47th, Tyler Bolz in 17:07 for 53rd and Myles Thornburg in 17:17 for 63rd to wrap up the scoring.
“Ryan’s doing a really nice job out front this year and then we just have a pack on any given day that can get points for us,” English said.
Ellie Maynor led Liberty’s girls with a PR of 19:37 for a sixth-place finish. Sutton Richardson placed 40th with a time of 20:47 and Ella Lawrence 46th in 20:51 to help the Blue Jays to fifth place.
Sasha Hough finished in 78th place in 21:11 and Brooke Yeates was 84th in 21:16 to wrap Liberty’s scoring.
“We were thrilled to get that fifth-place finish,” English said. “They’re a young group and they just showed poise and composure.”
Stinson continued to impress with a strong third-place effort, edging area rival Olivia Littleton of Smithville. Stinson clocked in at 19:28 with Littleton trailing by a little more than one second.
Stinson trailed runner-up Makayla Clark of Lee’s Summit West (19:24) and champion Carolyn Ford of Rock Bridge (18:40).
Liberty North’s girls finished sixth as a team with Brooke Ware (20:57), Abigail Hedges (20:59) and Kirsten Johnson (21:00) placing between the 56th through 63rd places.
Shelby Johnson put a bow on the Eagles’ scoring in 96th place with a time of 21:23.
Liberty North’s boys also finished seventh as a team, led by Sam Travis’ 34th-place effort with a time of 16:53. Ethan Lee was two places behind Travis with his time of 16:56.
Jonathan House was the Eagles’ third finisher in 57th place, completing the course in 17:11. Justin King (74th, 17:23) and John Sieren (108th, 17:42) completed the scoring.
Littleton’s fourth-place run led the Warriors to 17th place in a competitive field flooded with the state’s top Class 4 and Class 3 talent.
Following Littleton was Riley Kochanowicz, who finished 83rd with a time of 21:14. Lillian Cutler (21:37), Emma Chevalier (21:44) and Avery Bannwarth (22:15) also contributed to points.
Unlike the girls squad, Smithville’s boys competed in the Blue Division. The Warriors finished eighth.
Jonah Palmer led the way with a time of 17:35 in 26th place.
Talon Scott placed 35th in 17:54 while Quinton Wilson was 66th in 18:27, Asa Kellner was 86th in 18:42 and Regan Dunn was 94th in 18:50.
Isabella Donze and Jillian Vaughn led Kearney’s girls to a third-place finish in the Blue Division race.
Donze ran a 20:55 on her way to a 16th-place finish. Vaughn crossed the line in 21:11 for 23rd place.
Also contributing for the Bulldogs was Abby Elam (42nd, 21:49), Abby Smith (60th, 22:33) and Aggie Edwards (83rd, 23:02).
On the boys side, Tyler Pedee posted Kearney’s best finish, traversing the course in 16:32 for 18th place.
Also finishing for the Bulldogs, who finished 30th overall, was Jacob Wootton (17:56), Isaiah Skidmore (18:11), Reed Beyeler (18:17) and Cameron Smith (19:01).