KEARNEY — For the first time since 2013, the Liberty boys and girls cross country teams have swept the district team championships.
The Blue Jays brought home the 2019 Class 4 District 8 team titles with exceptional performances all around on Saturday, Oct. 26, at Jesse James Park.
With the wins, both teams advance to the sectional meet on Saturday, Nov. 2 at the Wildflower Cross Country Course across from Liberty North.
“It says a lot about their hard work and the culture that we have right now,” Liberty coach Jordan English said. “We have a group of kids that are not afraid of hard work or the competition. It’s been big meet after big meet, so we’re ready for these championship type meets.”
The freshmen duo of Ellie Maynor and Sutton Richardson went 1-2 to set the pace for Liberty’s girls and the boys beat conference rival St. Joseph Central by 22 points.
Each Liberty girl turned in personal best times and five finished in the top 10 to tally 25 team points to beat runners-up Liberty North (43).
Maynor won the individual title, mastering the course in 19:17. Richardson followed with a time 19:25, while freshman Ella Lawrence took fifth in 10:06, sophomore Brooke Yeates eighth (20:17) and sophomore Sasha Hough ninth (20:27).
“It feels really good to come out here and run as a family. We’ve been running really well,” Maynor said. “I was trying to win, of course, but I just wanted to have fun.”
“The girls ran really well,” English said. “To go 1-2 with freshmen is fun and exciting and a little unexpected. But top to bottom the girls were strong. Everything was clicking.”
Maynor and Richardson held off Liberty North senior Elizabeth Stinson, who finished third.
“(Maynor) looked like she was in a perfect spot just sitting right on Elizabeth who obviously knows the course and is a fantastic racer,” English said. “We trusted Ellie to make a move when she feels like the time is right and she did that. (Sutton) has had some big performances in some big races, but nothing like today. It was a breakthrough for her.”
Senior Taylor Cummings and sophomore Kamden Ricklefs finished inside the top 25, with Cummings clocking in at 20:52 for 22nd place and Ricklefs at 20:55 for 24th.
Senior Ryan Mata took fourth with a time of 16:12 to lead Liberty’s boys.
“I knew it was going to be a competitive race,” Mata said. “We all knew who was going to be in that front pack. It’s always going to be close between us and Central.”
Freshman Myles Thornburg placed sixth in 16:19, while senior Anthony Savastino was 10th (16:33), sophomore Samuel Cleary 13th (16:39), junior Kenneth Lenger III 22nd (17:01), senior Tyler Bolz 24th (17:02) and senior Phillip Cleary 29th (17:10).
Stinson paced Liberty North’s girls to a second-place finish to qualify for sectionals.
Stinson, who finished in 19:49, was followed by junior Brooke Ware (20:06) and Abigail Hedges (20:13), who placed sixth and seventh place, respectively.
Junior Kaylee Smith was just outside the top 10 in 11th place with a time of 20:31. Sophomore Averi Overcast placed 16th after crossing the line in 20:43.
Then, senior Shelby Johnson came in 31st with a time of 21:12 and junior Kirsten Johnson was 33rd in 21:22.
Liberty North’s boys were 12 points shy of qualifying for sectionals as a team after a fifth-place effort.
The Eagles will send individuals Sam Travis, Ethan Lee and Justin King after they finished within the top 30 at districts.
Travis, a junior, posted a personal best time of 16:09 for third place in what he called his favorite course.
“I love that hill,” he said of the daunting hill in the final kilometer of the race. “Everybody else hates it so I have to love it. I was mentally ready to PR because I love this course.”
Lee, a sophomore, crossed the line in 16:27 to finish eighth. King, a junior, placed 23rd with a time of 17:01.
Other finishers for Liberty North were: freshman Grayson Tapp (17:11, 31st); junior Dylan Duncan (17:18, 32nd); junior Jonathan House (17:27, 37th); and senior Jakob Lewis (18:15, 48th).
Four Bulldogs advanced to the sectional race after Kearney’s boys and girls both finished seventh in their respective races.
Tyler Pedee took seventh place in the boys race to qualify, and Isabella Donze, Jillian Vaughn and Abby Elam all moved on for Kearney’s girls.
Pedee, a senior, traversed the course in 16:20 to qualify for sectionals. It was his best time on his home course.
“I felt pretty good,” he said. “It was more of a strategic race. I just tried to stay up there in the top pack. I know a lot of people don’t look at me as a fast runner in that top pack so I just wanted to stay up there and finish strong.”
Other Kearney male finishers were: junior Isaiah Skidmore (36th, 17:26); senior Cameron Smith (41st, 17:46); junior Reed Beyeler (46th, 18:08); junior Jacob Wootton (47th, 18:09); freshman Kyler Chappell (54th, 18:33); and sophomore Noah Thurston (57th, 18:49).
Donze, a freshman, took 14th place with her time of 20:37, while Vaughn, a junior, was six seconds behind in 17th place. Elam, a freshman, clocked in at 21:00 for 26th place, five places inside sectional qualification.
Junior Aggie Edwards placed 38th in 21:49, while Baylea Jones was 44th (22:12), Makenna Becker 46th (22:22) and Abigail Smith 48th (22:32).