by Michael Smith
The strategy was clear for the Grain Valley girls cross country team.
The girls wanted to stay in a pack and finish around the same time at Saturday’s Suburban White Conference Championship meet at Grain Valley North Middle School.
While none of the Eagles finished in the top two, they had six runners finish third through to help the team finish first with 25 points. Platte County was second with 37 points.
“They came and executed the plan,” Grain Valley boys and girls cross country coach Nick Small said. “They came ready to go. I could tell in the team huddle before the meet that they were excited. You just have that feeling. They did well.”
They were led by Jordan Gossage, who finished third out of 23 runners with a time of 21:21.74. Just two weeks before the conference meet, Gossage and the rest of the Eagles competed at the same course at the Grain Valley Invitational, which helped prepare them for the numerous hills.
“We just all really wanted to win today,” Gossage said. “Our effort was really good and we tried really hard. It was the hardest we tried all season.
“I think I beat my time from last time. I believe that was my course (personal record). There was a lot I learned from the first time I raced on this course and applied it to today.”
Kayley Bell was right behind Gossage as she had one of her best races of the season, finishing fourth at 21:34.68.
“I think I did better than expected,” Bell said. “I had a good feeling about this race. It had a different atmosphere in practice. We had a former cross country athlete, Tyree Meadows, Zoomed in for one of our practices."
“He was super fast and he told us the things that motivated him when he raced and told us the things he wished he would have done differently. It was super inspiring.”
Rounding out the top six for Grain Valley were Lexie Nicholson (fifth, 21:42.30), Amyah Graybill (sixth, 21:47.29), Keili Stevens (seventh, 22:23.29) and Braylin Larkin (eighth, 22:33.01).
EAGLES BOYS TAKE SECOND
Even while missing two of its top seven runners, Grain Valley was still competitive.
That included the Eagles top runner, Carson Hill, who was on vacation with his family.
Grain Valley still finished with 32 points, however, just eight points behind first-place Platte County.
“We had a couple boys that stepped up,” Small said. “Platte County is really good and ran well today.”
One of the Eagles to step up was Rylan Smith, who finished second with a time of 17:05.43.
“I think I raced pretty good,” Smith said. “The Platte County guy behind me really pushed me and my teammate Landon Barnes. He just pushed me to keep going. It was a good race for everyone."
“Missing Carson was not great, but we still stayed mentally strong.”
Not too far behind Smith was Grain Valley’s Landon Barnes, who was fourth at 17:12.51. He is ranked 74th among all sophomores in the nation for most improved runners according to MileSplit USA.
“My coach told me about that, I was really surprised,” Barnes said of his national ranking. “I really enjoy running and I just put in the work.”
Rounding out the top six for the Eagles were Adrian Bobzien (seventh, 17:38.38), Landon Blew (eighth, 17:42.54), David Roberson (11th, 17:46.90) and Nathan Allen (14th, 18:21.37).
Grain Valley's Jordan Gossage finished third with a time of 21:21.74 at the Suburban White Conference Championships Saturday at Grain Valley North Middle School.
Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley's Kayley Bell finished fourth at 21:34.68. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Rylan Smith took second place with a time of 17:05.43. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Landon Barnes took fourth with a time of 17:12.51. Photo credit: Michael Smith