by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley boys and girls teams hadn’t run the cross country course at Grain Valley North Middle School all season.
Junior Carson Hill has never run on the course even though it’s located in his hometown.
That didn’t stop him or his boys team from having a strong showing at the eighth annual Sock It To Cancer Grain Valley Invitational Saturday. In fact, Hill won the individual title, while his team also finished atop the podium with 22 points.
The girls team took second with 48 points. Blue Springs won with 32.
Hill easily took first with a time of 16:39. He finished ahead of teammate Mason McCain, who was a second-place finisher at 17:05.8. It was Hill’s third first-place finish of the year.
“I always aim for first, but I undoubtedly knew I’d get it today,” Hill said.
Grain Valley head coach Nick Small said Hill has been a leader for the team and has displayed a team-first mentality.
“We’re excited about his progression,” Small said of Hill. “He broke the course record today and that was cool to see happen. He has his head on straight and he’s a humble kind of guy. I am excited to see what he can do moving forward.”
The course was a difficult one for some runs as it featured many hills during the final mile. But it was something McCain was used to.
“I live about a mile from here,” McCain said. “I run here often. I am pretty used to this course, and I think it was pretty fun.”
“We came out pretty hard and tried to hang on for as long as possible. It’s pretty fun to be able to run with Carson for a little bit.”
Small said he’s been impressed with how much McCain has improved since the beginning of the season.
“He has improved his mindset and his approach,” Small said of McCain. “Being teammates with Carson has helped him a lot and has helped him realize that he can run with those top guys.”
Rounding out the times for Grain Valley were sophomore Adrian Bobzien (fourth, 18:00.5), senior Jackson Williams (seventh, 18:38.4), sophomore Chris Fossinger (eighth, 18:45), freshman David Roberson (13th, 19:06.9) and freshman Landon Barnes (15th, 19:06.9).
“I think our team has a legitimate shot to make state as a team,” McCain said. “We were all right at the beginning of the season. Now everyone is focused.
For the girls team, Ella Casey led the way for the Eagles as she took third with a time of 20:58.1. While it’s a strong finish, the senior wasn’t satisfied with the result.
“I wasn’t super happy with it,” Casey said of her final time, but it’s not bad considering the conditions of this course.
“Right at the 2K mark, it’s really hilly. My time was a lot slower than usual but that’s taking into account all of the hills.”
Like Hill and McCain, Small has noticed improvement from Casey.
“She’s kind of turned the corner, too,” Small said. “She has made a lot of progress this season. Ella has ups and downs, but this season, she has really decided to get after it since it’s her senior year. I have been excited about her season.”
Finishing second on the team and seventh overall was freshman Amyah Grayball, who finished at 21:24.
“I felt good. It was a nice day,” Graybill said. “There’s a lot of incline on this course. You really have to lean into it.
“I wasn’t really expecting a (personal record) because of all the hills on this course.”
Rounding out the times for Grain Valley were sophomore Kayley Bell (10th, 21:37.9), junior Lexie Nicholson (12th, 22:00.3), freshman Jordan Gossage (16th, 22:12.7) and senior Gabby Valverde (17th, 22:21.6).
“Our last race, we were almost back-to-back finishing,” Graybill said. “We stayed pretty close together. That’s something we are good at.”