by Michael Smith
One of the goals for the Grain Valley boys cross country team was to qualify for the Missouri State High School Cross Country Championships.
The Eagles had to accomplish that against a tough field at the Class 5 District 4 meet Saturday at Jesse James Park in Kearney.
While they fell short of their ultimate goal, Grain Valley did the next best thing by qualifying three of their runners – Carson Hill, Rylan Smith and Landon Barnes all punched their ticket to Columbia by finishing in the top 30.
“Coming and looking at the rankings, we knew it was going to be close with some of those guys,” Grain Valley head coach Nick Small said. “They really stepped up today. They came up big in a tough district.”
As a team, Grain Valley finished sixth as a team with 146 points. Liberty North won with 25 points.
Carson Hill, who started his season late because of a knee injury, was sharp during the district race as he took 10th with a time of 16:38.30.
“I am very happy with my race,” Hill said. “This is the best race I have had in a while. I have recovered (from the injury). I am just getting back to fitness.”
Smith will be joining Hill at state for the first time as this is his first year running cross country. He was 23rd at 17:02.69.
“I kind of knew I was going to make it,” Smith said. “I am excited. I had a dog mentality going into it.”
Barnes just made the cut with a 28th-place finish with a time of 17:11.37.
“It was really close, too close for comfort,” Barnes said. “There’s a really bad hill there at the end. But I am really excited that I made it.
“My time was all right. This course is really hard so I probably wasn’t (going to get a personal record).”
Finishing outside the top 30 for the boys were Adrian Bobzien (17;33.42, 41st), Landon Blew (17:42.65, 46th) and Nathan Allen (18:11.31, 62nd).
For the girls, no one was able to push through the state field as the Eagles finished eighth with 239 points. Blue Springs won with 69 points.
Competing for the girls were Jordan Gossage (43rd, 21:27.20), Amyah Graybill (45th, 21:34.52), Kayley Bell (44th, 21:34.87), Lexie Nicholson (50th, 21:47.07), Braylin Larkin (66th, 22:47.94), Kelli Stevens (67th, 22:49.08) and Taylor Nicholson (83rd, 23:38.06).
“As far as placing, we have had better team finishes,” Small said. “But this was the best race of the girls’ season. They came ready to compete and they put themselves in a position to do something. They had no business even really racing where they did. They stepped up. They were just a little off.”
Grain Valley's Rylan Smith, left finished 23rd (17:02.69), Carson Hill was 10th (16:38.30) and Landon Barnes (not pictured) was 28th as those three qualified for state at the Class 5 District 4 meet Saturday at Jesse James Park at Kearney. Photo credit: Michael Smith