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Cross Country

2021 Jackson Cross Country Preview: Indians relying on experience, depth and togetherness

Last fall for the first time in six years, both the Jackson boys and girls cross country teams were able to qualify for the state championship meet in the same season.

The Indians boys team was able to finish in the top 10 of the Class 4 State Meet by taking ninth overall as three of its runners placed in the top 60.

Crossing the finish line first for Jackson was 2020 graduate Evan Stephens, who placed 36th overall at state, while now junior Cade McCadams and another graduate Jake Eastin took 53rd and 56th, respectively.

Jackson’s next two runners in its top five was junior Hunter Wendel and sophomore Bryce Gentry. Wendel finished in 101st place as Gentry was the 116th overall runner to cross the finish line.

The Indians last two runners, whose scores didn’t count towards the final total, to compete at state were junior Cole Puls (122nd place) and graduate Clayton Greenlee (151st).

Other runners for the boys team this season will be seniors Bryce Bell, Sam Malone, Jack Lacey, junior Evan Kiefer and sophomore Zach Brazel.

Returners who earned Class 5 District 1 All-District honors for last fall’s district championship squad were McCadams (second-place finish), Wendel (ninth) and Gentry (10th).

Jackson’s boys team also won its seventh-straight SEMO Conference Championship as three returning runners earned all-conference: McCadams (runner-up), Wendel (fifth) and Puls (eighth).

On the girls side, Jackson finished 13th overall out of the 16 total teams competing at the state championship meet as three Indians ended up in the top 80.

The first female runner to cross the finish line for Jackson was senior Addie Heisserer, who took 38th overall. On top of that, Heisserer won the individual Class 4 District 1 Championship.

Crossing the finish line after Heisserer for the Indians was 2020 graduate Elizabeth Steele as she managed to take 40th place. The third and final runner for Jackson to finish inside the top 80 was senior Layla Fliege at 80th overall.

Steele was the only varsity runner from last season the girls team graduated as other runners like seniors Brooklyn Burgess, Maite Mendez, juniors Mallorie Metzger, Mara Wilson, London Popp and Sadie Middleton will all be in the mix and add depth.

Burgess and Middleton rounded out the top five at state for Jackson by coming in a 143rd and 146th place, respectively. Even though their scores didn’t count against the final total, Mendez and Wilson ran at state as well and placed in the top 160.

The girls team also won a Class 5 District 1 title last fall and return three runners who earned all-district. Outside of reigning district champion Heisserer, Fliege and Burgess took home all-district honors as well by placing sixth and 10th overall, respectively.

These Indians failed to win what would’ve been their sixth-straight conference title last fall, but they still had three returning runners earn all-conference. Heisserer took fourth place as Fliege and Mendez finished seventh and 10th.

One of the main goals for this season Jackson head coach Andrea Talley has for both teams — on top of repeating as district champions and staying healthy — is for her runners to come together as a team and form a strong, supportive unit. She believes this will be the key for their success this fall.

It was also help when the teams enter the postseason because Class 5 is narrowing down its districts into four instead of eight from last season. This means there will be over 20 teams in each district, which will make it much more difficult for not only runners to earn all-district but more importantly for teams to qualify for state.

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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