It was a wet, slick course at Oak Hills Golf Center for this year’s state championship cross country meet held on Saturday in Jefferson City.
The Jackson girls cross country team competed in the meet as a team and was able to place in the top 10 at ninth overall despite the conditions of the course.
“The rain changed up pre-meet plans for the teams because MSHSAA closed the course on Friday to attempt to preserve the course,” Jackson Head Coach Andrea Talley said. “Times were slower due to the mud and bad footing, which disappointed runners, but their efforts were tremendous.”
Crossing the finish line first for the Indians was senior Kennedy Bauer, who finished in 10th place with a time of 19 minutes, 30.06 seconds to garner Class 4 All-State honors for a second-straight year. Bauer took 17th place at 19:29.03 in last year’s race.
Bauer has officially committed to run cross country and track collegiately at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
“She has learned over the last four years that she could not reach her potential without running summer miles,” Coach Talley said. “Her improvement is directly related to her increase [in miles] over the past year and summer preseason. She has a very bright running future ahead of her at [UMKC].”
Finishing second for Jackson was fellow senior Kaylee Wilson, coming in at 42nd place with a time of 20:21.71 after not competing at state last year. Wilson was unable to qualify for state since she was still overcoming a hip injury she suffered her sophomore year.
Before Wilson was injured, she helped lead the team to its first-ever state championship by taking 17th place at 19:14.09 to garner all-state accolades herself.
Wilson has received several offers to run collegiately, but she has ultimately decided to join the Air Force following graduation.
“Kaylee could write a book after all that she has been through, and no matter what she has been faced with, she has bounced back and run strong for the team,” Talley said. “Kaylee has been an incredible leader for our program, and she has been a motivator not only at practice but also throughout summer preseason training.
“Her work ethic and mental toughness is something that will be difficult to replace. Her senior season has been a strong one and her 42nd-place finish was higher than her ranking going into state.”
The third finisher for Jackson also happened to be the third and final senior for the girls team, Faith Littleton. She finished the race 89th overall at 21:02.8.
Littleton failed to qualify for state her junior season, but she took 65th place at state with a time of 20:05.07 her sophomore year. Littleton will be attending college through a swimming scholarship, but she has yet to decide on a school.
“Faith is one of those rare athletes that do multiple sports,” Coach Talley said. “I am proud of Faith and her willingness to lead and compete for multiple programs — not an easy thing to do. Faith’s progress was limited a bit earlier this season due to a hip flexor strain, but her last three meets she has definitely rebounded.”
The final four finishers for Jackson were also first-time runners at the state meet as freshman Layla Fliege came in fourth for the Indians.
Fliege took 116th place with a time of 21:21.49 and was followed by fellow freshman Maite Mendez in 132nd place at 21:36.44.
Finishing next was sophomore Elizabeth Steele by coming in 143rd place at 21:48.27, while sophomore Sophie McCadams took 154th place (22:11.54).
“All of our girls in this senior class have done some incredible things,” Coach Talley said. “They all have athletic gifts, but what they have provided to our team and program goes far beyond the athletic part.
“If our younger team members have watched this group they will be champions in the future because they have followed tremendous examples to look up to and follow.”
Only one runner qualified for the boys team, which was junior Luke Wendel, who took 91st place at 17:29.75 in his first trip to state.
“Luke ran a solid race for his first time at state,” Talley said. “He has grown physically and athletically this past year, and he was our top athlete in summer miles. It is fitting that he is rewarded with a state berth. Much to look forward to next year.”