On Saturday, the cross country season officially kicked off in Southeast Missouri with the annual Jackson Invitational, where the host Indians had plenty of success.
Instead of there being two boys and girls races for varsity and junior varsity, there were instead eight races as each runner competed against their own grade level.
Jackson showed off its depth by winning not one but five of those eight races as the Indians girls team won three (juniors, sophomores and freshmen), while the boys team picked up two wins (seniors and freshmen). Each race was also only two miles because of the heat.
Four of Jackson’s runners even won their individual race as the Indians lone returning Class 5 All-State medalist Bryce Gentry won the senior race with a time of nine minutes, 46.9 seconds.
Also finishing in the top 10 to lead Jackson’s senior boys team to first place was Zach Brazel (eighth; 11:00.3) and Jack Hutson (10th; 11:05.5). Fellow seniors Elijah Bowyer and Lucas Bonnegent were the final two scores that went towards Jackson’s final score as they both placed in the top 30 at 22nd and 26th place, respectively, with times of 11:57.3 and 12:07.3.
Competing in the race against Jackson as well as three other Class 5 schools and one Class 4 team was Class 1 Oak Ridge, which took fifth overall. The Blue Jays had three seniors place in the top 20 as returning all-state medalist Brock Hobeck took 11th at 11:19.9, while Ty Wilson and Karson Ward finished 17th and 20th with finishes of 11:42 and 11:51.6, respectively.
Leading the Jackson girls junior team to its first-place finish was Annika Barks as she won the race individually by crossing the finish line at 12:41.3. The Indians had two more runners place in the top 10 of that race, which were MeKayla Dunn (4th place at 14:10.4) and Jenna Greene (eighth; 15:09.6).
All of Jackson’s top-five junior girls actually placed in the top 15 outside of Barks, Dunn and Greene as MaeLee Hale and Emmy Gross were 14th (16:16.8) and 15th overall (16:18.9).
Moving on to the underclassmen, the Indians girls sophomore team had four of their top-five finishers all finish in the top 10 to claim first. Winning the race individually was Anika Stephens with a time of 13:23.9, while Emma Niedbalski took fifth (13:46.2), Kalissa Smith eighth (13:58) and McKayla Shaw ninth (14:02.3). Emily Barks was the last score that went towards the sophomore team’s total as she placed 24th overall at 15:49.2.
Both of Jackson’s freshman teams took home first-place plaques as well with the girls team scoring 32 points while the boys were at 36.
One incomer who could have quite the freshman campaign for the Indians girls team is Lynlee LaValle, who won her race by posting a finish of 13:38.8, which was the third-fastest time for Jackson on Saturday only behind Barks and Stephens.
Also finishing in the top 10 for Jackson’s freshman girls team with LaValle was Maggie Crunloh (fifth place at 14:23.4) and Abigail Niedbalski (eighth; 14:46). Indians freshman Jolin Zhang and Alicia Glastetter both placed in the top 25 as Zhang was 12th at 15:19.8 and Glastetter was 25th (16:33.1).
For the Jackson boys freshman squad, none of its runners took first, but the Indians had three runners finish in sixth, seventh and eighth place to take home the title. Crossing the finish line first was Kenyan Kelpe for sixth place (11:31.5; fifth fastest time for Jackson boys at the invitational), while Lane McBryde (11:51.5) and Chase Wendel (11:52.5) took seventh and eighth.
Jackson had two more runners place in the top 20 as Josh Funk ended up 14th overall at 12:29.9, while Tower Eiwen took 20th with a time of 12:46.3.
Even though their respective teams didn’t win a race, Indians runners like senior Grace Kurtz and junior Chase Goodson still had top-10 finishes individually. Kurtz took seventh overall at 13:58 in her race, while Goodson came in at eighth with a finish of 11:17.4.
Outside of Oak Ridge’s senior boys, the Blue Jays had three other runners place in the top 20 of their races as well. Oak Ridge sophomores Parker Schoen and Jayden McAlister finished 10th (12:09.7) and 12th (12:22.5), respectively, while Cohen Hahs ended up in 16th place (11:54.6) in the junior race.
Saxony Lutheran’s girls team had not one but two juniors place in the top 10 of their race as Myra Roth took fifth overall at 14:10, followed up by Faith Dreyer with a time of 15:28.8 for a 10th-place finish.