Last week, not only did Jackson senior Bryce Gentry lead the boys cross country team to win its 10th-straight SEMO Conference Championship, but he made history individually as well.
Gentry won the race for the second time in his career to become a two-time conference champion, and he broke the Indians 5,000-meter run record in the process by crossing the finish line at 15 minutes, 47.9 seconds.
“It means so much — I’ve been looking to break this school record for so long,” Gentry said. “It just feels so good — God’s good. I put my trust in Him, my training and my coaches. I just have such amazing people in my life like my parents, coaches, friends and family. I’m just so blessed for this amazing chance to break the school record, and I’m so happy about it.”
Bryce far and away came in first place for Jackson as the second-place finisher didn’t complete the race until the 17:19.8-mark, which was fellow Indians senior Jack Hutson.
Jackson had its top-five runners finish one through five as the next three Indians to cross the finish line were freshman Lane McBryde in third (17:52.1), junior Chase Goodson fourth (17:56.5) and senior Zach Brazel fifth (18:02.3).
Even though the Indians two runners outside of their top five didn’t count towards their final score, they still placed in the top 10 as well to earn all-conference honors. Sophomore Aidan Niedbalski placed sixth overall behind Brazel at 18:02.6, while freshman Kenyan Kelpe ended up taking ninth place with a time of 18:21.8.
“We have such amazing coaches here — Coach [Andrea] Talley has been coaching for so long, and she’s just an amazing coach,” Gentry said. “Also our new coach Bryan Kelpe has really changed our team a lot, too, and helped with our success. Our program is just so amazing.”
With only three other runners earning SEMO All-Conference medals outside of Jackson runners, only one of them was also in The Cash-Book Journal’s coverage area in Notre Dame sophomore Jackson Jones. He finished seventh overall close behind Brazel and Niedbalski by posting a time of 18:02.9.
The Indians won the race with a perfect score of 15 as Notre Dame finished in second with 69 points as the Bulldogs had three more runners finish inside the top 20. Senior Josh Schnurbusch took 11th place at 18:30.8, while senior Ben Schnurbusch finished 17th overall (18:46.3) and junior Carston Dannenmueller came in at 19th place (18:52.1).
Along with the boys team winning the conference race for the 10th year in a row, Jackson’s girls team captured its third-straight conference championship. While the Indians didn’t win the individual conference title, they still had four runners place in the top 10 for all-conference.
Finishing the race first for Jackson was junior Annika Barks as she took second overall at 19:59.1. This was the second year in a row Barks finished second in the race behind Notre Dame senior Lauren Eftink, who posted a time of 19:26.4.
Coming in third place behind these veteran runners was freshman Lynlee Lavalle as she completed the race at 20:45.8 for the Indians to become a first-time all-conference medalist. The next runners to cross the finish line for Jackson were sophomores Emma Niedbalski and Anika Stephens at sixth and seventh place with times of 21:12.7 and 21:13.4, respectively, to both earn all-conference.
The fifth and final finish to go towards Jackson’s final score of 27 was Indians freshman Abigail Niedbalski, who came up one spot shy of earning all-conference at 11th place (22:28.8). Indians senior Grace Kurtz ended the race right behind Niedbalski by posting a 23:07.7 to end up 12th overall.
Notre Dame scored a total of 49 points to finish in second place behind Jackson as sophomore Lily Coy placed in the top five with Eftink by taking fourth overall with a time of 20:56.1. The Bulldogs had three other runners place in the top 20 as well in freshman Maria Avila Henao (15th at 23:29.6), junior Kolby Grimes (16th; 23:55) and sophomore Anna Turner (20th; 25.21).
Jackson has one more race between now and the Class 5 District 1 Meet set for Oct. 28, which is this Saturday’s Dexter Invitational. The Indians boys team won districts last fall en route to placing fourth as a team at the Class 5 State Meet, where Gentry became an all-state medalist by placing 17th overall with a time of 16:00.2.
Jackson graduated four of its top-five runners from that fourth-place team, though, in Hunter Wendel, Cole Puls, Cade McCadams and Evan Kiefer. Brazel was the only other returning Indian besides Gentry who ran in last year’s state meet.