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Polk Co. runners compete at state

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Over a pair of days Friday and Saturday, Nov. 6-7, Polk County’s cross country runners hit the Missouri High School Activities Association state championship course at the Gans Creek Recreation area in Columbia.

Athletes from four area schools — Bolivar, Fair Play, Marion C. Early and Pleasant Hope — competed, with several breaking onto the event’s medal stand. 


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Bolivar’s runners and coaches pose for a photo at the high school.

A team of Liberators and a pair of Lady Liberators raced on Friday, Nov. 6. 

Bolivar’s boys’ team finished fifth in the Class 4 race with 130 points, just after Chaminade College Preparatory, which had 128. 

Winner Festus had 45, while Bolivar rivals Webb City and West Plains tied with 97. 

A tiebreaker put Webb City second. 

Bolivar’s runners were led by Ethan Billingslea, who took 17th in 16:34.4. Cale Thiessen finished 24th in 16:42.4. Brett Pollock was 47th in 17:20.0, while Hunter Davis finished just three spots back in 50th, stopping the clock at 17:24.3. Bo Davis was 85th in 18:10.5. The Liberators were closed out by Solomon Manis, who ran 18:47.2 to finish 112th and Gavin Crawford, who took 139th in 19:26.7. 

Bolivar’s Cora Stimpson raced to 23rd, finishing in 19:42.0, while Liberator Emily Bandy did not compete.

The results come two years after the 2019 season, when Bolivar’s girls’ team claimed a state championship and its boys’ team finished second. 

Coach Vicki Newcomb summed up this year’s mixed results in a Facebook post. 

“Being a Liberator is something special,” she said. “Being a Liberator runner is family. It is difficult to swallow a fifth place finish by 2 points, an athlete that was unable to race due to a positive COVID test and a variety of other hardships encountered during a season, but I love this team, I love these athletes and I believe they each have an amazing future ahead of them. I am proud of you, and you bring honor to our school and community.”

Fair Play

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Members of Fair Play’s cross country team pose for a photo before boarding the bus for state. 

Fair Play’s boys team claimed 12th in the contest, combining for 252 points. Winning team Calvary Lutheran had 90.

“The Fair Play team ran very well, with several getting their best times of the year,” Coach Nancy Rea told the BH-FP. “Our seniors were able to cap off a great four years of running with a fifth, fourth, fourth, and finally a 12th place finish at state.”

Gabriel Foster led the Hornets Saturday, finishing 53rd in 18:46.0. He was followed closely by Everett Tyler in 60th at 18:55.9. Spencer Chance was 102nd in 19:57.6. Matt Storment and Dustin Sterling finished 126th and 127th in 20:42.0 and 20:42.7, respectively. Koda Wickland ran 22:16.9 for 159th and, at 22:20.6, Seth Lee wrapped things up for the Hornets, finishing 162nd. 

Rea said Sterling, Brian Schwartz, Lee, Chance and Tyler are the team’s seniors.  

“We will miss their experience next year,” she said. 

Marion C. Early

MCE sent a team to the girls’ race and a pair of runners to the boys’ race. 

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MCE coach Morgan Noblitt poses for a photo at the state cross country meet with all-state finisher Gavin Duchscherer.

The Lady Panthers finished 10th with 259 points. Winning team College Heights Christian had 91. 

Libby Painter led the Lady Panthers, running  23:35.6 for 40th. Maggie Painter was 74th in 24:40.7. Hanna Williams covered the course in 25:55.2 for 118th. Kirsten McGinnis was 125th in 26:28.1, while Lauren Taylor was 138th in 27:16.7 and Kylie Maxwell took 141st in 27:39.5. 

In the boys’ race, Gavin Duchscherer was MCE’s top finisher, taking 24th in 17:54.7. Landon Duchscherer was 91st in 19:38.2. 

In an email to the BH-FP, MCE coach Morgan Noblitt thanked the district and the community. 

Thank you all for your support and well wishes this season,” she wrote. 

Pleasant Hope

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Pleasant Hope runners Ilandria Shuler and Zane Hull pose for a photo in front of the MSHSAA banner. 

Pleasant Hope’s Zane Hull made history Friday, finishing 10th — the best placement of any Polk County runner — to net his school’s first all-state distinction, according to coach Brandon Sherrer. 

Hull ran the race in 16:54.5. 

In the girls’ race, teammate Ilandria Shuler took 42nd in 23:09.8. 

“They both ran very disciplined races and hit their goals,” Sherrer said. “It was exciting to see them set goals and then execute them. They are both dedicated to the sport and work at it year round.”

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