St. James Academy scored the first team state championship
in the school's short history, fighting off a relentless Mill Valley girls'
team for the class 5A crown Saturday at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence.
It is the first state cross country championship at St. James Academy, which opened its doors in 2005.
It also capped an undefeated season for St. James against
Kansas schools. Counting the state championship, St. James won seven meets this
season with a 65-0 record against Kansas schools. The squad also had beaten all
Missouri schools it faced this season, ending with a combined record of 78-0.
On Saturday, they were pushed to the limit in an exciting
team race with Mill Valley. St. James looked to have a comfortable lead early
on as Sarah Murrow (18:49.48), Katie Moore (19:01.03), and Mary O'Connor
(19:05.89) placed second, third and fourth.
But Mill Valley's wicked Pack Attack soon followed as
Delaney Kemp (fifth), Morgan Koca (eighth) and Molly Ricker (tenth) led the
chase. Kemp was timed in 19:09.43, and just 28 seconds later, they had their
five runners in.
Both teams had to wait nervously while the team scores were
tallied, but as it turned out, St. James' 2-3-4 finish was much too much for
Mill Valley to make up.
Five-time defending state champion St. Thomas Aquinas placed
third with 85 points, led by junior Olivia Sovereign, who successfully defended
her individual title with a time of 18:36.50. Maize South, which had won the
class 4A state title last year, was fourth, just seven points back of St.
In the boys' race, three-time defending state champion St.
Thomas Aquinas had to sweat it out, but the Saints successfully defended their
class 5A boys title.
Aquinas junior Ethan Marshall won the individual title in an
epic battle with Great Bend's Kerby Depenbusch and St. James Academy's Jack
Moore. Marshall roared down the stretch to win in 15:38.02 with Depenbusch
(15:41.20) and Moore (15:46.93) in hot pursuit.
Then St. Thomas Aquinas had to sweat it out. Reece Jones
placed fifth in 16:01.79, but then came a wave of Mill Valley runners. Greg
Haynes crossed in 10th place at 16:09.35 and just 20 seconds later the Jaguars
had their fifth runner in.
St. Thomas Aquinas' pack was not nearly so tight. It took
the Saints 1:01 to get their top five to the finish line, but it turned out
that the front-running strength of Marshall and Jones was plenty good for the
team title. St. Thomas Aquinas scored 61 points to Mill Valley's 72.
It was the fourth straight state title for St. Thomas
Aquinas' boys, and the eighth championship overall for the boys' program. The girls'
program also has eight state titles, giving St. Thomas Aquinas a total of 16.
Mill Valley, despite a pair of runner-up finishes, was
certainly remarkable on Saturday. The squad put on a clinic in pack running in
both the girls' and boys' divisions. Saturday's finishes marked another close
call for the state title, but as the saying goes, if you keep knocking at the
door, pretty soon you're going to get in.