St. James Academy Caps Undefeated Season With Class 5A Girls Title

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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. Thomas Aquinas.

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.