There were quite a few Indians on the course Saturday at state as the Osage girls’ got to run as a team with seven runners and senior Derrick Puckett represented the boys in the Class 3 race in Jefferson City.

After finishing 14th in the state last year out of 16 teams, the Osage girls moved up a spot to 13th with 261 points in the final standings while Festus took the team title with 108 points respectively. It is a minor improvement, but an improvement and another step forward nonetheless.

“I know that we had hoped for a little bit better position, but we did see some improvement. The exciting thing is that of the seven that ran today, five are going to be back,” Osage coach Miriam Hill said. “Plus, we have others that are going to feed right into this top seven so it is exciting looking forward to next year and where we can go.”

Osage junior Micah Hill led the Indians with a 70th place time of 21:31 out of 165 runners, sophomore Neveah Henley took 77th at 21:40, senior Karlie Minnehan earned 83rd at 21:49, freshman Sara Wolf finished 96th at 22:07, sophomore Sarah Porter came in 108th at 22:22, freshman Alana Douglas put up a 120th place finish at 22:39 and senior Reagen Page took 153rd in the state at 24:32.

It may have not been the most ideal finish for Osage, but the continuity of qualifying an entire team at state for two straight years is a trend the coach is undoubtedly pleased to see.

“That is exciting that they are developing a tradition that I think will carry for a long time. If you look at where we ran, we were a tight pack,” Hill remarked. “That is what is really cool to see is how tight our pack has gotten between our No. 1 runner and our No. 5, six and seven runners and that is going to carry over to next year.”

Micah, who competed in her third straight state meet, likes nothing more than being able to run with some familiar faces.

“My freshman year it was just me and my sister and you stand in a box with other schools. Whenever you get your own box to yourself with a team, it is pretty awesome,” the junior said. “When you look over and got a teammate right there, it is a confidence-booster. You’ve got people on the course that know what you are capable of, how hard you’ve worked and they want it for you just as much as you want it for them.

“It is nice to have that on the course and it is like getting to run with my sister again. This time, I’ve got six sisters out there with me so that is fun.”

Having three freshmen on the team, the state experience early in their cross country careers will be invaluable going forward and Micah said the team is looking forward to getting back to work.

“I was really proud of the team. Wit three of the girls not running on the course before, they ran awesome and everyone showed up and competed so I’m glad we got to see what we need to work on,” she noted. “Half of our girls have already talked about setting up a workout plan for this winter and what we are going to do during track season. We are super excited just to see that it is possible and next year we want to be on that stand with the plaque. I think everyone is really excited to go in the offseason and work real hard so we can be here again next year.”

Puckett did not hold anything back in his final race with the Indians.

The senior, racing in his first and only state race, took 99th out of 167 runners with a time of 18:17 and said he was pretty satisfied with his performance.

“I had nothing left and it was my last one so it was all I got or nothing. I may not get this chance again so this was a great experience for me,” Puckett stated. “I wish my team could have been there with me, but it is nice knowing I can run for them and seeing them here and supporting me really pushed me further.

“I did not run the time I wanted to, but pushing it is enough for me because it is not if you win the race, but how you race. Racing for them was great for me so I was happy.”

Another thing that pushed the senior further was the level of competition.

“I wish they were slower,” Puckett joked in reference to the other runners. “They were fast and competitive and they are the best at what they do so they pushed me further. I feel like I could not have pushed myself as hard without them so to compete at this level was a big accomplishment.”

Someone else who was pleased with Puckett’s efforts was Hill who noted that the senior ran a phenomenal race.

“He was our only guy to qualify and he got out there and competed just like he needed to,” the coach said. “It was one of those things where he did not just get there and say, ‘Oh I made it.’ It was a good race for him.

“We have 10 seniors leaving the team though and that is going to be tough in regards to the leadership qualities they brought to this team. But at the same time, they have worked well with our younger runners so they have definitely left a mark and a good foundation for us to build on,” the coach added.

Puckett offered praise for his coaches as well in helping him get to the state level as the senior hopes his running career will continue beyond high school and into the college ranks.

“They got me here and without them I could not be the best I could be. I hope to be better in the future and a lot of that is due to them,” the senior said of the coaches. “I’m going to have to push myself harder in track and I still have Coach Hill for that. I am happy I still have this last year to do so.”

The experience of running with the best in Missouri is something Puckett is hoping his other teammates will get to experience as well.

“Push as hard as you can because I wish I would have done it sooner than my sophomore year,” the senior offered in terms of advice. “With the amount of time and effort I put in and the coaches gave back to me, it pushed me to be at this level and it is a great feeling to accomplish what I did. I hope everybody gets to that level.”

Now that another season of cross country has come to a close, Hill is already excited for the future. To make improvements, the coach said a few hills will be involved.

“Fortunately for where we live, hills are not an issue to find every day in all of our workouts. I think the big thing for us is just to get stronger, continue to grow together as a team and get that pack even closer together for next year,” she said.

Hill also said there is plenty of potential among this personnel as well.

“We have several eighth graders moving in that are exceptionally strong. We’ve got several runners that were basically our junior varsity squad that are going to add to what is leaving. Plus, we keep adding young runners so it is going to be exciting,” the coach pointed out. “Even though our boys were fourth at districts this year, it is one of those things where if I had them one more year I think we could have been up there. For the girls too, I think the major breakthrough is going to come next year.”