A total of eight Lake area runners from School of the Osage, Eldon, Macks Creek and Climax Springs represented their schools among the best in the state of Missouri on Saturday at the state championships in Jefferson City.
It all came down to one final race.
A total of eight Lake area runners from School of the Osage, Eldon, Macks Creek and Climax Springs represented their schools among the best in the state of Missouri on Saturday at the state championships in Jefferson City and all the miles of wear and tear and efforts to continually shave off time throughout the season boiled down to one final 3.1 mile race on a cool and overcast day at the Oak Hills Golf Course.
While the task of winning a state title or bringing home a medal and earning All-State recognition proved difficult to attain, the opportunity to do so was something each school was proud to have and there were plenty of smiles around the finish line as runners were greeted by coaches, teammates, friends and family.
Once again, School of the Osage brought multiple runners to the final show and it is a tradition Coach Miriam Hill was happy to see continue in 2018.
“It has been awesome. The program at Osage started in 2005 and to continue to have runners up here every year is great,” the coach stated. “We were able to bring some of our younger runners to see what the course is like and give them that edge to look forward to next year and see how much better they can be on the state course.”
This time, there were five runners representing the Indians in the Class 3 championships as sophomore Sara Wolf, junior Sarah Porter and senior Micah Hill represented the girls while junior Chase Grosvenor and sophomore John Markovitz represented the boys.
In a field of 164, Grosvenor posted the top Osage time at 17:55.18 to finish 44th in the boys’ race while Markovitz claimed 80th at 18:24. The girls were led by Wolf who captured 63rd in a field of 164 with a time of 21:59.52 while Porter finished 65th at 22:00.58 and Hill earned 74th at 22:13.86.
“I thought overall, the performance was really good. It went really well in regards to the course just being a little bit sloppy,” Hill said in reference to the weather conditions. “That did not hinder them and we saw an improvement in times for almost all our runners so we always like seeing that.”
While Osage did not get to utilize a full team as has been the case in years past, just having familiar faces around can make a huge difference in the way a runner feels leading up to the final race.
“I wish we could have had our whole team out here, but the girls I was able to run with this year were a blessing,” said Wolf who was competing in her second straight state meet and was glad to see her time and place in the standings improve. “It is always a true gift to run with them and I never take any of that for granted. Micah is a senior and it has been a real joy to run with her and everyone else.”
Coach Hill knows full well that having teammates to run with helps and it is a testament to the team aspect of a sport based on individual performances.
“They train together as a team, hang out together as a team and push each other,” she remarked. “Even in the workouts and races, just by running together as a team is where they are seeing their success. That is what it is going to take next year to see that success in the girls and boys’ side if we want to bring a full team up here next year.”
Grosvenor was happy to run with Markovitz as well and commended his teammate for his performance. Running at state was a new experience for Grosvenor and the junior said the first time was not so bad.
“It was really fun. Constantly going up and over the hills and constantly passing people was pretty good,” he noted.
“I kind of did not expect to be last in the very beginning, but I just ran my race and came out pretty good. I got the time I wanted.”
With another year left under his belt, Grosvenor is hungry for improvement.
“Probably have to put in a lot more work so I can stay with the bigger packs and get better,” he said. “I look forward to being back here next year.”
The same goes for Wolf who was al dual-sport athlete also playing volleyball for Osage at the same time. The sophomore noted that there would be plenty of running in her future.
“I did not get to practice as much as I wanted to this year. I only practiced once a week, but the time I did get to spend with my teammates was a true blessing and I enjoyed every moment of it,” Wolf said of her schedule.
“I’m looking forward to it and I’m extremely excited. I’m planning on running a lot more this winter and through the summer so I can improve my times even more.”
It was a bittersweet race for Hill as her daughter Micah ran her last race for the Indians. The senior was the last of the Hills to run for Osage as there has been at least one of them running for the program since 2010. As a former collegiate runner herself, the coach said it has been fun to see her kids choose the same sport.
“It is going to be kind of nice not to have to be worried as a mom about my child’s performance and to have that off to the wayside now,” Hill said with a smile. “I just have to worry about the team and not have both sides as a mom and coach.”
Speaking of the road ahead, the offseason will be busy.
“We’ve got several that participate in winter sports, but the rest of them are already making plans to keep the mileage up this winter so we can be stronger in track season. It will lead to better base building through the summer and next fall,” Hill said.
It has been quite a journey for Eldon junior Caleb Martonfi.
Craving the chance to run the longer distances, Martonfi shifted a few miles west on Highway 52 from Tuscumbia to Eldon this year to have the opportunity to run cross country instead of just track. It was a decision he was glad he made as he ended up becoming a state qualifier in his first season running cross country for the Mustangs. While he noted how much he enjoyed his time in Tuscumbia and how good the track program was, Martonfi said it was nice to have a few more people around who love to run as well.
“There were not a lot of people who did track so to be able to run with a group of kids that have the same interest as you is a lot of fun. I’ve really enjoyed Eldon this year,” he said.
“I’m proud to be a Mustang.”
Martonfi said he ran a lot of hills in Tuscumbia, which helped with his success this fall as he picked up a few medals along the way. As the lone runner to represent Eldon at state, the junior finished 69th in the Class 3 boys’ race with a time of 18:17.21.
“It was cool. There are so many people here so you don’t know where to look,” Martonfi said, reflecting on his first trip to state. “It was a lot of fun to run against a lot of really fast people.”
For Martonfi, Saturday’s race was all about beating the pack of runners before him and conquering hills in a field of 164. He said he felt pretty satisfied about meeting those goals and it was no surprise to Eldon coach David Norman.
“Caleb’s work ethic is probably stronger than most people on Earth. He is a smart runner, which I think is one of the reasons why he is so successful in this sport because Caleb is calculating,” Norman stated. “He pays attention to times, he pays attention to technique and he pays attention to those people he knows he has to pace with and then pass. His talent exists in his capability to think on the course. It is a combination of both talent and intelligence.”
One of Norman’s mottos for his runners this season was “Better, Faster, Smarter, Stronger” and Martonfi met the description.
“Caleb embodied each and every one of those terms. He is a phenomenal kid who is going to lead us into bigger and better things next year,” Norman said.
Just like Martonfi, it was Norman’s first season with Eldon and the coach said he likes where he is at.
“It has been amazing. The kids are incredibly motivated and we have a lot of things we need to make sure we focus on for next season, but having a state qualifier is a success in itself,” the coach said. “As long as Eldon is represented here, I think we have done a very good job with the program and there is only better things to happen later.”
Norman said the focus in the offseason would be closing the gaps between runners and getting out of the comfort zone to shave off times and not plateau. Martonfi, for one, is looking forward to getting a head start on 2019.
“Our coach was new this year so he came out about halfway through the summer. Next year, I think he is going to have us do a lot more training throughout the summer,” the junior said. “I hope to bring some other people back with me next year.”
Macks Creek had a runner at state for the first time in 17 years.
Freshman Molly Phillips had the privilege of representing the Pirates after the program was brought back this fall and she finished 75th out of 154 runners in the Class 1 girls’ race with a time of 25:10.56.
“I think today went really well. She ran great, even though the course was muddy and slick,” Macks Creek coach Kathryn Allen said. “She did an amazing job.”
Phillips noted she was not particulary used to running on a golf course of all places, but had a pretty good time taking on some of the best runners in Missouri.
“It was pretty cool. I was not really expecting a course like this with all the hills,” the freshman said of running at state for the first time. “I ran a course with hills before on a golf course, but this was definitely a new experience and really different.”
Having that state experience under her belt, she wants to make a habit of coming back and bringing a few more Pirates with her over the next few years as well.
“I want to do it again. I want to keep going and keep pushing myself so maybe I can move up a few places next time,” she said. “I’m hoping we can rally the girls and boys in our school so we can push ourselves and maybe one year compete as a team. That would be so cool.”
After producing a state qualifier in the first season, Allen said motivation should not be an issue for other Pirate runners who are already talking about next year and doing as many workouts as possible.
“I think it is going to push them even further,” the coach said of her team that was comprised of two girls and seven boys this season. “We had a late start in practicing so next year we are going to kick it into high gear and I am hoping to see more.”
As for Phillips, the freshman plans to do everything in her power to keep raising the bar and shaving off time and Allen said she should not have any trouble with meeting her goals as she runs a few more 5Ks in the offseason.
“I think she is ecstatic,” Allen noted. “Now that she has been here and knows what it is like, I think she has set that personal goal and she is going to achieve it.”
Climax Springs sophomore Abigale Wolfe is no stranger to state.
As a freshman, Wolfe was one of the first Cougars to represent her school among the best in Missouri and she was glad to be back for another run in 2018. This time, she placed 95th with a time of 25:32.27 in the 3.1 mile run.
“It was really good,” she said of the race. “We had a really great season so I’m happy to be back here.
“My mindset was just to get my time lower than last year and get a better place... I really tried to push up those hills and gave it all I got so I could go downhill and get a better time.”
Climax Springs coach Tim Thebeau was also glad to be back in Jefferson City and noted that several other Cougars were close to joining Wolfe on the course. It was a sign of growth for the young two-year program and Wolfe did not disappoint either as all the hill training throughout the year paid off with each stride.
“Abi did a great job. I think she took around two minutes off her time from last year so she did a great job running this year,” the coach said.
“As she gets more miles on her body, she’ll continue to take time off so we’re looking forward to some good things.”
Thebeau said one of the keys to Wolfe’s success was having teammates who would push her and each other to improve those times as they fed off each other. The coach also noted that Wolfe was a good leader.
“She is a good example of a leader with her teammates and I’m sure they will follow her example,” the coach said. “We brought some here this year that have never been here before just to let them experience it and they were a little overwhelmed. That is good for them and it will make them better next year.”
Climax Springs will be starting a track and field program for the first time this spring so that should only help in the effort to improve times.
“It is going to be an exciting time and I cannot wait,” Thebeau said of the road ahead.