Lakers and Indians pick up medals while Macks Creek improves times
It was a nice cool Saturday morning at Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Camdenton as 30 teams and 689 runners gathered for the annual Laker Invitational.
Runners from Camdenton, Osage and Macks Creek were among them and dedals, reserved for the top 20 in each division, were the prize of the day. Even some ice cream cake awaited the top two teams of each large and small school division. It was the largest race Camdenton has put on yet and it is one Coach David Weber loves to host every single year. Cutting the grass, marking the field and setting up tents and posts are all worth it to give a large field of runners a venue to improve their times.
“We don’t mind doing it because we love these kids in cross country. I was telling a coach earlier that coaching cross country and the kids in this sport is unlike anything else,” Weber said. “When you have kids come up and shake your hand just for the fact you put on a great race, it means a lot and that does not happen in other sports. I’m very proud of my assistants for helping me out all these years.”
Camdenton and Osage were able to pick up some medals on the 3.1 mile course and Macks Creek runners were able to attain some nice finishes as well.
Camdenton finished with a pair of medalists in Jake Thoenen and Clare Holmes as the boys finished 12th overall amongst 14 teams in the large school division while the girls captured 11th among 13 other schools who qualified for team competition. It may not be as high a finish as the hosts wanted, but a lot of personal records and improvements came along the way.
“We saw some good ‘PRs’ (personal records) out there and saw some kids beat kids they have not beat before in a couple of instances. That was really nice,” Weber said.
“When you come out and knock 15 to 45 seconds off your personal best you’ve had a good race.”
Thoenen led the boys in a field of 91 runners with a time of 16:45 to capture 14th while Benjamin Hauck finished 38th at 17:38, Aidan Downey 80th at 19:52, Zach Davis 84th at 20:13 and Gage Ulrich 90th at 21:39. The Lakers had 303 while Jefferson City won the day with 52 points.
“My goal was 16:45 and that happened to be what I got exactly. Throughout the entire race I was really focused,” said Thoenen who made a mental note that any feeling of discomfort was only temporary. “I was in this pack and my coach told me if I want to get 16:45 I had to stay with them. So, I had to fight really hard and it was tough, but I stuck with it and was really proud at the end.”
Weber noted that Thoenen did not have his best day in a previous race at Hermitage after taking some time away to visit the Coast Guard Academy, but made a strong comeback on home turf.
“I was glad to see him race well today and that was a big confidence booster for him,” the coach said.
Meanwhile, Holmes led the pack for the Lakers when the ladies took the course as she finished fifth amongst 88 runners in the large school division with a time of 20:09. Cambrie Kowal took 25th at 21:41, Maria Alfaro 67th at 23:45, Maeven Weber 79th at 25:28, Adrienne Hafley 85th at 27:33 and Emily Willis 87th at 28:46.
Holmes, who only began racing cross country this season upon the suggestion of some track and field teammates who ran the 800, has put together a nice start with three medals in three races.
“I just kind of started out wanting to get better for track, but it turned out I’m good at running cross country. It is so much fun and I enjoy being here,” Holmes said.
“It was exciting just hearing all my friends, family and teammates along every part of the way cheering for me and having the local crowd being at home and a place I’m used to. It was awesome.”
Holmes noted that she still felt she did not have her best performance on Saturday and Weber knew this as well, noting the new runner’s potential. Fifth place in a field of 88 runners is not a bad floor to have whatsoever.
“I think it is a lot of the fact that she is new to this. This is her third race and she is running against girls- some her age or younger- but they all have a lot more experience,” the coach pointed out. “She is still figuring this thing out, but I think the plan we have for her is going to be ok and get her through over these next few weeks. She is competing against girls that have been running hard all summer long and when she was doing two sports she really had about half the distance of the other girls.
“If you can run an ok race and still finish in the top five I’d say you still had a pretty good day.”
Camdenton will now prepare for the Ozark Conference meet at Lake Springfield on Saturday and districts will take place on October 26. Weber said both are really solid tests for his runners as only the top 14 in each race earn All-Conference honors while districts will feature some of the best in the state.
“I’m excited for a couple of our kids I think have an opportunity to shine at those meets and hopefully get to where they want to be. I’ll be honest, it will be the toughest road we’ve ever had to get to state probably in the last seven or eight years,” the coach pointed out. “It will be fast and tough, but we have to be up for the challenge, work hard over the next few weeks, rest at the right time, roll the dice as hard as we can and hopefully it works out well.”
Osage finished with a trio of medalist in both races of the small school division.
Chase Grosvenor, John Markovitz and Harrison Adams earned medals for the boys who finished fourth among nine schools. The Indians had 94 points while Bolivar took home the title with 28.
“I love to see our boys in those top numbers, yet I am no longer surprised by it. I know how hard they work and every practice they put in reassures me that is where they belong,” Osage boys coach Michael Klaus said. “They are hard on each other to stay strict to the workouts we design for them and don’t let each other slack off. That self-discipline is what we coaches strive for.”
Grosvenor was the top Indian with a time of 16:43 to finish second in the field of 74 while Markovitz captured 13th at 17:38, Adams 19th at 17:47, James Sparks 32nd at 18:37, Ryan Page 36th at 18:57, Caden Wyrick 49th at 19:49 and Dylan Barnett 56th at 20:21.
“It kind of worked in my favor getting stuck at the back of the pack because I had to work and fight for every single place,” Grosvenor said of the race. “I went from eighth to last to 14th overall. It helped keep my mind on the race and keep pushing forward.”
Going forward, Klaus said the formula is simple.
“Train, refuel, rest, repeat. We are still talking about this same cycle each day like we were at the beginning of the season,” he noted. “I am still working on positive mental states because it can be easy to be come complacent.”
Sarah Porter, Sara Wolf and Bayley Johnson medaled for a girls team that finished third among eight in the division with 94 points compared to Fatima’s first place finish with 45.
“It is always great to see the girls finish strong,” Osage girls coach Miriam Hill said. “Camdenton is as close as we get to a home meet so it is always a fun meet, especially since most parents and extended families are able to attend.
Porter led the charge with an eighth place time of 20:44 amongst 62 runners while Wolf finished 14th at 21:37, Johnson 16th at 21:54, Nevaeh Henley 23rd at 23:06, Madison Kessler 38th at 24:01.7, Abby Maschhoff 39th at 24:01.95 and Cammy Walters 49th at 25:47.
“To medal again is pretty cool. With this being a flat course you don’t have those big hills to give you the advantage to get around and pass people,” Wolf said of the race. “You can’t really settle in, you have to go out and get the ones in front of you.”
Now, Osage must continue to take care of the little things as both the girls and boys will race for Tri-County Conference bragging rights at Eldon on October 17.
“Focus on the little things outside of practice like hydration, nutrition and rest,” Hill said. “We will really be focusing on foot speed the next 10 days.”
Macks Creek sent four runners in total to Ha Ha Tonka and although the Pirates were not in team competition, the challenge to improve times was a successful one.
Molly Phillips led the girls with a 32nd place time of 23:38 in the small school division while Chelsey Brown captured 61st at 32:23. The boys were led by Austin Brown who finished 58th at 20:28 while Preston Borgmeyer finished 74th at 25:58.
“I thought my runners did great in such a big meet Saturday. They were really nervous about the number of runners and the sizes of schools, but I just made sure to remind them that we are running against our times and not for placement,” Macks Creek coach Paige Alexander said, noting that Phillips and both Browns were able to set some personal records. “Bringing home medals are great, but at this point we are fighting to get those times shaved down to be competitive in our district meet.”
Macks Creek will race in Buffalo on Thursday.
“I expect my runners to practice with the mindset to work hard and improve each day,” Alexander said. “Cross country is a long season and sometimes athletes start to get burnt out... Finding ways to bring fun to practice is my job and bringing that positive, work hard mentality is the job of my athletes.”