Camdenton, Osage and Macks Creek cross country take on large field at Ha Ha Tonka

MICHAEL LOSCH, Lake Sun Sports Editor
Osage's John Markovitz crosses the finish line in a race at Ha Ha Tonka State Park on Saturday, October 3. Markovitz medaled in the race with a 12th place finish in the small school division

The vast open field that is Collins Farm at Ha Ha Tonka State Park is like a second home to Camdenton coach Lauren Moriearty.

A former runner herself for the Lakers who now leads the program, it has been the site of many workouts in the summers and throughout the season and it has also been the place where the Lakers have hosted their annual invitational for many years. The race Camdenton just hosted on Saturday may have been as big as any as the Lakers, Osage and Macks Creek were among 47 registered schools in action. There were six different races held for three different tiers of competition and just in varsity action alone, 253 boys and 223 girls crossed the finish line.

“Every year it gets a little bit better. We mowed a little further this year so we could start getting some nicer grass on the edges and stuff, but we love this place and I think we have established ourselves as a great venue and great meet,” Moriearty said. “We hope people keep coming back.”

Just like years past, schools were split up into large and small divisions and due to coronavirus precautions, the only thing missing was the ice cream cake awarded to the top teams and an awards ceremony after the races.

Among the large schools, the Camdenton girls finished 11th out of 21 schools with 357 points among those who registered enough runners for team competition. Rock Bridge finished first with 53 points, respectively. Meanwhile, the Osage girls finished sixth among small schools with 133 points as Mexico won the team competition with 71 points.

Rock Bridge earned the sweep overall amongst large schools as the boys finished with 44 points. Camdenton, competing as a team for the first time this season, finished 23rd among 24 schools with 642 total points. The Osage boys finished ninth among small schools with 204 points while East Newton won the event with 56 points.

Macks Creek did not compete in the team competition of either race, but Coach Paige Alexander saw some good signs as nearly every Pirate racer improved their times from about 30 seconds to an entire minute from where they were a season ago.

“Some even got almost two minutes off their last race time. Every kid ran hard, pushed themselves and you could tell at the end of the race, just the way they finished compared to what they usually do, everyone finished with everything they had,” the coach noted. “Their finished were all sprints and not jogging through and I’m proud of every single one of them.

“We are 30 seconds to a minute faster of where we were at in this meet last year so that is good for the end of the year and where we are going to be at that point,” Alexander noted, with the postseason just around the corner.

Molly Phillips led the Macks Creek girls, finishing 24th amongst the 71 runners in the small school division with a time of 22:52 and Alyssa Gabriel finished 65th with a time of 27:30. Meanwhile, Caleb Phillips crossed the finish line for the Pirate boys in 39th place among 92 small school runners at 18:52 while Kyler Gabriel earned 68th at 19:59, Grant English placed 74th at 20:41 and Oliver Sanchez Chavez finished 90th at 25:14.

“We were really nervous coming in just because there were so many large schools and we are really small in that situation, but my kids found kids in bigger schools they were pacing with and they got up there,” Alexander pointed out.

“If we were running among smaller schools at these times we’d be at the front of the pack and medaling all of our kids today. But, that motivation from the bigger schools and not wanting to be caught in the back, they pushed themselves even harder so the individual race to find someone was awesome. The fact we were able to run completely outside of our comfort zone today and put them ahead that much was great.”

Macks Creek will race again at Buffalo on Thursday at 4 p.m., but all roads will lead to Hermitage at the end of the year for districts on a course the Pirates have already had the privilege of running. For the time being, Alexander wants her runners to improve times on some flat courses coming up, but also be ready to surge the hills at Hermitage. Good thing the Pirates have some natural hills around school grounds.

“The main thing is just learning to surge up hills, increase those flat times and getting faster overall. We had good times last year so I think if we can just keep increasing where we are this year, it is going to have us in great standings for the end of this year at districts,” she said.

With a prior scheduled meet being cancelled, School of the Osage had the privilege of racing for a second time this season on the course at Ha Ha Tonka on Saturday after the Lakers previously hosted a small meet for schools that were having trouble finding them due to coronavirus concerns. It was a rare opportunity to compare times on the same course in one season.

“We had the last minute race out here a couple weeks ago that Coach Moriearty put on and it was awesome,” Hill said of the prior event. “It was a chance for us to get out here when we lost a meet so this was a good way for us to gauge where we are two weeks ago. It was a great opportunity to see the improvement, which we have from two weeks ago to this week.”

John Markowitz was able to medal for the boys by finishing in the top 20 amongst 92 in his division with a 12th place time of 17:32. Dylan Barnett crossed the finish line in 32nd at 18:38, Jasen Groll finished 43rd at 19:07, Caden Wyrick was 62nd at 19:44, Caleb Klaus was 78th at 20:59 and Nathaniel Stombaugh was 88th at 22:55.

The Osage girls were led by Isabella Lopez who finished 27th at 23:06 amongst the 71 small school runners. Katherine Wolf was right behind her in 28th at 23:21, Jocelynn Welch was 30th at 23:36, Abby Maschhoff was 33rd at 23:40, Grace Martin was 51st at 24:43, Maya Miller was 56th at 25:03 and Campbell Walters was 62nd at 25:45.

“It was good for us to run in a tight pack like that with some great competition,” Hill said. “For one, it showed our kids what it takes to be good and it is that summer mileage that our kids did, but they saw a lot of teams out here that probably did some more than we did. Now, we know where we are and what we need to do to go from the level we are at to the next level.”

Up next for Osage is the Tri-County Conference meet all Eldon on October 15 at 4 p.m. The Indians will also be racing districts at Hermitage this season and Hill said she is glad her team has some great hills to train on that will help her team do well. But first, the Indians have a pair of conference titles to defend after sweeping for a pair of championships a season ago.

“Probably just consistent training,” the coach said of the road ahead. “We see where we are at today and it is going to be that consistent training we’ve had from our runners this season and it is going to have to stay that way. We still had a few quarantined and today we had several runners at volleyball so hopefully, in a week and a half we’ll have everyone together and have a great race and in three weeks, a great district meet.”

Camdenton’s Cambrie Kowal led the pack of Laker girls with a 25th place time at 20:22 in the large school division featuring 152 total runners, just five spots away from a medal. Madelyn Coffelt finished 55th for the Lakers at 21:31, Alexis Stroup was 73rd at 21:53, Kylie Doyle was 94th at 22:25, Ava Canales was 138th at 24:41, McKenna Demark was 141st at 25:07 and Emily Willis was 148th at 27:32.

“Cam has been crushing it this year. I think the COVID shutdown last year was probably the best thing to happen to her running,” Moriearty said of Kowal. “She usually plays soccer in the spring, but that was not a thing so she just crushed miles and it set her up to be in a really good spot for summer training. This season, she is setting personal records all the time and is currently ranked fifth in our district and you have to be top 15 to go to state so she has got a really good shot to move on. We are pretty excited about that.”

And Moriearty was proud of the girls overall as the team had goals of beating Bolivar and Rolla in the team standings and succeeded in that Ozark Conference endeavor. Moriearty said the girls were happy to get a some personal records and even for the ones who did not, she noted there has been consistent improvement and not obtaining a personal record for one single week is not exactly the end of the world.

The Camdenton boys were paced by Benjamin Hauck who finished 106th among 161 runners in the large school division with a time of 18:21. Blake Roettgen was 131st at 19:14, Kam Durnin was right behind him in 132nd at 19:16, Aidan Dowdney was 137th at 19:32, Wesley Lahay was 150th at 21:26 and Jonah Rapp was 158th at 22:52.

“We’ve had some kids come out of other sports just to race with us on the weekends, which is nice,” Moriearty noted, also mentioning that she got a uniform for Rapp out of her car on race day morning for his first race of the season after he had just been in the pool for a swimming meet for the Lakers the night before. Ben ran a great race with Blake, Aidan and Kam filling in next and I think they all got personal records or most of them did, if not all of them. That was a really good effort from the guys.”

Camdenton’s next scheduled race is the Ozark Conference meet on October 17 and then it is on to the postseason two weeks after that with districts. Moriearty said she is not necessarily worried about the team aspect of things with the boys but just consistent improvement since that is a brand new development. However, she is confident that the girls have the capability of reaching state as a team.

“West Plains is in our district so they are going to go,” she said of a traditionally strong Zizzers program, “but then, it is between us, Bolivar and probably Warrensburg for that second spot and quite frankly, I think it could be any of us three. On the girls team we’ve been focusing a little bit more on how we work as a team, race as a team and make sure we are all doing our parts to get this team forward. Focusing more on the team aspect, but they are all just learning how to race because out of the seven girls we ran today, five of them are new to the sport.”

Time will tell what conference and districts have in store, but two former Lakers who know a little about that were present Saturday morning at Ha Ha Tonka cheering on their former program. Claire Holmes (2020) and Garrett Mason (2019), who now both run at Missouri S&T in Rolla, were back after recently competing in their first collegiate races of the season.

“It is so fun, they keep in touch and are so excited to see the team be successful. They want to come back and have a hand in it,” Moriearty said of a tradition she once took part in when she was a collegiate runner.

“You come back and all the team flocks around you and are so excited to hear about college and what you are doing. This just helps support our program because the kids see, ‘Ok, I can go on and do this in college,’ and these kids are excited about it and become lifelong runners and friends. We are thrilled we have people who want to come back and hang out with us.”