Cross country climbs up on rankings

Josh Ripley

The photographer still hasnt told me these guys names
Freshmen Andrew Glass and Logan Buster participate in Liberty invitational. 
Photo by Kristin Buster

For the third straight season, expectations are high for both the RBHS boys and girls cross country teams.  Two years ago, both squads went nearly wire to wire as the number one squads in Missouri. The season culminated in the first state championship for the boys in school history and a second place finish for the girls.  Last year both teams entered the season ranked in the top six.  Each were top 10 mainstays the whole year until sickness hit the boys at state, resulting in a disappointing ninth place finish, and the girls just missed out on earning a trophy, coming in fifth.

This year, the Big River Running Company, the manufacturer of the state rankings, is again high on the Bruins.  Both the boys and girls teams are ranked second in the state at the start of the season.  The boys trail St. Louis University High School while the girls come in behind Lee’s Summit West.

Although neither team is starting off at the top, this doesn’t deter Bruins coach Neal Blackburn from establishing a set of  goals for his squad,  just a few of which include winning state championships and achieving a national ranking.

“We have an opportunity before us to make this season very special,” Blackburn said. “But in order to accomplish our myriad of goals, we’ve got to be healthy.”

Senior Evan Schulte, the Bruins’ No. 1 runner on the boys side, and the preseason No. 5 in the state, shared his coach’s goals for the season, comparing the current team to the state champions of 2011.

“As a team, I would like to win the State Championship and compete with the points we put up two years ago,” Schulte said.  “Individually I’m working hard towards a top 3 finish and possibly being in contention for winning the race.”

The Bruins No. 2 runner, senior Zach Cook,  echoed Schulte’s statements and reiterated that winning state was more of an expectation than a goal.

“This cross country season I expect to win state in November after an undefeated season,” Cook said.  “I think we can win state because we are returning four of our top five from last year, with seven people in front of our four from two years ago when we won state.”

Schulte further compared this season’s team to the team from two years ago, citing the Bruins wealth of depth as a big improvement.

“I think this year we have more depth with our varsity and JV team. In 2011 we had a clear top seven and then not as strong of a JV. Also, I think this year we have a better pack, which will allow us to move as a team throughout the race compared to having to run by yourself,” Schulte said. “And the big thing is we aren’t hyped this year.  No one knows we’re coming.”

RBHS runners begin their race Photo by Kristin Buster
RBHS runners begin their race
Photo by Kristin Buster

On the girls side, expectations are just as high.  Like the boys, four of their scoring five return this season from a year ago.  While not coming off as  confident as the boys, they still made it clear that a state title is the ultimate goal.

“For the team, I think we have a good shot at running for the state championship, but to get there we just need to run our best and get a few wins at smaller meets,” junior Sam Farmer said.  “For myself I’m just shooting for beating my personal bests from last year, and placing at state is also definitely a goal.”

Farmer said she feels she has gained a lot of experience since she took up cross country and feels the team has greatly improved as well.

“I know how to pace myself better on my workouts and I know the best ways to prepare for a hard run or a race, which I think will really help me to race better this season,” said Farmer.  “Since our team only lost one senior, Megan Schulte, it’s not really that different, but I feel like we are all way faster than last year.  I’m really confident we can be just as good, and probably better than we were last year.”

Sophomore Marilise Stamps said she feels winning state would be great, though it would not be essential for a successful season.

“I really hope we make it into the top four at state,” Stamps said. “Winning would be great, but I think that just showing how good we can be as a team and not just as individuals is really important.” 

Farmer agreed with Stamps’ views, saying winning state wouldn’t make or break the season.

“Coach always says that one meet doesn’t define your whole season, but still, the state championships matter a lot in my mind so I’m hoping we do really well there,” Stamps said. “But I would view the season as a success as long as we run the best times we’ve ever run and win some races.  That’s all you can really ask for.”
By Josh Ripley