Cross country to participate in inaugural Gans Creek Classic

Jared Geyer

After much anticipation, the Gans Creek Recreation Area cross country course will officially open and host the RBHS cross country (RBXC) team in the first ever Gans Creek Classic meet this Saturday. The newly created path near Tolton Catholic High School will also be the location of the 2019 Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) State Cross Country Championships Nov. 9.

Measuring 5,000 meters long, the route includes extra spectator berms, elevated land that overlooks the route, that will allow athletes and parents a better look at more of the Gans Creek recreation area.
Coach Neal Blackburn is a director of the inaugural meet along with Erika Coffman of Columbia Parks and Recreation. Blackburn does not see the close proximity to RBHS as a leg up on the competition, just as a bonus to the training program.

“Having a course of this magnitude in our community hasn’t impacted us yet,” Blackburn said. “But the future will allow us to occasionally run out there which may not necessarily be an advantage competitively as much as it’s just a nice soft surface to run.”

Did You Know. . . ?
– The course has a 500-meter starting chute – There is a permanent start line structure, finish line structure and various – The cross country course at Gans Creek Recreation Area is being planned in cooperation with the University of Missouri, to potentially serve as the future home of the Mizzou men’s and women’s cross country teams. – The project’s budget was $200,000 [Source: https://www.como.gov/parksandrec/cip/capital-improvement-project-gcra-cross-country/]

The boys’ and girls’ varsity teams psychologically and physically prepare for Gans Creek throughout the week. Senior varsity runner Jack Stevens said he believes the goal for the boys is to always win, no matter what. As the Gans Creek Classic impends, Stevens talked about how he mentally plans for the upcoming meet.

“It’s different for each person and each team, but I know for the guy’s side, we’re hungry. We’ve had some ups and downs the past season, and this time everything is on the line: no slacking, no settling,” Stevens said, referring to the determination they have to improve on last years 15th place finish at state. “We’ve always been a top program in the state, and we will settle for nothing less.”

Sophomore Maci Steuber wants to approach the meet with an open mind. The route contains a lot of unknowns, she said, but she hopes to block out the distractions. Team building events such as pasta parties as a driving force behind the teamwork of the girls varsity team as they race together at each meet. Gans Creek will be the third event RBXC attends, after the Ames Invitational, where both varsity teams took first place and Forest Park Invitational where girls’ varsity got first place and boys’ varsity took fourth.

“Most importantly, [the team’s goal should] be to not over exaggerate the meet. The meet will allow teams to analyze the season state course, along with define rankings throughout the Columbia teams,” Steuber said. “This can automatically draw lots of attention to the meet, resulting in an anxious mindset. The girls’ varsity [will be] walking into Gans Creek with the mentality of any other race. We are here to compete.”

Blackburn hopes the comradery shown through the conversation during runs and group focus during workouts will translate well into Gans Creek.

“I expect our teams to take racing risks and run for one another. Accomplishments will take care of themselves,” Blackburn said. “Preparation is our daily journey in the form of what we discuss at practice and the training that follows.”

What are your thoughts on the new Gans Creek course? Let us know in the comments below.