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Crusaders come up short in bid for third straight Class 1 crown
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Saxony Lutheran's two-year reign as the Class 1 boys cross country champion ended Saturday at the Oak Hills Golf Center, where the Crusaders had to settle for third place at the state cross country championship.
Lone Jack topped the field with 71 points, followed by Valley Park with 88 and Saxony with 96. West Platte rounded out the top four with 123 points.
"They ran well," Saxony coach Larry Cleair said of his team. "I don't know what we could have done. We just didn't have it today. The kids worked hard all season. They were an amazing bunch of kids."
The Crusaders returned three all-state runners and had four runners with state experience. Two of Saxony's three returning all-state runners ran worse times this season, including last year's Class 1 runner-up, Brandon Etzold. Etzold finished sixth to pace the Crusaders.
Peter Winningham improved upon his time from last year and finished 11th. Max Wieser, also an all-state runner last year, missed out on the top 25 and finished 27th.
"I don't know if we dropped our miles too soon," Cleair said. "We finished strong, but right there in the middle the kids just didn't have that punch. I think maybe I should have kept them away from the course, but the kids wanted to watch Potosi run. That was three hours at the course."
Saxony ran in the final race of the day at 1:10 p.m., three hours after Class 3 state champion Potosi started its race. The Crusaders looked strong early in the race, with three runners in the top 10. But several Saxony runners appeared to fade during the race.
Meanwhile, Lone Jack had the state champion in Grant Brown, and placed three runners in the top 12.
Valley Park had three runners in the top 15.
"I actually thought the kid from Crocker was going to be the kid to beat," Cleair said in reference to third-place finisher Nathan Rigsby. "He [Brown] ran well. The fact they had two kids in the top 10, any time you can do that that's great. We had two kids in the top 11.
"I knew our No. 5 could beat Valley Park's, and we did, but it wasn't enough."
Sophomore Bryant Steffens finished 39th for the Crusaders, and sophomore Ross Gage was the No. 5 runner in 45th.
Etzold and Winningham were the lone seniors among Saxony's seven runners. Etzold finished his career as a four-time all-state runner, and he placed in the top 10 his last three seasons.
"He was hoping for the No. 1 spot, but you can't let a bad race tarnish what he's done," Cleair said.
This was the fourth straight top-four finish for the 4-year-old Saxony program. The Crusaders finished fourth in their first trip to the state meet before winning back-to-back titles.
"I told the kids after the meet there's hundreds of teams in the state that would love to be on the podium for third place," Cleair said. "We've been spoiled. It's time to start working again and see if we can get back up there next season."
Also in the Class 1 boys race, Meadow Heights senior Terry Haffner finished all-state in 16th.
Team standings -- 1. Lone Jack 71, 2. Valley Park 88, 3. Saxony Lutheran 96, 4. West Platte 123, 16. Oak Ridge 354
Saxony Lutheran -- 6. Brandon Etzold 17:46.27, 11. Peter Winningham 18:03.65, 27. Max Wieser 18:29.63, 39. Bryant Steffens 18:44.86, 45. Ross Gage 18:52.71, 63. Sam Kluesner 19:13.93, 95. Andrew Etzold 19:51.56
Oak Ridge -- 43. Dustin Owens 18:50.64, 98. Garrett Light 19:54.35, 113. Caleb Schoen 20:16.41, 145. Kaz Lange 21:15.50, 152. Walter Ruesler 21:38.40, 153. Tyler Lappe 21:44.18, 159. A.J. Collins 22:23.06
Meadow Heights -- 16. Terry Haffner 18:11.55
Advance -- 55. Nate Middleton 19:05.00, 146. Cody VanGennip 21:15.83
Team standings -- 14. Meadow Heights 339, 16. Delta 424
Meadow Heights -- 85. Bethany Payne 24:20.13, 114. Erica Wilfong 25:46.07, 116. Jenna Hahs 25:50.41, 120. Rachel Bright 25:59.10, 133. Abi Wissore 27:23.80, 137. Riki Lacey 27:54.72
Delta -- 95. Jessica Kidd 24:54.59, 135. Amanda Seabaugh 27:38.69, 136. Amanda Drew 27:41.21, 145. Susannah Green 30:04.09, 150. Amanda Rozmirsky 41:03.00
Saxony Lutheran -- 46. Deanna Dippold 23:24.52
Oak Ridge -- 98. Erin Owens 25:01.51