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Central's Leighton earns all-state honors at Class 4 state cross country meet
Central junior Billy Leighton tried to play it cool during Saturday's Class 4 state cross country race at Oak Hills Golf Center in Jefferson City, Mo.
"Most people at the state meet, they get really pumped, they get out really hard the first mile," he said. "The first two miles of the course really aren't that tough, but it was windy. As far as hills and elevation, it isn't too bad. It's the last mile where the hill is. That's where people usually die. I was thinking if I could get off more conservative, I could pick some more people off the last mile. So I got off at about 5:04 and I was around 24th or 25th, and I worked my way up to about 10th for the second mile, so it worked out."
Leighton's strategy at his first state cross country meet paid off in an all-state performance. He finished 11th in 16 minutes, 30.21 seconds.
"My goal was to get top 10 and I got 11th, so I was pretty close," he said. "I ran as hard as I could and I gave it everything I had. Just going up the hill, I had one guy pass me at the very end, but I was really happy to be close."
The Oak Ridge boys just missed out on a spot on the podium in Class 1. The Blue Jays finished fifth, just four points behind Hermitage.
"I told them beforehand that I thought we were probably the sixth team and we just had to put the pressure on those teams and hope one of them had a bad race and open it up for us to squeeze in," Oak Ridge coach Jason Niswonger said. "That did happen with a couple of them, but we weren't quite as strong on the back end as I'd hoped we'd be."
Junior Ethan Seyer paced Oak Ridge with an eighth-place finish in 17 minutes, 51.45 seconds.
"I knew I had to get out because when you have 170 or 180 guys, that's a big pack you can get scrunched into, so I knew I had to get out in that first half mile," Seyer said. "Then I was going to try to sit in about 15th place, whatever time that was going to be, at the mile. It turned out it was a 5:20, and I was in 13th or 14th, and ol' coach, he was hollering that I need to start working now, so I bumped up. By the two mile, I was in seventh, and I lost one spot on that very last hill before you go up. That was the strategy we were basically wanting."
Fellow Oak Ridge junior Corvin Schoen joined Seyer in earning all-state honors by taking 16th.
"I take lot of pride, considering my sister [Melinda] was an all-stater her senior year at Oak Ridge," Schoen said.
Niswonger was pleased with his team's performance, and said it can build off it next year since this year's squad did not feature any seniors.
"I definitely know what I have to work on, and I think that's the biggest thing with anything, knowing what you have to do better," Seyer said. "The big secret from year to year, in my opinion, is not getting cocky with yourself. I mean just because I was top 10 this year doesn't mean anything for next year, in my opinion. It's a good base, but it all starts again next year."
Advance's Braden Bien earned all-state honors with a 23rd-place finish. He crossed the line in 18:26.97.
The Oak Ridge girls grabbed seventh in the team standings, and that was without No. 1 runner McKenzie Elam, who injured her ankle during a volleyball practice and did not race Saturday.
"We struggled a bit today," Niswonger said about his girls team. "I don't know what caused it. I think we were a little bit let down when we knew our No. 1 wasn't going to be able to be out there. A few of our girls had been all-state before. The effort was there, it just seemed like we were running out of gas a little bit."
Lexi Wunderlich led the Blue Jays with a 37th-place finish.
St. Vincent senior Laura Steele followed her district title with an all-state performance. She finished 12th in Class 1, crossing the line in 21:49.40.
Class 1 results
Team standings -- 1. Linn 78; 2. Sparta 79; 3. West Platte 137; 4. Hermitage 168; 5. Oak Ridge 172; 6. St. Mary's-Independence 180; 7. Valle Catholic 181; 8. Vienna 183; 9. College Heights Christian 201; 10. Plato 211; 11. Lone Jack 261; 12. Marion County 299; 13. Van Buren 304; 14. Southwest-Washburn 326; 15. Silex 351; 16. Drexel 351
Oak Ridge -- 8. Ethan Seyer 17:51.45; 16. Corvin Schoen 18:20.92; 34. Jake LeGrand 18:55.95; 114. Jacob Seabaugh 20:20.31; 133. Gero Becker 21:00.83; 139. Adam Pleimann 21:10.07; 146. Austin Wunderlich 21:35.91
Advance -- 23. Braden Bien 18:26.97
St. Vincent -- 36. Jonathon Mienhardt 18:57.70; 68. Stephen Graf 19:26.10
Delta -- 78. Dwight Nance 19:37.17; 125. Caleb Amelunke 20:44.37
Meadow Heights -- 108. Ryan Foltz 20:09.55
Team standings -- 1. Russellville 86; 2. Salisbury 99; 3. Plato 108; 4. Midway 123; 5. Valle Catholic 141; 6. College Heights Christian 156; 7. Oak Ridge 187; 8. Kingsville 202; 9. Marion County 227; 10. Humansville 248; 11. St. Mary's-Independence 250; 12. Couch 162; 13. Vienna 264; 14. Maysville 302; 15. Sparta 382; 16. Wheaton 408
St. Vincent -- 12. Laura Steele 21:49.40
Oak Ridge -- 37. Lexi Wunderlich 23:14.40; 39. Amanda Lappe 23:15.73; 42. Carlie Bolen 23:22.12; 76. Kendra Kohler 24.19.89; 129. Chelsea Seyer 26:22.65
Chaffee -- 52. Molli McGowan 23:43.71; 82. Lyndsey Statler 24:27.92
Delta -- 112. Renae Bartels 25:32.73
Class 4 results
Jackson -- 38. Taylor Dickerson 20:36.38; 45. Lindsey Seabaugh 20:45.67; 127. Meg Fridley 21:55.75
Central -- 142. Laura Chavez 22:12.38
Central -- 11. Billy Leighton 16:30.21; 64. Brandon Bryant 17:15.87
Jackson -- 113. Riley Talbut 17:49.64