The Southwest Trojans cross country team took a serious step toward being a district contender by winning the small schools division of the Monett Invitational on Tuesday, Sept. 16. Southwest bested a field of 13 complete teams, edging the East Newton Patriots by two points. Buffalo finished in third and Springfield Catholic was fourth.
Jacob Jennings and Caleb Mitchell paced the Trojan attack, placing fourth and fifth on the hilly course. Luke Hackett also earned a medal with his 19th place finish. Dillon Alley and Kyle Buttrum placed 23rd and 24th to complete the team scoring, and B.J. Wilson was 50th.
"Everyone ran exceptionally well today, but Dillon Alley made the most improvement and keyed the team to victory," said Coach Lee Stubblefield.
Alley, running in only his second high school cross country race, moved from 31st to 23rd in the last half mile to vault his team past East Newton in the team race.
A week later, the Trojans packed four runners in the top 20 enroute to winning the Division I boys race at the 2008 Nixa Invitational Cross Country Meet.
The Trojans finished atop the rankings of 14 complete teams with a score of 54 points. Springfield Catholic placed second with 70 points, and Buffalo was third with 93. Buffalo's Tyler Compton won the individual crown with a stellar 16:09 clocking.
Jennings again led the Southwest attack with his fourth place finish. Mitchell placed sixth, Hackett was 13th, and Buttrum was 16th as the Trojans collected four individual medals. Alley ended the scoring parade, taking 23rd, and Wilson finished in 40th position.
While the win wasn't quite the surprise the Trojans pulled by taking the Monett Invitational, it still left area coaches puzzled and wondering, "Is Southwest that good?"
"We are a solid small schools team, but we have a lot of room for improvement," explained 10th year coach Lee Stubblefield, who compared his team to Trojan powerhouses of old and offered some similarities to those district championship squads.
"We have two strong runners up front, we have senior leadership, and we have team chemistry," said Stubblefield. "Those are qualities that can carry a team through adversity and help them advance at the state level."
More meet results
The Southwest Trojans placed third in the small schools division of the Richard Clark Invitational at Springfield on Sept. 27. John Burroughs High School of St. Louis won the meet with 31 points. Springfield Catholic and Southwest both scored 69 points with Catholic winning on the sixth man tiebreaker.
Nick Evens, of John Burroughs, was the top small school runner, with a time of 16:59.77. Mitchell led the Trojans with his fourth place finish, followed by Jennings in fifth, Hackett in 18th, Buttrum in 20th, Alley in 22nd and Wilson in 34th.
This was the first year for the Richard Clark Invitational, named for the legendary former coach of the Missouri State Bears. The meet was held on the home course of Missouri State and had a championship atmosphere. For many runners, it was their first experience with racing on a collegiate course. The high tech chip timing was also new to some, although the MSHSAA championships used chip timing at the 2007 state championship meet.
While John Burroughs was the class of the field, the Trojans left with a taste of satisfaction.
"We were in the team race; we didn't get destroyed," said Coach Lee Stubblefield. "Our kids ran very well but so did Burroughs and Catholic. There's still over a month until the district meet and lots of miles to cover."
Southwest has meets remaining at East Newton, Diamond, Cassville and Reeds Spring, plus the 25th annual Southwest Invitational before the Class 2 District 7 Championships at Ash Grove on Nov. 1.