It's never a good thing when the games committee suspends uniform rules at the state cross country meet due to deteriorating weather conditions.
After a gorgeous first weekend of November for district and sectional competition, the elements loomed as an added obstacle for the hundreds of runners who thronged to Oak Hills in Jefferson City for the championship races. Blustery winds, overcast skies, and temperatures that hovered in the mid-30's challenged runners as much as the fabled hills of the state course.
Both West Plains and Herculaneum claimed boys and girls titles in their respective divisions, and Joplin's College Heights Christian School flirted with perfection in Class 1 Boys.
Emily Beaver, of College Heights, ran away with the Class 1 girls race in 19:41 and earned back-to-back individual titles. The Penney girls, coached by the legendary Mark Vollmer, won their fifth consecutive team title.
Midway, Marion County and Rockport followed Penney in team standings.
Leah Jones, a Wheaton senior, was the highest placing Barry County girl, taking 65th. Audrey Patton, of Purdy, finished 83rd in the field of 158 runners.
Jones and her Wheaton teammates -- Shannon Burns (92nd), Samantha Etzler (133rd), Brittney Peters (143rd), Shirley Galvan (151st), Raschelle Hickman (153rd) and Jessica Pettengill (156th) -- placed 14th in the team standings in Class 1 girls.
College Heights' chase for perfection fell just short in the Class 1 boys race. Brent Collins, of Hermitage, earned a spot in cross country lore by finishing fourth and breaking up CH's hopes of claiming the top five spots for a perfect score. Trenton Morris, of College Heights, won the race in 16:39, and his Cougar teammates finished second, third, fifth and sixth for a winning total of 18.
West Platte, Hermitage and Saxony Lutheran took the remaining trophies.
Ben Cooper, of Wheaton, led local runners, taking 43rd. Josiah Jones and Trenton Patton, of Purdy, finished 93rd and 94th respectively, and Jakob Beck, of Wheaton, was 119th.
Led by Arielle Miller's fourth place finish, the East Newton Lady Patriots earned their first ever state trophy, taking second behind Herculaneum in Class 2 girls. East Newton is coached by Jake Holt, an All-State runner for Southwest back in 1994.
Lutheran St. Peters was third and Blair Oaks was fourth.
Tyler Compton, of Buffalo, led wire-to-wire and won the Class 2 boys division in 16:44. Herculaneum overpowered the field, winning the team title with 44 points. St. Pius X, Bowling Green and John Burroughs placed second, third and fourth in the team rankings.
Coach Holt's East Newton boys finished sixth after squeezing past Southwest by a point at the District 7 meet a week earlier. James Selby led the Patriots in 20th place.
Holden, the District 7 champion, could only manage ninth place after one of their top runners was severely spiked in the early going. "He'll probably need stitches," reported Holden's coach, Dale Wescott.
Southwest's Jacob Jennings raced to 39th position. The Trojans' Luke Hackett and Dillon Alley placed 99th and 115th. Caleb Mitchell, of Southwest, was a late scratch due to a foot injury he suffered at district competition.
In a closer-than-expected team battle, West Plains held off Kearney 75-78 for the Class 3 girls title. Festus was third on the strength of individual winner, Alyssa Allison. St. Genevieve was fourth in team standings.
Hannah Martin, of Monett, was 44th, while Jessica Barrientos and Tia Baker placed 116th and 130th for Cassville's Ladycats.
West Plains matched Herculaneum's Class 2 heroics, winning both the boys and girls titles. Jacob Swearingen, of Potosi, turned in the fastest time of the day, winning in 15:38.
West Plains, wearing their traditional candy-striped shorts, was led by Philip Palomino in fifth. Notre Dame (Cape Girardeau), Potosi and Helias claimed the remaining trophies.
Steven Noriega, a senior from Monett, placed 81st.
Lee's Summit West won the Class 4 girls title, followed by Jefferson City, Central (Cape Girardeau) and Springfield's Kickapoo High School. Emily Sisson, of Parkway, won with a stellar 17:57 clocking.
Kevin Colon, of Lee's Summit West, held off a strong field of Class 4 boys to win, and his LSW team claimed the top trophy as well, scoring 53 points to upset heavily favored St. Louis University High. SLUH was second with 87, followed by Liberty and Lebanon.