Park Hill South worked quietly in the background for most of the girls’ cross country season. A good team, for sure, but not one in the state championship conversation.
By the state championship meet on Saturday, Nov. 4, the Panthers were ready to pounce.
With its full varsity five finally intact, Park Hill South led a top-four sweep by teams from the Kansas City area during the Class 4 state girl’s race at the Oak Hills Golf Center.
Park Hill South scored 92 team points, beating pre-race favorite Raymore-Peculiar (114) along with Lee’s Summit West (135) and Blue Springs South (138) for the title.
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“The year’s been a little shaky, but we came through and put it together when it needed to happen,” Park Hill South coach Pam Jurgensmeyer said. “Other people might have been surprised, but we weren’t.”
Park Hill South had to run most of the season without seniors Marti Heit and Keely Danielsen, who both battled medical issues. Heit was diagnosed with a heart condition after she collapsed during last year’s state meet and wasn’t back at full strength until the end of this season, while Danielsen missed races because of iron issues.
“We really haven’t raced our whole varsity team but only three or four times this season,” Jurgensmeyer said. “It was a matter of getting Marti and Keely racing again at the same time and kind of get that one-two-three punch from our seniors.”
Emma Roth, hthe Panthers’ other senior and No. 1 runner, led the charge with a seventh-place finish on the hilly 5-kilometer course.
Sophomore Olivia Roth finished 22nd overall and 12th in team points with Heit right behind her. The trio earned all-state honors by finishing in the top 25.
Meanwhile, Danielsen, who was projected to finish 83rd based on seed times, wound up 30th for 17 points.
“She probably had the race of her life today,” Jurgensmeyer said. “Those are the kinds of things that you need to happen.”
It was the first girls’ state cross country championship in Park Hill South’s history.
The Panthers claimed fourth last season, but this year they got to lead the Kansas City area’s dominating day.
“It’s pretty sweet to bring four championship trophies back to the city,” Jurgensmeyer said. “It’s fun to be a part of it.”