As he searched for something to give his team a competitive edge, Raymore-Peculiar girls cross country coach Jay Johnson revived a tactic he had used before — camouflage.
Ray-Pec’s runners always stand out because of the bright yellow jerseys they wear, but Johnson didn’t his team to be so recognizable during the Class 4 girls’ race Saturday, Nov. 4, at the state cross country meet.
Instead of blazing a trail on the Oak Hills Golf Course in yellow, they blended into the crowd with black uniforms.
“We did that before because we had a couple of races and what they kept saying was, ‘Chase the yellow shirt; chase the yellow shirt,’” Johnson said. “So, we just went without the yellow shirt, and when the teams are so close togethe and every place ends up making a difference, we were working to help that be in our advantage.”
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Dressed in basic black, Ray-Pec finished second as a team and had three runners earn all-state honors.
Park Hill South edged out Ray-Pec 92-114 for the team title, but the Panthers were part of a top-four sweep by Kansas City area schools.
Did the all-black look help? Johnson believes it did. Many teams, he said, pace off his runners. If you can’t find them, you can’t run with them and possibly take away critical placement points.
There also was a psychological boost to be gained, one that Johnson thought drove his runners harder.
“Our girls felt like they had a secret weapon going into today,” he said. “And, therefore, they were pushing a little bit extra harder knowing.”
Ray-Pec had three runners push into the top 14 overall and top nine in team points.
Miranda Dick, a junior and the Panthers’ top runner, finished fourth overall with a time of 18 minutes, 28.82 seconds on the hilly 5-kilometer course. Makenzie Stucker placed eighth overall and sophomore Marissa Dick finished 14th.
Gracyn Kloth (40th) and Laurana Mitchell (54th) rounded out Ray-Pec’s team score.
“Our big thing was just to stay relaxed and run the way we’ve been running and give it our best effort,” Johnson said. “We knew what the course was like, because most of them have ran on it three times now. We ran well. It was just Park Hill South had a great day today.”
Zachary Holt of Sherwood also had a great day in the Class 2 boys race. Holt, a freshman, earned all-state honors by placing 17th in 17:32.33.
St. Michael the Archangel senior Caroline Meyers placed fifth in the Class 2 girls’ race with a time of 19:56.54. Meyers led St. Michael to a seventh-place finish.