After finishing third as a sophomore and second as a junior, Blue Springs South senior Tori Findley wanted nothing more than to control and dominate in her final state cross country meet.
And the Kansas City area’s best teams followed her lead.
Findley made good on her goal on Saturday morning when she ran away from the rest of the field in the Missouri Class 4 girls race on the hilly 5-kilometer course at the Oak Hills Golf Center. Her victory came amid a one-two-three-four finish for KC-area schools, led by Park Hill South, in the girls team competition.
When Victor Mugeche of Blue Springs won the Class 4 boys race and led the Wildcats to the boys team title, the Kansas City big-class sweep was complete.
Never miss a local story.
Findley set the tone when she started widening her lead 1 kilometer in and then never let up until she crossed the finish line in 18 minutes, 9.3 seconds. That’s slower than the 18:07.18 as a sophomore, but it still put her well ahead of runner-up and teammate Danielle Hotalling and the rest of the field.
“It’s obviously been in the back of my mind the whole season and just what I’ve been working for,” Findley said. “I’m at a loss for words right now, but it’s pretty special.”
Mugeche, who like Findley was a runner-up last season, ran with Ryan Riddle of Webb City until Mugeche began pulling away after the second mile. He widened his lead as he climbed the grueling Firehouse Hill on the final mile, but he said he struggled over the final 200 meters before finishing in 15:29.13.
“I just wanted to evaluate from the gun,” Mugeche said. “I wasn’t really sure what everyone else was going to do, so I just wanted to see how it played out. I just took the lead and went after it.”
Mugeche’s victory, combined with a sixth-place effort from Oaklee Hauschild, powered Blue Springs to its first boys team title since 1982. The Wildcats’ 93-point total was 11 better than runner-up West Plains.
“It’s really an amazing feeling,” Mugeche said. “I really can’t describe in words how much I love these guys, all that we’ve been through.”
Park Hill South’s girls had been through plenty after finishing fourth at last year’s state meet. The Panthers were leading that race until the third mile, when Marti Heit collapsed and struggled to finish.
Heit found out she had a heart condition afterward, and it wasn’t until this season’s conference meet that she was back at full strength. She was strong enough Saturday to finish 23rd and place in the top 20 in team points with four other Panthers.
“It was so great to see Marti cross the line all-state because she was our best runner last year,” Park Hill South coach Pam Jurgensmeyer said. “It just speaks to her tenacity to know that she finished the race last year and was able to bring herself back this year.”
Emma Roth has been Park Hill South’s No. 1 runner this year, and her seventh-place finish led the Panthers. Olivia Roth finished one place ahead of Heit, and Keely Danielsen, who was projected to finish 83rd, came in 30th.
Park Hill South’s 92-point total was good enough to hold off Raymore-Peculiar, which had three top-10 points finishers in Miranda Dick, Makenzie Stucker and Marissa Dick and scored 114. Lee’s Summit West followed with 135 and Blue Springs South had 138.
“It’s pretty sweet to bring four championship trophies back to the city,” Jurgensmeyer said. “It’s fun to be a part of it.”
Lutheran junior Jesse Schultz led the Knights to a fourth-place finish in the Class 1 boys race. Schultz placed fourth overall. Lutheran’s girls, led by Ada Lauren’s eighth-place finish, took third.