Jana Shawver has already had an accomplished running career at Lee’s Summit West, one that includes being part of back-to-back girls track state team titles.
But there’s one accomplishment still missing, one Shawver and the Titans came achingly close to last fall: a state cross country team title. West finished four points behind Jackson in the Class 4 girls race, and the memory of it still stings.
“It’s really motivating us,” Shawver said. “It was so disappointing last year when we lost by like four points. It’s making us work a lot harder.”
West is turning that disappointment into momentum this season. With Shawver part of a talented and experienced pack of runners back from that team, the Titans are ready to make another run at that elusive title.
“One of their goals is to come out on top at the end of the year,” West girls cross country coach Jesse Griffin said. “It’s something they want to do. We need to keep everybody going and firing and doing the right things along the way.”
Griffin is relying on a young but experienced foursome to form the backbone of the team. That group includes Shawver, a senior and state champion last year in the 800-meter run, and sophomores Addie Mathis, McKenna Butler and Maddie Hulsey. Mathis, Butler and Hulsey all raced at state last season as freshmen along with Shawver.
That foursome has made up the lead runners during preseason workouts and they were also the Titans top finishers in their season-opening quadrangular meet last Saturday at MCC-Longview. Mathis and Hulsey placed third in the fourth in the two-mile race behind Raymore-Peculiar’s Miranda Dick and Makenzie Stucker. Butler and Shawver were sixth and seventh and the Titans’ No. 5 runner, junior Riley Laurens, was just four seconds behind them in ninth.
“So we’re developing another girl that’s starting to step up and be pulled up into that group,” Griffin said. “And eventually we’re going to try to get all seven.”
There are other goals for West besides winning state. There’s defending the Suburban Gold Conference crown, which will mean taking on top-flight teams like Ray-Pec and Blue Springs South. And there’s a trip later this month to Louisville, Ky., where the Titans hope to break into the top five against some of the top-ranked high school teams in the country.
“We have the potential to do some good things this year,” Griffin said. “We’ve just got to stay humble and don’t get complacent with what we’re doing.”
West placed first in the girls meet, and the Titans’ boys placed second behind Rockhurst in the boys race. Senior Ben Burnett led the West boys with a second-place finish. Lee’s Summit North and Raymore-Peculiar tied for third.