Seniors Jonah Krieg and Simon Ogle were two of the 16 confirmed cases of the bacterial illness pertussis contracted by students in the Festus R-6 School District. But both harriers helped the Tigers win their sixth consecutive Class 3 state championship at Gans Creek Course in Columbia on Saturday. Festus won its eighth title overall and scored 39 points. Herculaneum was second with 73 points.
“We had four runners out of our top nine who were quarantined with whooping cough,” Festus head coach Bryant Wright said. “It’s hard to run when you can’t breathe. We’re proud of (Ogle and Krieg) because they’re what our team’s all about.”
After finishing seventh and 19th at state the previous two seasons, Ogle finished the course third in 15:54.1. This was the first season the state cross country meet was held at Gans Creek after moving from Oak Hills Golf Course in Jefferson City. Freshman Cullen Krieg was sixth for the Tigers in 15:59, and then Festus runners do what they do best – pack in to win championships. Seniors Dominik Kayser (16:27) and Garrett Rhine (16:27.3) and sophomore Jacob Meyers (16:28.9) finished 19th, 20th and 21st.
The Tigers’ team score this year was their lowest since they captured the 2014 title with 24 points.
Ogle, Rhine, Kayser, Meyers and Krieg all set personal records at state. The weather and course conditions were perfect for PRs.
“It’s not easy to win. The venue and the course changed. I’m going to have to change,” Wright said. “The most important thing is to teach the kids to be great people and work hard. Hopefully, the things that you do will work out. It’s not going to get any easier. It’s going to get harder but that’s the challenge. I hope to continue to have kids who want to take that on with me. I’m a very blessed individual that I have kids who work hard and we have a great support group with our families, superintendent and athletic director.”
Freshman Ian Schram didn’t run for the Tigers on Saturday. But with some of the varsity runners out with the whooping cough, Schram came in 11th at the District 1 meet, which gives you an idea of the Tigers’ depth. Schram keeps his team’s statistics and has first-hand knowledge of what needs to be done to extend the state title streak.
Only Herculaneum (1977 to 1983) has won seven state titles in a row in boys cross country.
“I’m going to do the best I can for the rest of the years I’m on this team,” Schram said.
Herculaneum moved up from Class 2 to Class 3 in 2017, and the Blackcats have won a team plaque every year since. Herculaneum was third in 2017 and fourth in 2018.
“A lot of the irony about how good we are is about how good (Festus) is five minutes down the road,” Herculaneum head coach Kyle Davis said. “They’re our biggest competition. I’m sure they know that. That’s out of respect. I remember Kyle Vinyard when we went to Class 3 when he was a sophomore, he was doing a strider and he said, ‘We belong in Class 3.’ Three years later, we have three trophies.”
Senior Jonathon Coffman finished a stellar career by finishing second in 15:37.6, which is his new personal-best time. He was 15th as a freshman, 21st as a sophomore dealing with major hip injuries all year, and sixth last season. His time this year was a minute faster than his last run at Oak Hills.
Excelsior Springs senior Michael Rebello won the Class 3 boys race in 15:29.4.
“In a state meet, the intensity and emotional experience is higher,” Coffman said. “Having a championship course and a great day of weather, that gives you the proper mindset to race fast.
“My plan was to stick with (Cape Girardeau Notre Dame senior) Blake Morris and Rebello was pushing the pace. Rebello started to take off at the 4K mark and I was giving all I had. It was insane. I didn’t want to fall over in my last race.”
Coffman said the new course, which is the home of the University of Missouri cross country teams, isn’t as easy as it looks.
“There’s a hill in the back that’s tough and there’s more switchbacks that mess with you mentally,” he said.
Junior Cody Glisson (eighth, 16:08.2) and Vinyard (16th, 16:19.3) were the other two Blackcats to finish among the top 25 and earn a medal. All but one of the Herky runners set a PR.
Vinyard was a three-time state qualifier and he moved up from 34th last year. Glisson was 37th in 2018.
“We closed out exactly like we wanted to,” Davis said. “Everybody put their best foot forward. Cody’s time was a monster. It’s a fast course. It was nice to see our team do it on the right day and right time. That’s a breath of fresh air.”
De Soto sophomore William Kaempfe won a medal in his first trip to state by finishing 22nd in 16:29.4. Freshman teammate Jimmy Mann had a good first state showing by coming in 37th in 16:54.9.
Northwest senior Cody Poskin made his first state appearance in the Class 4 race and came in 106th in 16:48. Junior Firaol Ahmed also ran at state for the first time for the Lions and he was 58th in 16:25.2.