The final stretch of the Missouri cross country state championship course is dubbed Heartbreak Hill.
Appropriately so, too. For the final 200 meters of the Oak Hills Golf Course route, runners move along a steady incline as they approach the finish line.
When Blue Springs senior Simon Belete reached Heartbreak Hill in Saturday morning’s Class 4 race, he felt the muscles in his legs tighten. Then he remembered his four years of competition— the first three of which included no varsity wins and subsequently provided motivation for his final high school season.
It motivated him one more time Saturday.
Belete pushed through the pain and was crowned the Class 4 champion Saturday, finishing the 5-kilometer race in 15 minutes and 48 seconds, five ticks better than Glendale’s Chris Mooneyham.
“That’s probably the most difficult last 200 meters I’ve ever ran,” Belete said. “Once I finally finished the race, the relief and the joy and everything that comes with it — it was all worth it.”
He shared the joy with sophomore teammate Stephen Mugeche, who finished fourth and senior James Barnett, who took 10th.
Together, the three led the Wildcats to a second-place team finish — only three points shy of St. Louis University High.
Mugeche was in second for most of the race but lost ground to Mooneyham and Glendale’s Spencer Haik over the final mile.
“I looked up in the distance and saw (Belete in) that purple and gold about to cross the finish line (first),” Mugeche said. “Once he crossed the line, I just wanted to finish so I could give him a hug.”
Barstow’s Ricketts wins Class 2
Barstow senior Deko Ricketts stood at the starting line Saturday with one goal in mind. It had nothing to do with times or places.
“I’m not going to make first place easy for anyone else,” Ricketts said.
In fact, he didn’t even make it a possibility.
Ricketts finished off his high school career by winning the Class 2 state title. His time of 17:02 was nine seconds better than the second-place time from Lamar sophomore Kaden Overstreet.
Ricketts said Overstreet had taken the lead around the two-mile mark, but Ricketts regained it a few moments later. He never trailed again.
“I told myself I wouldn’t have any regrets,” Ricketts said. “I had to make my legs hurt more than I ever have.
“And I’m hurting right now.”
Lee’s Summit West’s five-year reign ends
The dynasty is over.
Lee’s Summit West’s streak of five straight state championships ended Saturday when the Titans settled for fourth place. Francis Howell took the team title.
After district and sectional victories, Lee’s Summit West entered Saturday’s race as the top-ranked team in Class 4, but junior Kennadee Williams, who took eighth, was the only Titans runner to finish among the top 30.
“Our ultimate goal was to come out and compete for a gold medal and try to live on the (Lee’s Summit) West title,” Williams said. “As long as we tried our best and had fun, I think we’ll be OK. But it would’ve been nice to come out with the gold trophy.”
St. Teresa’s finished behind LS West in last week’s sectional race, but the Stars hopped over LS West to finish third Saturday.
“We had our runners pack together and stick with each other,” said senior Courtney Coppinger, who took 14th. “It really worked out.”
West Platte takes boys title
West Platte senior Spencer Hudson said he hoped to finish as one of the top two runners in the Class 1 race Saturday. Instead, he settled for third.
But Hudson was granted a consolation prize minutes later when West Platte was awarded the team championship. It finished with 87 points. Linn took second at 101.
“We knew it would be hard — it’s a really hard course,” Hudson said. “I’ll take third if my team takes first.”
Smithville, Tuck finish third
Katie Tuck waited until the last race of her senior year to shed her nerves. Better late than never.
Tuck took third in the Class 3 race and also led Smithville to a third-place team finish.
“I’m really excited about my position,” said Tuck, who earlier this week was named a Wendy’s Heisman High School finalist. “I ran my heart out.”
Notre Dame de Sion took fifth in the same race.
Best of the rest
Sierra Grimm of Lutheran finished fifth in the Class 1 girls race. Liberty North had a pair of top-10 finishes: Ty Hughes (eighth) in boys Class 3 and Sammy Laurenzo (seventh) in girls Class 3. Kearney’s Ashley Coonfield placed 10th in a competitive Class 4 field.
Hughes led Liberty North to a third-place team finish.