In their first outing of the 2021 season, cross country runners from Houston High School and Middle School raced last Thursday in the Steve Waggoner Invitational at the Thomas F. Benyo Municipal Golf Course in Willow Springs.

The big event featured athletes from 42 schools.

In high school boys competition, runners were divided up into three categories. With a time of 18:47 on the hilly 3.1-mile course, HHS senior Hunter McKinney place 12th overall in a gigantic field of 156 runners, taking first among 59 in his division.

Houston seniors Hunter McKinney, second from left, and Nick Washko (405) prepare to begin the high school boys race during the huge Steve Waggoner Invitational last Thursday at Willow Springs.

Houston senior Nick Washko ran 24th in the division at 22:48.

Two HHS freshmen medaled in varsity girls competition, as Kristen Ely placed 10th in the division with a time of 25:59 and Allie Benoist finished 11th at 26:16.

In middle school competition, Houston eighth-grader Warren Hinkle placed fourth in a field of 99 with a time of 9:55 on the 1.5-mile course, while Jack Sawyer finished 15th at 10:38.

On the girls’ side, eighth-grader Natalie Clinton placed 24th in a field of 76 in her first-ever cross country race.

Also running in the varsity boys race for Houston were Jake Allen and Gabriel Sandberg, while Summer Bittle ran in the JV girls race.

Houston freshmen Kristen Ely and Allie Benoist begin their race. SUBMITTED PHOTO

First-year Houston head coach Justin Brown said he liked what he saw from his runners in the season’s first meet.

“We had a lot of kids run some of their best times,” Brown said. “I thought everyone did a great job.”

This week, Houston CC runners competed in a meet Tuesday at West Plains. They’ll run again Monday at Plato.

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