Houston's freshman trio of Kristen Ely (1417), Allie Benoist (1412) and Summer Bittle run in a bunch during the girls race at the SCA championships meet Monday (Oct. 11) at Willow Springs. Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO

Houston High School athletes secured five medals Monday at the South Central Association conference cross country championship meet at the Thomas F. Benyo Municipal Golf Course in Willow Springs.

In the boys race, Houston senior Hunter McKinney finished fourth in a field of 38 runners with a time of 18:47 on the 3.1-mile course, while sophomore Jake Allen earned the 10th place medal at 20:10. HHS senior Nick Washko was also in the race and placed 23rd at 21:34.

Mountain Grove’s Andrew Norris won the race with a time of 17:38, and host Willow Springs was the top squad with 33 points.

McKinney earned All-SCA first-team honors by placing in the top 5, while Allen made the second team by finishing between sixth and 10th.

Houston’s Hunter McKinney (595) runs with Parker Rhoads of West Plains during the high school boys race at Thursday’s Licking Invitational. McKinney took fourth in the SCA meet Monday at Willow Springs. DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

On the girls side, Houston’s trio of freshmen were nicely bunched at the finish line, with Kristen Ely coming in 8th in the field of 25 with a time of 24:53, Summer Bittle placing 10th at 25:30 and Allie Benoist right behind in 11th at 25:36. Benoist received All-SCA honorable mention by placing between 11th and 15th.

A Willow Springs duo took the top 2 spots, with Bethany Waggoner winning at 22:17 and Hailey Unruh taking second at 23:16. Mountain Grove took first in the team standings.

This year marked the first time in 10 years that the SCA meet has been officially sanctioned by MSHSAA, simply because there were enough athletes in each race.

The meet also featured middle school and sixth-grade races.

A couple of Houston 8th-grade boys continued their banner seasons, as Warren Hinkle finished second in a field of 23 with a time of 9:56 on the 1.5-mile course and Jack Sawyer took fourth at 10:29.

Houston also had five 6th-graders run in the meet.

In the girls race, Jesslyn Crawford placed 8th in a field of 30 at 7:55, Jessyn Allen finished 13th at 8:30 and Claire Benoist ran 18th at 9:27. In the 22-runner boys race, Gage Smith took fourth at 7:26 and Thomas Kincaid ran 16th at 9:18.

“I’m extremely proud of the kids,” said Houston cross country head coach Justin Brown. “Having five medalists from our high school is just great and is something to be proud of. Over the season, I’ve watched them all get better and faster and they’re starting to really shine.”

HHS ATHLETES POST PRs

Last Thursday at the 22-team Licking Wildcat Invitational at Deer Lick Park in Licking, every HHS runner took advantage of the relatively flat course to turn in a personal-record time.

McKinney finished 12th in a field of 75 athletes in the high school boys varsity race with a PR time of 18:09.41, while Allen placed 33rd with a PR of 20:04.14 and Washko came in 45th at 20:40.74.

HHS sophomore Jake Allen (594) prepares to cross the finish line during the high school boys race at Thursday’s Licking Invitational. Allen posted a personal-record time and came in 33rd in a field of 75. At Monday’s SCA meet in Willow Springs, he earned second team All-Conference honors by finishing 10th. DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

Plato’s David Held ran alone much of the way, taking first with a lightning-fast time of 16:19.17, more than 41 seconds faster than runner-up Brodie Callahan of West Plains.

In the high school girls varsity race, Ely finished 24th in a field of 50 with a PR time of 24:00.94, while Bittle  ran 27th at 24:27.07 and Benoist came in 28th at 24:29.93.

West Plains dominated the race, taking the top 8 spots. Led by winner Brayden Kantola at 19:43.43, three Lady Zizzers posted times under 20 minutes and four others came in under 21 minutes.

In middle school competition, Hinkle came in 10th in a field of 60 in the boys race, while 8th-grader Natalie Clinton placed 17th among 63 runners in the girls race.

Success 8th-grader Adyson Dailing continued a successful season by finishing fifth, while teammate Alaina Rogers placed 38th.

“Having every high school kid PR was really something,” Brown said. “I know it’s a fast course, but fast courses should present a PR day and I was very happy to see them all get one.”

This week, Brown & Co. will head for Clever for a Thursday meet that will give the high school runners a look at another fast course where they will run in the Class 2 District 2 championship meet on Saturday, Oct. 30.

“Hopefully that will give us an idea of how to train and get our times a little quicker,” Brown said, “and hopefully we’ll get some kids going to state.”

Houston will host a cross country meet for the first time in decades on Monday, Oct. 25, at Houston Municipal Golf Course.

“We’ve got to do a few things to get a little bit quicker with districts coming up,” Brown said. “But overall, I like where we’re at.”

HMS 8th-grader Warren Hinkle (600) rounds a corner near the finish line last Thursday at the annual Licking Wildcat Invitational. Hinkle placed 10th in a field of 60 in the middle school boys race.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Contact him by phone at 417-967-2000 or by email at ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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