A trio of HHS girls run in close proximity during a cross country meet Tuesday at West Plains. In front are sophomore Kristen Ely, center, and freshman Natalie Clinton, while sophomore Allie Benoist is a few yards back. Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO

Tuesday was a landmark day for Houston High School cross country, as both the boys and girls squads posted team scores at a meet for the first time since the sport was rebooted at the school in 2019.

At the annual Joe Bill Dixon Invitational at West Plains, the HHS boys took second in the team standings and the girls placed fourth, with both groups displaying good bunching in their respective races.

A trio of HHS boys run together during a cross country meet Tuesday at West Plains. From left, Aiden Kelly, Jake Allen and Jack Sawyer.

The Tigers were led by freshman Warren Hinkle, who finished 8th in a field of 42 runners with a time of 20:19.29 on the 3.1-mile course. Rounding out Houston’s 5-man team score were junior Jake Allen in 10th place overall at 21:13.25, freshman Jack Sawyer in 13th place at 21:27.01, junior Aiden Kelly in 15th at 21:38.19 and sophomore riley Talbott in 16th at 21:56.85.

On the girls side, the Lady Tigers were paced by sophomore Kristen Ely, who came in 14th in a field of 33 with a time of 26:09.09. Next to finish for Houston was sophomore Allie Benoist in 18th at 26:52.64, while freshman Natalie Clinton ran 19th at 27:04.31, sophomore Summer Bittle placed 20th at 27:05.38 and junior Miah Bressie finished 27th at 31:14.43. 

Host West Plains took first in the team standings in both the boys and girls competition, taking the top 5 spots in the boys race (with 3 runners posting times under 18 minutes) and 4 of the top 5 in the girls race (with 2 runners finishing in under 22 minutes).

In competition among younger runners, Houston posted an individual victory and two other top-5 finishes.

HMS 6th-grader Lyla Huffman runs on her way to winning the 5th-and-6th grade girls race at a cross country meet Tuesday in West Plains.

In the 5/6 girls race, 6th-grader Lyla Huffman topped the field of 60 runners with a time of 10:43.41 on the 2,400-meter course. On the boys side, Houston 5th-grader Liam Stickel finished fourth in a field of 75 in the 5/6 boys race with a time of 10:13.98, while 8th-grader Dillon Shelton took fifth in a field of 57 in the 7/8 boys race with a time of 9:29.17.

Houston had two other top-10 showings in 5/6 racing, as 5th-grader Charlie Benoist finished 6th in the boys race at 10:20.10 and 5th-grader Myles Copley placed 6th in the girls race at 11:13.41.

Houston had 21 athletes competing at the meet, and 16 came away with either a medal or a ribbon for top-20 finishes.

Next up for Houston’s cross country runners is a meet Thursday (Sept. 22) at Plato.

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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