For the first time ever, Houston has a middle school cross country state champion.

At last Saturday’s Missouri Middle School State Championships meet at Lucas Oil Speedway Wheatland, Houston 7th-grader Lyla Huffman capped off a stellar season by finishing first in the Class 3 girls race, topping a field of 74 runners with a time of 12:50.91 on the 2-mile course.

The HMS girls squad took third in the team standings.

Houston 6th-grader Myles Copley wasn’t far behind Huffman, finishing third at 13:34.85. Making up the rest of the Lady Tigers’ 5-runner team score were 6th-grader Haley Crowe in 15th, 8th-grader Jessyn Allen in 25th and 8th-grader Jesslyn Crawford in 40th.

Houston 7th-grader Lyla Huffman (1764) and 6th-grader Myles Copley (1761) run together near the start of the Class 3 girls race during the Missouri Middle School State Championships meet last Saturday at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland. Huffman went on to win and Copley finished third.

Houston’s boys placed fourth in the Class 3 team standings.

Sixth-grader Liam Stickel paced the Tigers, coming in 15th in a field of 87 with a time of 13:08.17. Sixth-grader Charlie Benoist was next in 20th at 13:18.12, while the rest of the team score came from 6th-grader Oliver Choate in 27th, 8th-grader Christopher Meier in 31st and 6th-grader Tucker Richardson in 33rd.

HMS 8th-graders Gage Smith and Thomas Kincaid also competed, finishing 35th and 36th.

Houston 7th-grader Lyla Huffman won 7 races in 2023, including the Class 3 girls state championship race.

Six HMS runners earned All-State status by finishing in the top-25.

“It was a pretty amazing day for our boys and girls,” said Houston cross country head coach Justin Brown.

Huffman won 7 races this season, and finished second in another.

“She been working hard since last season to get to this point,” Brown said. “She and Myles both just have a different demeanor about them that you can’t just teach everybody. Lyla has a hunger for success and an amazing work ethic, which makes her such a great runner.”

Brown was helped again this season by assistant coach Melanie Foreman. “Myself and coach Foreman couldn’t be prouder of each of these kids we have the privilege of coaching,” Brown said. “Definitely a great way to end an amazing season!

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

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