Girl’s cross country’s second place finish is best state performance since 1990


Lisa Smout

Posing on the podium, the members of the state team receive the second place trophy. This was the team’s first all-state performance since 1990. “It was a huge step forward for us. We were always on the outside looking in at all major meets,” coach Charles Cutelli said. “We slowly knocked down barriers, winning conference championships, district championships, and sectional championships, and finally having an all-state finish. I’m proud of this group.”

A moment of quietness and stillness. Then the gun goes off and an anticipatory shout rises from the crowd. After the runners go by, flocks of parents, teammates and coaches scatter every direction to line the course in order watch the race unfold. The state cross country meet has just begun.

After winning first place at the district and sectional meets in the two weeks prior, the girls cross country team secured their spot at the state meet Nov. 3 at Oak Hills Golf Center in Jefferson City, MO.

“I was really confident in our team. I knew we still had a lot to show and to give in a race. It was the last race of the season, and I knew we all wanted to give it our all,” senior and captain Chloe Hershenow said.

Missouri Milesplit had predicted the team would be competing for fourth place with Blue Springs South, according to the their state preview.

“In my heart I knew we were one of the best teams in the state,” coach Charlie Cutelli said. Missouri Milesplit didn’t think so and quite frankly I don’t think many of the Kansas City schools thought that, but I knew who we had and the training we had done and I thought we were pretty freaking good,” Cutelli said.

With 169 individual runners and 16 teams competing in the Class 4 race, state was the biggest meet the girls competed in.

“It can be kind of daunting to run at state. It is a big meet and you have your two timing chips and what seems like 16 million bibs to make it feel a little extra scary,” junior Emma Caplinger said. “You don’t really feel like it is real. When we were getting ready and warming up we were confident and collected, but when we actually got to the [starting] line I think we were a little like, ‘oh yeah, this is actually happening.’”

The state team, made up of seniors Hershenow, Claire Smout and Natalie Butler, junior Caplinger, sophomores Leah Selm and Emily Sipp and freshman Kate Yates, had their eyes fixed on placing in the top four in order to earn all-state distinction and improve upon last year’s sixth-place finish.

“During the race I just wanted to focus on staying calm and running how I knew to run instead of getting worked up about it being state. I knew that if I ran how I always had run I would be successful and our team would do well,” Caplinger said. “Kate Yates was with me most of the time, which was great because I knew we could stick together. I was so so happy when we finished because I knew that all the girls on the team had had pretty good races so I was excited to hear how we had placed.”

The girls scored a spot on the podium in second place to Lee Summit West, finishing with a team score of 102 points. Scores are calculated by adding the place numbers of the first five finishers from a team. Hershenow finished all-state individually in 20th and Caplinger finished 62nd.

“As an individual [standing on the podium] was fine, but as a team it felt really cool because it was such a team effort. It took each and every one of our runners to place second. We have tried to be all-state for so many years and we finally did it, which felt like a huge accomplishment,” Hershenow said.

The Longhorns had not placed all-state as a team since winning the state championship in 1990.

“For this big goal we had, to finally be up there on the podium just felt very fulfilling. Everything had come together,” Caplinger said. “As a program this can give us a lot of confidence. Going forward, if we can do this well at such a big meet, it prompts us to think, “what else can we do?”