The Westminster Christian Academy Wildcats boys cross country team finished its season by tying for the best finish in school history.
The Wildcats earned a third-place finish in the Class 3 state meet at the Oak Hills Golf Center in Jefferson City. In 2010, Westminster also finished third. Those are the only two trips to the state podium in school history.
Festus won state with 24 points. Notre Dame of Cape Girardeau was second with 86 points. The Wildcats wound up with 136 points.
“We were hoping to be in the top four or five teams at state,” coach Doug Meyer said. “However, the week of the state meet, one of senior runners Brendan Yeager (top three and four on the team all year), hurt his hip playing in the district soccer tournament that week.
“Once that happened any kind of chance for a podium finish was very much in doubt.”
The Wildcats earned their trip to state by winning the District 2 meet in Linn to qualify. The Wildcats finished in places 1, 3,8, 11 and 12 in the race.
“They really ran great,” Meyer said. “We beat a good Owensville team by 26 points and Priory, who beat us a week earlier, by nearly 60 points.”
It, too, was a rarity for Westminster. It was just the Wildcats’ second district title for the boys. The other came way back in 1987.
At state, the Wildcats faced the best from the four corners of Missouri.
“The field was pretty good this year. Only nine points separated us from the fifth-place team,” Meyer said. “The first-place team Festus would have finished second in Class 4. They are awesome.”
The Wildcats were sparked by junior Andrew Murray, who won the district race. Murray finished ninth with a time of 16 minutes, 34.57 seconds.
“He ran a very smart race,” Meyer said. “We asked him, and the rest of the runners, to hold back the first mile, so we could be fresher and pass more runners in the second half of the race. Andrew was in 28th place after the first mile, and 16th after two miles. He passed seven more runners in last part of the race to finish ninth. It was exactly what we hoped for.”
The time was a personal best. It also was the third fastest runner in Westminster history behind the talented brother duo of Daniel and David Everett.
Senior Josh Sumner finished 22nd to medal. His time was 17:06.12. Freshman Evan Parres came in 58th in 17:53.77. Junior Dan Luedders was 63rd with a time of 17:57.92. Freshman David Montgomery came in 78th in 18:07.02.
They all impressed Meyer.
“Josh was in 107th place after the first mile, passing 85 runners on the way to the finish,” Meyer said. “Evan Parres finished 3rd for the team. Dan Luedders ran the race of his career, setting a PR by almost 40 seconds, finished 4th for us. Dan ran JV the week before at districts.
“David Montgomery finished fifth for us after getting knocked down early in the race and nearly trampled. He was in very last place at one point early in the race after he fell. He passed about 90 runners after he fell.”
The team as a whole, was 11/16 at the first mile, 5/16 at mile 2, 4/16 at mile 3 and 3/16 at the finish, Meyer said.
“They passed people the whole race,” Meyer said.
Looking back, the Wildcats had a memorable season.
“Oh yeah,” Meyer said. “We won the Capital City Challenge in October. That is a prestigious meet. We finished third at Forest Park, the biggest race all year. We lost to Priory at the Metro Conference meet but beat them at districts. We lost to St. Charles at the Orchard Farm Invitational but beat them at state.”
The Wildcats will lose two of their top seven harriers to graduation. However, Westminster will return nine of its 11 top runners.
So, the future of the program look strong.
“Over half our team this year were freshman and first-time runners,” Meyer said. “We are only losing four out of 39 runners to graduation.”