COLUMBIA, Mo. — With optimal cool temperatures, the field went fast in the Class 4 Missouri State Cross Country Championships on Friday at Gans Creek Cross Country Course.
Platte County took advantage of the conditions with all seven runners turning in career-best times for the fastest collective team effort in program history with the Pirates finishing ninth in the final team standings. There were not any all-state performances, but seniors Andrew Early (27th) and Jace Trimble (50th) capped their careers with sub-17 minute races, as did sophomore Andrew Johnson (32nd).
Early turned in the second fastest state time in Platte County history at 16 minutes, 8.8 seconds, behind only Nathan Straubel’s fifth-place all-state finish in 15:50.06 in 2014. Early missed an all-state finish by two places and just 5 1/2 seconds. Johnson ended up with the third-fastest state time on the Pirates’ all-time list at 16:23.90.
Prior to this season, Early had never gone under 17 minutes, and he trimmed more than 18 seconds off his previous best time for Platte County set earlier this season on the same course. Johnson and Trimble (16:53.3) both broke 17 minutes for the first time, Trimble doing so in his final race.
The top three finishers for Platte County were the only returning state qualifiers from last year’s eighth-place team. The Pirates’ average time of 16:57 would have been good enough for fourth in Class 4 and a team trophy in 2020, showing off the collective speed Friday on the new state course. The Pirates averaged 17:44 last year at state, and Early and Johnson’s times would have been ninth and 10th a year ago.
Platte County closed well, top to bottom, with five of the seven runners in 100th or lower after the first 1,000 meters. Pirates junior Kage Audas (96th, 17:34.7) and sophomore Kade Meinke (97th, 17:34.9) came in right next to each other to round out the team score, while junior Tanner Johnson (121st, 17:54.7) and freshman Ben Letcher (146th, 18:25.3) also made their state debuts. Meinke in particular passed 20 runners in the final 1,000 meters to nearly clip his teammate at the line.
Audas, Meinke and Tanner Johnson were all in the bottom part of the 158-runner field before making late pushes.
Early worked his way up from 57th to 22nd entering the final kilometer before fading back just slightly. He was 56th in his 2020 state debut, while Andrew Johnson 68th. He was more than a minute faster than a year ago at state, jumping up 72 spots from his low point the race at 104th.
Trimble continued his trend the past two years of peaking down the stretch in big moments with the best race of his career. In 2020, he helped Platte County initially win the Suburban Conference Blue Division title before a coach’s error led to a team disqualification, and the Pirates went on to earn their first team state berth since 2013 with a Class 4 District 8 championship to earn one of two automatic qualifying spots.
Platte County turned in another memorable season this year, pulling off the conference-district title double for at least the first time since joining the Suburban in 2008. Trimble placed 83rd in his state debut and slowly lowered his time’s over the second half of the season culminating in his sub-17 minute showing Friday.
Audas ran most of the year in the top seven for Platte County as a sophomore but missed the postseason due to COVID-19 protocols. Meinke and Letcher were first-year runners for the Pirates, while Tanner Johnson earned his spot late in the year, passing up senior Anthony Talley — a part of last year’s district championship team and a returning state qualifier.
The new-look lineup might have moved down a spot in the state standings but again showed mettle.
Platte County edged Smithville by just four points for the ninth-place spot. after topping the Warriors by one for the conference title and two for the District 4 title prior to state. The Pirates were just 35 points out of the top five.