Sisely Mitchell continues to take her massive strides of success in stride.
Platte County’s breakout sophomore No. 1 continued to impress on her biggest stage yet. She finished 22nd out of 245 runners in the Blue Division of the Gans Creek Classic on Saturday in Columbia, Missouri to earn a medal and nearly join an extremely exclusive club.
“The course is really nice,” Mitchell said of the site of next month’s Missouri State Cross Country Championships where she almost assuredly will be qualified. “It’s my new favorite course. I liked the amount of hills and downhills and it was really even — not a lot of potholes.
“This was one of the biggest races I’ve run so far. It was definitely different, but I liked passing people and stuff like that.”
Pass people she did.
Mitchell ran a career-best time of 20 minutes, 2.60 seconds. Once she shaves off another 3 seconds, she will become just the fifth runner in Platte County history to go sub-20, joining Rebekah Geddes, Taylor Giger, Ashton Stubbs and Jessica Clark.
Mitchell played volleyball last year and also gave up hockey to focus on long-distance running, thanks to a successful freshman track season. The Gans Creek Classic marked just fourth race of her career, having cut more than 33 seconds off her time from the season-opening Tim Nixon Invitational and more than 18 off her previous season-best of 20:21.00 at the Raymore-Peculiar Invitational.
Platte County also welcomed back sophomore Carmen Gentilia for her first race of the season after she spent the past month recovering from an undisclosed minor injury. After the graduation of a loaded senior class and offseason surgery for sophomore Lydia Doole, Gentilia is the only one of five state qualifiers from a year ago on the active roster.
In an impressive 2021 debut, Gentilia finished 39th overall in 20:35.30, less than 14 seconds off the career-best time she set at state a year ago (20:21.90).
With the expected 1-2 sophomore combo in the lineup together for the first time, Platte County placed 14th out of 31 teams with a score of 400 — just 19 out of 13th place. Mitchell will continue to lead the way, but Gentilia could soon join her as a threat to make 20 minutes, and even this performance came without recent breakout freshman in Lilly Kytasaari running. Suddenly, the Pirates have a potentially strong top five with competition for the final two spots as they approach the Suburban Conference Blue Division Championships and the postseason.
“I’m just glad I have a good team to back me up, and I think we’re going to do really good this season,” Mitchell said. “I think we’re just going to keep getting better.”
Platte County junior Sloan Kassen and sophomore Alex Beeman got better at Gans Creek with new PRs.
After missing Platte County’s first Judge Chris Stubbs Invitational home meet due to illness, Kassen placed 126th in 22:20.90, more than 22 seconds better than her previous career-best set in last season’s JV conference race and 29 seconds better than her previous season-best from the Raymore-Peculiar Invitational.
Beeman came in less than 10 seconds behind Kassen in 134th at 22:28.80, just better than her JV conference time in 2020.
Platte County’s final three runners also set PRs with sophomore Julia Greco (22:40.10, 144th) rounding out the team score. In addition, Marissa Orellana (22:41.30, 146th) and freshman Madison Palmer (22:48.00) also turned in big time cuts at the bottom of the lineup. Greco’s new PR shaved nearly a minute and a half off her previous career-best, while Orellana ran the fastest time in her three career races — all this season.
Palmer turned in a time more than a minute faster than her career-best from the Tim Nixon Invitational.