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Ava High School Boys’ Varsity Cross Country Earns All-State Honors

The Ava Boys’ cross country team made their mark in Ava, Missouri history with a 4th place finish at the State Cross Country Championships in Jefferson City on Saturday, Nov. 3.

Only one other sports team in the history of Ava High School has earned all state honors.  In 1997, the Ava boys’ varsity golf team coached by Mark Wendler placed 4th in Class 2.

The boys’ cross country team will receive a state banner with their names on it that will hang in the gym and have their picture included in the trophy case in the lobby of the high school.

Sixteen teams represented Class 2 at the state cross country meet. There were eight districts competing from each of the four classes.  The top two teams as well as any individuals that finished in the top 15 at each district went on to compete at Jefferson City.

Ava earned the right to go to state by finishing 2nd as a team behind Mtn. View Liberty at Willow Springs in District 6.  Liberty beat Ava for the district title by 8 points.

However, things radically changed as the Ava Bears took the trip to Jefferson City as a challenge to make the top four and beat Liberty and whoever else stood in their way of making all state.  Ava, ranked 6th, in the state in Class 2 after districts was another obstacle that instead of deterring the Ava Bears just worked as a stimulant for the determined Ava team.

“We knew Lamar was a power house and had been ranked all year as the best in the state, so we really didn’t even concern ourselves with competing against them,” said Coach Liz Kyger.  “We had raced them at Nixa and knew exactly what they were capable of.”

Coach Kyger went on to say, “They have an outstanding team, but we knew we had a great chance of beating Mtn. View Liberty who had the 4th ranking, and who had beat us in five previous races this season but by just a few points.”

Kyger added: “Springfield Catholic was ranked 5th initially because of their district times, but because we had beaten them at every meet where we had seen them, we were not as worried about what they could do.”

As the state championship race progressed, it was apparent that Lamar was the team in control.  Herculeneum and Fatima were also racing for the top spots but as the race finished and the Ava boys gave it all they had, the teams dream of placing in the top 4 seemed hard to fathom.

“It looked like we had not made it with our top two finishing just barely in the individual all state 25,” Kyger admitted.  “At this point a few of the boys and I were rehashing the race and trying to recover from what we thought was perhaps a close but disappointing team overall finish.”

When the East Newton Coach came over to tell Ava they had gotten 4th, and the celebrating began!

Senior Dakota Renner placed 22nd, two places higher than last year and 2 seconds faster by running 17:57 and again, for the second year in a row, earning individual all state honors.

Only one second behind at the finish line was teammate senior Luke Shortt who placed 24th in a time of 17:58 and squeezing in there to also make all state individually.

The top 25 runners earn the All State honor.  Freshmen Caleb Stillings, placed 45th with a time of 18:24.  Senior James Ferguson ran an 18:34 and finished in the 63rd spot.  Junior Jordan Dimirsky finished in 74th with a time of 18:42.  Justin Young finished 114th with a time of 19:32.  And Senior Phillip Eubanks came in at 139 with a time of 20:02.

The outcome definitely favored the Ava Bears as results were tallied and a tie was announced between the Ava Bears and the Stockton Tigers with 132 points each.  The finish places of the top 5 runners from each team are added together to determine the winner.  But when there is a tie, then the team’s sixth place runner will be used for the tie breaker.  In the case of Ava, Justin Young, the 6th place runner at state, who finished in the 114th place, beat the Stockton runner by 18 places, and branded a decided victory for Ava!

There were 166 boys in the varsity race.

Senior Jasper Bunton from Liberty and the Class 2, District 6 champion had an outstanding race and finished in 6th place with a time of 17:21.

Lamar finished first as predicted with a total time for their top 5 runners of 1 hour 29 minutes and 24 seconds. averaging 17:52 for the 5k per runner.

2nd place was Herculaneum, the 2011 champions, who had a total of 1 hour 31 minutes and averaged 18:16 per runner.

3rd place was Fatima with a total time of 1:30:41 and averaged 18:08 per runner.

4th was Ava with a total time of 1:31:36 and averaged 18:19 per runner.

5th went to Stockton with a total time of 1:31:34 and an average of 18:18.

6th was Mtn. View Liberty with a total time of 1:31:40, averaging 18:20 per runner.

Other state finishers were:

7th Springfield Catholic; 8th California; 9th Bowling Green; 10th Arcadia Valley; 11th Whitfield; 12th Penney; 13th Wright City; 14th Richmond; 15th Principia; 16th Hollister.

Deko Rickets from Barstow was the 2012 boys’ state champion with a time of 17:02.

Senior Christina Shortt had a remarkable season and finished 34th out of 155 girls at the state meet.  Christina had a time of 21:41.  This was 40 places better and 1 min and 14 seconds faster than what she finished last year at the state meet.

Christina medaled in nine of the 10 meets that Ava competed in this season. She consistently improved during the season and from last year.

“In the eight meets that we attended last year and again this year, Christina improved her time by a cumulative 11 min and 39 seconds,” Kyger said.

Out of Ava’s District 6, Strafford’s Rachel Bareford finished 22nd with a time of 21:09.  Rachel had finished 2nd at Willow Springs behind her teammate Katlyn  Hatz who was the District 6 champion.

At the state meet, Katlyn finished behind Christina in the 41st spot with a time of 21:50.

Baley Wagner from Willow Springs finished 50th with a time of 22:08 and Airyn Bunton, Jasper’s little sister, finished in 54th running 22:13.  Mattie Reed from Mtn. Grove placed 82 with a time of 22:52.   These girls represented the top six places at District 6 with Christina.

Kaitlyn Fischer from Herculaneum was the girls’ state champion in a time of 18:40 and also led her teammates for the team championship.  Arcadia Valley was 2nd, Lutheran St. Peters was 3rd and the Stockton girls placed 4th as a team.

Ava High School will be honoring the Cross Country team today (Thursday) at 3 p.m. with an assembly, and the community is invited to come meet the team and see their 4th place state trophy and the medals earned by the boys.