Hermann's boys cross country team, running with poise and patience, finished fourth in the Class 2 state meet Saturday in Columbia and brought home the school's first ever state trophy in that sport.
This year for the first time, the state cross country meet in four classes of boys and girls teams was held at the new Gans Creek Recreation Area Course in Columbia, ending 42 straight years of state meets in Jefferson City.
The Bearcats were led by junior Dalton Gleeson's fifth-place individual finish and a 12th place finish for Carter Hemeyer, who came out for cross country for the first time in his senior year. Hermann totaled 122 points, just seven points behind second place Steelville and four points behind third place East Newton. Fatima of Westphalia won the boys team championship with 77 points. Gleeson's time of 16:17.8 Saturday broke his own school record of 16:18.43 that he set in the Four Rivers Conference meet at Maramec Spring Park, St. James.
Hemeyer's time Saturday was 16:45.5. His PR, 16:29.8, was set at the conference meet.
"Our boys ran well the entire race," said Hermann coach Josh Morris. "While most athletes get out too quickly at the state meet, as excitement gets the best of them, and slide backward toward the later stages of the race, our athletes were charging hard from 1k to the finish."
Morris noted that the Bearcat boys were far back in the pack in the early stage of the race but never panicked as they battled the field of 173 other runners.
"We were in last place at the 1k and ended up 4th. Dalton was 91st at the 1k and ended up 5th. The boys' ability to remain calm when they were so far back, and continue to run the best race for them is really astounding. It takes composure, confidence, fitness, and trust to be able to run the way they did."
Hermann qualified its entire team for state after finishing second in a tough district at Linn, where Fatima claimed the team title. Hermann edged out a good Father Tolten team at the district meet. The top two teams qualify its full team for state.
El Dorado Springs sophomore Daelen Ackley clocked a 15:39 Saturday over the 5,000 meter course, with senior Malik Stewart of Maplewood-Richmond Heights placing second in 16:01.1.
Hermann got strong performances from juniors Jake Weber and Brayden Brown, who finished together at the chute. Weber's time in 48th place was 17:22.7 and Brown was right behind him in 49th place in 17:28.6.
Peter Giles, also a junior, was Hermann's fifth man across the finish line. He was timed in 18:08.2. The Bearcats' other two state boys runners were senior Josh Hagedorn, who ran 18:15.2, and Michael Giles, who finished with a time of 18:33.2.
"With the boys it wasn't just one of them moving up that made the difference," said Morris. "All seven guys continued to make big jumps throughout the race, earning Hermann's first podium spot for cross country."
Hermann sent three girls to state, led by sophomore Morgan Miller who went as the district champion. She had a solid run, finishing third after taking eighth place as a freshman. Her time Saturday was 19:41.3. Hermann's other two girls who ran in the state meet were freshman Katy Menke and sophomore Clara Scheible. Menke finished 29th in 20:39.0 while Scheible was 30th in 20:39.4, just a stride behind Menke.
"The girls ran their own race and didn't let others dictate how they'd run," Morris said. "Morgan, Clara and Katy all ran well. Katy and Clara were only 4 seconds off of their PR, and they're tied for the 4th fastest time by a Hermann runner ever. State this year was tremendously fast."
Alex Sharp, a freshman from Brookfield, was the Class 2 girls overall champion with a time of 19:07.5. Mercedes Schroer, a junior from O'Fallon Christian, was runner-up with a time of 19:33.5.
Morris said it was a season to remember, both for the boys and girls.
"I'm extremely proud of the way the kids ran on Saturday. I'm even more proud of the time, energy, and effort they've put in to make the team and themselves better everyday."