Kingsville cross country runners Talitha Hart, Brayden Barnett, and Ally Sosa competed at the Class 1 State Championships at Gans Creek Cross Country Course in Columbia on Saturday, Nov. 7.
Hart closed out her senior season by placing 97th in the girls’ race as she finished her Lady Tiger cross country career as a four-time state qualifier.
“It was a great season overall,” said Kingsville cross country head coach Lee Smith. “It was exciting to see the way Talitha got to end out her senior year at state. I’m thankful that she had that opportunity.
“Then having a freshman with Ally being here, I told her to go out, and enjoy it today. We never know if we’re going to get back, but the plan is to be back for the next three years in a row for her.
“For Brayden, this is probably our last year for him running solo. We’ve got a good group coming up.”
Hart timed out at 24:51 to place 97th in her top-100 finish in the field of 166 finishers in the girls race.
As a freshman, Hart placed 106th in the first state meet held at Gans Creek Cross Country Course after previously being held at Oak Hills Golf Course in Jefferson City. In her sophomore season, Hart fought back from an offseason knee surgery to place 116th. She broke into the top-100 last season by placing 83rd in a time of 23:48.
“Every year, I put in more work, and I got better,” said Hart. “Coach worked with me all the time. We did more miles, more different workouts, and it really helped me run faster.
“I’m pretty happy with my results this year,” continued Hart. “My time was about what we thought it would be. It wasn’t a PR, but it was right where it should be. It was fun to run, though.”
Hart and Barnett returned to Columbia after both previously competed on the Gans Creek Course in better weather conditions.
“We didn’t really walk it ahead of time,” said coach Smith. “Most of them know the course. Ally really didn’t, but I just told her to…kind of explained it to her. We tried to keep them as warm as long as possible. We got out here about 45 minutes before the girls’ race…got them going. They ran well, then Brayden was able to stay nice and warm bundled up until he ran.”
The running conditions made for a challenge at the end of the season in an otherwise favorable fall for all outdoor sports. Hart worked through the weather conditions to enjoy the final race of her high school cross country career.
“Today was a little bit cold and muddy compared to the meets we’ve been running this season, but it’s phenomenal to be here with my family and just have a wonderful experience,” said Hart. “I went out. It felt good. The opening start, the sprint, I felt good. I got a good place in the pack. It wasn’t too muddy out there. I hit the turns hard just like we practiced, and I used the downhills. I felt good.”
Sosa placed 140th in the race by posting a time of 27:20.
“It was really fun,” said Sosa. “It was just great being out here, and getting to try it. I was really nervous. I felt like I had a good start. The corners are really hard to do, but it was pretty fun for the most part.”
The freshman Sosa drew from Hart’s previous state meet experience, and from coach Smith’s advice in approaching the Gans Creek Course, as well as in approaching the overall season.
“She helped out a lot this year,” said Sosa in regard to Hart. “She’s been great. Coach Smith just said to have fun, and try your best.”
Barnett showed gains over last year’s 147th-place finish in his freshman season when he posted a time of 21:00. This year as a sophomore, Barnett placed 97th in a time of 19:48.
“I knew I had to start out fast because most of those kids were going to start out fast,” described Barnett. “I was feeling pretty good until like to the 4K, and I started feeling really…I started hurting bad. But I didn’t quit, so I feel good about today. I was wanting to get top-80, but I got top-100, which is 50 places more than I got last year. I’m proud of it. I’m fine with it.”
Coach Smith highlighted Barnett’s improvement as both look to next year when the boys’ team looks to increase its roster size.
“I told him, let’s just improve our time from last year to this year,” said coach Smith. “He improved over a minute.”
“After last season, I didn’t run very much in the offseason,” said Barnett. “I think this summer I’m going to try to push a lot harder since I know we have a bunch of talent coming up, and I know we could compete for state next year as a team.”