It turns out that the links at Eldon Country Club can also serve as a cross country course. Eldon hosted Lake area neighbors Osage, Versailles and the rest of the Tri-County Conference in a meet on Thursday to settle conference bragging rights and it was the first time the conference meet was held at the golf course instead of Eldon Middle School.

It turns out that the links at Eldon Country Club can also serve as a cross country course. 

Eldon hosted Lake area neighbors Osage, Versailles and the rest of the Tri-County Conference in a meet on Thursday to settle conference bragging rights and it was the first time the conference meet was held at the golf course instead of Eldon Middle School where Tri-County schools had met for numerous years. 

“We were so excited, this was a long time coming. We’ve been trying to get it organized and this was the year,” Eldon coach Kay Reed said of hosting the meet at a brand new venue. “It went off without a hitch, beautiful day, great teams and a lot of effort from everybody… We were excited to bring it out here for everyone- the fans, the teams and spectators, especially- they were great.” 

School of the Osage entered the conference meet looking to defend last season’s sweep of conference titles. This time, the girls finished second with 47 points trailing only Southern Boone (33) while Blair Oaks took third with 69 points and no other schools fielded enough runners for team competition. The Blair Oaks boys captured a conference title with 46 points while Osage finished second with 77, Versailles earned sixth with 116 and Eldon placed seventh with 163 points.  

The trophies may not be coming back to Osage, but the Indians still had nine runners earn All-Conference honors amongst both teams. 

“All of the runners ran great races. We knew going in we were the underdog based on past meets where we had seen our conference competition,” Osage coach Miriam Hill stated. “The great thing about Thursday was that we pulled closer to them, which shows us the improvement we want to see in our runners this late in the season. It was great to have so many runners earn All-Conference.” 

To make the All-Conference team, a runner has to place inside the top 15 of either race and the Osage girls had six of them alone in their race amongst a field of 36 runners. Sara Wolf was the first Indian to cross the finish line with a sixth place time of 22:06 while Bayley Johnson finished right behind her in seventh at 22:17, Juliana Bryant was ninth at 23:08, Isabella Lopez was 12th at 24:14, Abby Maschhoff was 13th at 24:15 and Katherine Wolf also made the cut with a 14th place time of 24:16.  

Meanwhile, Cammy Walters placed 25th at 26:19, Jocelyn Welch was 28th at 26:35, Grace Martin was 29th at 27:05, Maya Miller was 30th at 28:13, Jennifer Renz was 31st at 28:51 and Ella Kucsik was 33rd at 30:44. 

John Markowitz was the first Osage boy to cross the finish line, capturing third overall with a time of 18:07 amongst 51 Tri-County runners.

“It went very fast and it was a new course, just totally different from the one I’m used too. It is a nice change for my last year, though,” Markovitz said of the new course as he earned All-Conference honors for a fourth straight season along with Wolf. 

“I’ve been doing this since I was young so I guess all the techniques and things I’ve integrated from yards of this have just compiled into this one day.”  

Dylan Barnett joined Markovitz on the All-Conference team with an 11th place time of 19:23 and Jaysen Groll did as well with a 12th place time of 19:41. Colin Misenheimer was 23rd for Osage at 20:42, Caden Wyrick was 28th at 21:18, Caleb Klaus was 43rd at 22:32 and Jansen Gamm was 49th at 25:15.  

Osage will now prepare for districts at Hermitage on October 31. 

“We have two weeks now to to work on improvement through some continued strong training. Our district is totally different this year with a lot of schools from further south,” Hill said of the road ahead. “We did have the opportunity to race against several of them at Hermitage and looking forward to districts.” 

Speaking of the future, there may be a bright one on the horizon at Eldon. 

The program entirely consists of freshmen and sophomores in 2020 and there were two who medaled as Nathan Reynolds finished second with a time of 17:53, trailing only champion Connor Burns of Southern Boone (16:58), and Zoe Martonfi also finished second at 20:13 behind champion Alex Volkert of Southern Boone. 

“All-Conference as freshmen, can’t beat it,” Reed said with a smile. “We can only go up and it is just awesome. We are so excited to watch them and the rest of the team. We’ve got such a young team so they are all just doing great and it is fun to watch them all run.” 

Even though it was a brand new course, Martonfi said she felt like she had an advantage in her race knowing about the terrain and it was a satisfying day overall knowing her hard work paid off. Her older brothers Caleb and Nicholas have also raced for the Mustangs in the past and there is a certain mindset she takes to the course, coming from a running family.

“Just hold nothing back and give it your all every single time. If you don’t, you just have that guilt in the back of your head,” the freshman stated. 

Vivian Wester finished 20th for the Eldon girls at 25:17, MaKenna Imler was 27th at 26:25 and Addison Gerber earned 32nd at 30:32. Garrett Greenwalt was the next Mustang to cross the finish line for the boys behind Reynolds with a 37th place time of 22 minutes. Jacob Arnold was right behind him in 38th at 22:02, Zack Brown as 41st at 22:25, Tate Whitman was 45th at 23:24 and Luke Graham was 50th at 25:34.

“Our team did great. We had a lot of personal records and a lot of positive vibes, which is good and what we want,” Reed said of her young team.  

And this team will also get to train on this new course at the country club in the years to come, too, which could be very helpful for districts. The design of the course was no accident for precisely this reason. 

“When we decided on the layout we wanted to make it challenging like true cross country. If we are going to get ready for districts, this is what it is going to take and we are fortunate now that we get to train on it,” Reed said. “We’ve looked at Hermitage’s course and it is kind of hilly an true cross country so this was an awesome benefit for us.” 

Up next for the Mustangs is the Mexico Autumn Classic on Tuesday at 4 p.m. and the program will wrap up the regular season at Fatima on Saturday at 9 a.m.

“Our mindset this year has kind of been to take advantage of every single day because we don’t know if we are going to have practice or be shut down and we don’t even know if we are going to have a meet,” Reed said of the reality of this season in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. “So, these guys have been working hard every single practice and meet and hitting the grindstone. 

“It is do or die,” the coach continued, referring to districts, “so after each meet we are looking at the next one and thinking about districts and we are just excited.” 

Versailles and a pair of All-Conference runners on Thursday as Seth Newton finished amongst the boys with a time of 18:25 and Zach Radefeld earned eighth at 18:54. Meanwhile, Dagan Haggerman placed 29th at 21:19, Matthew Radefeld was 30th at 21:21 and Ryler Pryor captured 44th at 23:11. Carmen Lemell was the lone girl to represent the Tigers and she finished 24th in her race at 26:12.

“Coach (Ashley) Pryor and I are so proud of all our runners. Always putting in the work at practice and our times and performances are getting better with each race- working towards being at our peak for conference, district and state” Versailles coach Laura Piercy said.

“The new course was a lot more challenging than the previous conference course, but what a beautiful setting. The start of the race was flat for a bit and then it was a pretty good uphill. We have been doing a lot of hill training this year so we would be prepared for any hill we may face in a race. East hill in Versailles is where we do the bulk of our hill work and Coach Pryor and I feel it is paying off.” 

Like Eldon and Osage, Versailles will also be racing districts at Hermitage this season on October 31 and Piercy is looking forward to seeing which of her Tigers can make the cut for state. Up next for the program is the Vienna Autumn Classic on Monday at 4 p.m.