Will Johnson
Sports Editor

BOWLING GREEN — Facing new challenges in the form of new teams and a new course, Matt Candrl’s varsity Dutchmen and Dutchgirl cross country teams entered the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) Class 3, District 5 meet at the Pike County Fairgrounds outside of Bowling Green looking to add to their Four Rivers Conference (FRC) team titles 11 days earlier.

After the Class 2, District 5 meet was held, the varsity girl’s race kicked off the Class 3, District 5 meet.

Overcoming nagging pain in her hip, Dutchgirl junior Sophia Ashner ran the race she needed to in order to post a second-place time of 20:01.25 behind Helias freshman Alexa Lamb’s winning time of 19:46.10.

“Sophie did what she needed to do to advance to state next week,” coach Candrl said. “She ran a good seasonal time for her but was disappointed that she didn’t win the race.”

Ashner had plenty of All-District company in the top 15 in Owensville orange and black.

Fellow juniors Kendra Hults (3rd, 20:39.05), Alesha Shockley (5th, 20:58.87) and Paige Heckelmann (6th, 20:59.60) helped Owensville occupy four of the top-six positions.

“Kendra and Alesha both ran times that they put up earlier in the year on better days,” coach Candrl said. 

Sophomore Mekayla Gibson continued her outstanding first season of varsity cross country claiming All-District accolades with an 11th-place time of 21:12.14.

“Mekayla (Gibson) dialed it down and had one of the biggest breakthrough performances today,” coach Candrl said. 

Rounding out the Dutchgirl contingency of harriers in Bobcat country was sophomore Katie Candrl (20th, 21:59.61) and senior Abby Koepke (30th, 22:35.10).

“I’m really grateful that I have two great teams that can get me where I want to go,” Koepke said.

As if a district cross country title were not enough, Koepke was also a part of a national champion horticulture team during the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) convention last week in Indianapolis, Ind.

“It’s great that this many people have the same interests as me and that put in the same hard work,” Koepke said.

Joining the seven Dutchgirls that competed at districts in the state meet will be alternates Arissa Huff, Macy McKinney and Kyra Binkhoelter.

Looking to give their Dutchgirl counterparts some company at the state meet were the varsity Dutchmen harriers in their district race.

Making key moves late in their race, the sophomore duo of Austin Terry and Paul Tyree punched their tickets to state with top-15 finishes individually.

Outside of the top-15 during the first half of the race, Terry moved his way into the top 10 while Tyree picked off nearly 10 runners in the final mile to secure his spot at state.

Running a time he put up in Rim Rock earlier this season, Terry posted a ninth-place time of 17:33.68 while Tyree snagged one of the final individual state-qualifying spots with his 14th-place time of 17:47.09.

“Austin was right on top of his PR (personal record) that he ran at Rim Rock earlier this season,” coach Candrl said. “For Paul, he dropped 15 seconds off of his PR to advance to state.”

Also helping Owensville place fifth as a team were freshman Bam Wizeman (25th, 18:14.68), junior Treyden Williams (50th, 19:21.04), Freddy Zheng (60th, 19:42.15), Cameron O’Neal (64th, 19:54.90 and Christian Lowes (72nd, 20:32.41).

“Bam Wizeman had a good day time wise,” coach Candrl said. “We were ahead of Kirksville through three runners and we just didn’t have enough of an answer for them.”

Owensville will not be the only Four Rivers Conference (FRC) team represented Saturday in Jefferson City.

Pacific qualified their entire boys team along with three individual girls from the Class 3, District 2 meet at Arcadia Valley.

Sullivan, Union and St. Clair also combined to qualify five individuals to state.

From the Class 2, District 4 meet in Hermitage, Hermann and New Haven also combined to qualify 11 runners for the state meet.