Dutchgirls, Ashner post best state cross country finishes in school history

Will Johnson

JEFFERSON CITY — Surviving 30-degree weather during the district meet at Linn a week ago, Matt Candrl’s Owensville Dutchgirl harriers competed Saturday in the Class 3 girl’s race at the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) Cross Country Championships in Jefferson City under normal temperatures of 60 degrees.

That helped sophomore Sophia Ashner and her Dutchgirl teammates improve on their 10th-place showing as a team last year at state.

Led by Ashner’s fourth-place time of 19:37.88, Owensville (170) placed sixth out of 16 scoring teams behind Festus (108), Herculaneum (110), Helias Catholic (127), Carl Junction (163) and Bolivar (167).

“I was so excited,” Ashner said. “I saw when I crossed the finish line that I got my time that I wanted.”

Seven points out of the top four and state hardware, OHS came close to joining the 1995 Dutchmen Cross Country team on the gym wall.

“We’re all proud of them,” OHS Activities Director Dale Long said. “All of their hard work paid off.”

Ashner started out 11th at the mile mark before gradually moving into the top 10 and her fourth-place finish.

Starting in the top 50 after one mile, fellow sophomore Kendra Hults made the biggest move nearly finding the top 25.

Making her way into the top 30, Hults posted a 29th-place time of 20:41.22.

“Kendra (Hults) was closing in on the top 25 and All-State honors,” Coach Matt Candrl said. “She just ran out of real estate in the end.”

Next for the young Dutchgirls was fellow sophomore Paige Heckelmann finishing 41st in 21:01.03.

Running in 34th at the two-mile mark, Fireman’s Hill took its’ toll on Heckelmann and a vast majority of the field.

“Going up Fireman’s Hill, my legs were aching and I just pushed my way up and tried giving everything I had.”

Running the state course for the first time as an athlete, freshman Katie Candrl made the most of it finishing 84th in 21:50.65.

Running 120th after the first mile, the Dutchgirl freshman moved into the top 100 between the second and third mile before ultimately placing 84th.

“It was really hard on one hand and awesome on another,” Dutchgirl freshman Katie Candrl said.

Alesha Shockley’s second race at Oak Hills did not go as planned.

“Her body wouldn’t give it to her today,” Coach Candrl said.

Developing cramps in her leg at the home stretch, Shockley lost 34 positions between the three-mile mark and the finish line before registering a 119th-place time of 22:35.52.

“My leg started twitching out at Fireman’s Hill,” Shockley said. “I decided I wanted to keep going but my legs just went out from underneath me.”

Helping Owensville win the last two Four Rivers Conference (FRC) titles, Dutchgirl senior Adriene Aubuchon ended her high school cross country career with a 132nd place time of 23:01.82.

“Before the race, it hit a little hard that this would be my last one,” Aubuchon said. “It’s been an amazing experience to get where we are now compared to our freshman season.”

Rounding out the Dutchgirl contingency at state Saturday was junior Abby Koepke.

Battling a nagging ankle injury all season, Koepke fought through the pain to finish the state course in 23:37 to place 146th.

“It was good and a little hilly,” Koepke said. “It felt good to race with a team that has become really close.”

Serving as alternates for the Dutchgirls were seniors Joy Stewart and Zoie Bertagnolli along with sophomore Macy McKinney.

Dutchmen senior Jacob Giedinghagen was Owensville’s lone harrier in the Class 3 boy’s race at Oak Hills in the last race of the day.

Moving up to 79th at the three-mile mark, the Dutchmen senior passed Bolivar’s Mason Broadway and Springfield Catholic’s Wes Pendleton to post a 77th-place time of 18:01.86.

That time was two seconds faster than his previous best time at state of 18:03.43 last year as a junior.

“I was right on pace after my first mile,” Giedinghagen said. “I was a few seconds off on my second mile before I got boxed in beyond Fireman’s Hill and ran out of time.”