Six Hannibal High School cross country athletes will represent the Pirates this morning at the Missouri State High School Athletics Association state meet at the Oak Hills Golf Center in Jefferson City. The girls’ meet will start at 9 a.m. and the boys’ will immediately follow at 10 a.m.
The boys’ cross country team had four runners qualify, led by junior Paul Golian. This will be Golian’s second trip to the state meet.
“It makes it a lot better,” Golian said of having his teammates joining him at the state meet. “It makes it a lot more fun and to see how these guys have improved, it makes it a lot better.”
Having been there before, Golian picked up a few key points to remember.
“Don’t go out to quick is the main thing,” Golian said. “It a really hilly course and that makes it tough and there is also a lot of competition.”
While the Oak Hills course is a hilly course, Golian and the rest of the Pirates have experience with hills. In fact, their home course at the Hannibal American Legion Golf Course, is filled with hills.
“That helps a lot and plays into our favor,” Golian said. “Running around in these hills a lot, we know what to expect in the hills (of Jefferson City).”
Joining Golian will be fellow junior and first time qualifier Tyler Janes. But just because this is Janes first time qualifying for state, doesn’t mean he is going into the meet blind.
“I have been to state before (to watch),” Janes said. “It is a pretty good meet and seems pretty tough. But it is nothing the team can’t handle.”
Janes knows there are going to be differences between watching the race and being in the race.
“As a participant you have to deal with the crowd and you have your own battles going on in your mind,” Janes said. “As a viewer you see the whole thing and you get a different view on it. You don’t have to deal with the mental battle that you would if you were a runner.”
Also making it to state is sophomore Michael Vaia. Vaia just started running cross country this season and finished the season as the Pirates’ No. 2 runner on the boys’ team.
“This is my first year running cross country,” Vaia said. “So to qualify for state was a pretty big deal for me.”
After playing football as a freshman and running track, Vaia decided to make the move to cross country this year.
“I had some success running long distance in track as a freshman,” Vaia said. “I played football last year as a freshman, so I thought I would try cross country.”
Vaia has a simple goal for the meet, to make All-State.
“I know I am not going to win,” Vaia said. “My goal is to make All-State which is top-25. That is my goal.”
The final boy to make it to state is freshman Sean Jones.
It feels pretty good,” Jones said. “I have heard it has been a while since a freshman made it to state and coach said I am his first freshman. So it feels really good.”
Jones is looking forward to the experience he will gain and be able to use throughout high school.
“It is going to give me experience for when I get older in high school,” Jones said. “It is going to let me know how it will be later on.”
On the girls’ side, just two runners advanced to state, but both have been there before.
Senior Abbey Jeffries will be closing out her high school cross country career with her fourth trip to the state meet.
“It is exciting,” Jeffries said. “A lot of people can’t say they have been all four years. So I am excited about it.”
Jeffries will try to draw on her past performances at Oak Hills in her final meet there.
“I know what the course looks like,” Jeffries said. “So I am kind of prepared. I know a lot of people go too fast in the first mile and kind of just die off. I just hope to do my best.”
After finishing with a high of 10th as a freshman, Jeffries slipped to 18th before finishing 43rd as a junior.
“Last year I didn’t make All-State,” Jeffries said. “All-State is top-25. I got 43rd and this year we will just have to see. I am just going to do my best and hopefully it pays off.”
The other girl on the team to advance is junior Rachel Davis. Davis will be making her second trip to state.
“I know that it is supposed to be warmer than it was last year,” Davis said. “So, hopefully this race will go better. I am ready to race and hopefully get all-state.”
Davis is just her second year of running cross country.
“Since last year was my first year of running cross country,” Davis said. “I learned that you have to overtake your competition and train hard. I went from being not a seasoned runner to being the top one on my team.”
After finishing 111 overall last season, Davis is hoping to significantly improve that this year.
“I finished 11th last year where I also placed 14th at districts,” Davis said. “But this year I got fourth at district. So hopefully at state I can get up to the top-25.”