The Palmyra boys cross country team may have been the Cinderella story of the Class 2 state championships.
Entering its sixth season and not having won any races, the Palmyra boys cross country team may have been the Cinderella story of the Class 2 state championships.
After claiming a district championship, the second win in program history, the Panthers entered Saturday’s state with confidence.
They left with a 12th place finish.
“We were hoping for a little higher finish,” Panthers coach Nick Koetters said. “But we have never been here before so I told them before the race there is no expectations. I can’t be upset with anything they did today.”
Freshman Aaron Stamper paced the Panthers with a 69th place finish in a time of 18 minutes, 31 seconds.
“It’s the last race of the season, so I just wanted to leave everything I had out there,” the freshman said. “I wanted to lead the team to the best possible finish.”
Senior Nick Mudd, who led the team in the district meet, fell off the pace and finished as the Panthers No. 5 runner and 123rd overall.
He mentioned a restart of the race, which was caused by a fan sounding an air horn within the first 200 meters of the start of the race, was an emotional letdown.
“The restart really messed with us,” the senior leader said. “We lost all the hype we had at the start and it was a real mental block.”
Brett Griesbaum finished 85th with a time of 18:43, while Spencer Locke (18:59) and Brady Buckman (19:05) rounded out the scoring for the Panthers with 103 and 110 place finishes.
Brock Boulware, who decided to forgo his senior season on the football team, placed 154th and Zach Rosenkrans was the Panthers final runner with a 154th place finish in the field of 171.
Boulware mentioned the course was the toughest he has ran on.
“Not going to lie this was not my best race and this is just a God awful course,” the senior admitted. “That first mile is alright, but slowly all those hills add up and after the two mile those big hills are just terrible.
“But it was still just a great accomplishment to even be here. To come together, win district and be here, anything else would have just been icing on the cake.”
On the girls side, Lydia Szarka turned in a 43rd place finish with a time of 21:54. The finish is broke Maddie Bond’s mark of a 109th place effort in 2015 as best state finish from a Lady Panther.
“This was a really tough course,” Szarka said. “I just wanted to stay close to my personal record and wanted to focus on the hills because there were a lot of them and I am usually not good at hills.”
Koetters mentioned he was pleased with the race his top freshman ran.
“She ran a great race,” the Panthers coach said. “She ran the first mile in 6:30 which was a lot quicker than we expected. And in the end she ended up beating a few girls who had beaten her earlier in the season.”
Classmate Lauren Reid was the only other Lady Panther to qualify for the state meet. Reid finished 84th overall with a time of 22:59.
Reid found herself almost dead last in the first 200 meters of the race after getting boxed in.
“She recovered well,” Koetters said. “Her time in the first mile was right where she needed to be. I think she was around 125th after the first mile and she does what she does every race and just started to creep in on people and overtake them as the race went on.”
Reid mentioned she was pleased with her first state race.
“I was just trying to stay as consistent as I could,” the freshman said. “I mean I always want to go faster, but this is a really hard course with lots of hills and I am happy with how I finished.”
With four of the top seven runners returning next season for the boys team and all of the girls, Koetters hopes this season is just the start of something great for the program.
“The future of both programs are bright,” the Panthers coach said. “Hopefully we can come back and do better (here) next year. This was our best season. We have never had this many people at state, so hopefully this is a motivator and a building block for the years to come.”