Palmyra girls have lofty goals this season

Palmyra's Lauren Reid, left, and Lydia Szarka run during the Palmyra girls cross country team's practice last week in Palmyra, Mo.
Mat Mikesell/Courier-Post
By Mat Mikesell, Hannibal Courier-Post Sports Editor
Posted: Aug. 20, 2019 11:17 am

Twelve points was the difference that prevented the Panthers from going to the Class 2 state championship meet as a team. Instead, only Lauren Reid and Lydia Szarka advanced.

That’s been the motivation Palmyra has used the entire offseason.

"We did all we could, but we were upset," said Bella Perkins, who finished 17th and missed out on state by two spots. "We hope those down moments can bring us back up."

Palmyra believes it can.

Despite no seniors on roster, Palmyra lost only one runner to graduation in senior Kinsey Tiemann. The rest all return and four of them finished in the top 23 in districts last season. Reid, Szarka, Perkins and Emily Jefferies will be the top four runners for the Panthers this fall. Add three freshmen that had successful middle school careers, and Palmyra coach Nick Koetters likes the group he has.

"We should be pretty good," Koetters said. "We have a chance to compete at the district level, and that’s pretty exciting."

Koetters, however, isn’t putting any pressure on the team. Having no seniors on the team doesn’t put the runners in a state-or-bust type of season. Szarka finished 72nd at state last year, while Reid finished 103rd.

It’s a similar approach Koetters used with the boys team a few seasons ago, and the result was a district title.

"We knew we had a good team going into that, but we knew we had to work," Koetters said. "Things had to fall into place."

The Panthers want to make that happen.

"If we push hard enough and work hard enough I think we can get there," Perkins said. "We’ll work together. We have some hope of getting where we need to be, especially since the freshmen have come in and worked hard."

There won’t be pressure to reach state, but it’s the goal the Panthers want to reach.

"We’ll definitely be disappointed," Perkins said. "So it’ll just be more motivation if we don’t."

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Naomi R. Cheek Hearn, 96, of Quincy, Ill., formerly of Hannibal, passed away at 10:43 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020.