MONROE CITY, Mo. – Bailey Hays felt like the odd one out.
At track meets, Hays, a distance runner for the Monroe City girls track and field team, frequently fielded questions about how she did in cross country season the previous fall.
"I’d tell them we don’t have it," Hays said. "They thought it was crazy."
It won’t be that way any longer.
Monroe City is fielding boys and girls cross country programs for the first time this fall. The track teams have long and decorated histories – the boys team won the Class 2 state championship last spring – and that makes a smooth transition for a fledging program.
Hays, along with sophomore Emmalee Williams, took third in the girls 4x800-meter relay at the state championships. Williams took second place in the 800 run.
They both get a chance to use their talents in the fall.
"It’s really exciting because it’s my senior year and I get the opportunity to run before I graduate," Hays said. "I was wanting to, but it just hadn’t happened my first three years."
Hays knew having a cross country program could help her for track in the spring. That’s why when the school announced it was fielding that sport, Monroe City coach Laura Mulvaney made her first phone call to Hays.
"She’s just a phenomenal athlete and a phenomenal kid," Mulvaney said. "You want her to be successful in all areas. She wasn’t as successful in track last spring as she wanted to be, so when we got this program, I knew she would be excited."
It’s not just Hays, however, as Mulvaney has six girls and five boys out for their respective teams this season.
"I was really happy with that because we didn’t get official approval until July," Mulvaney said. "We have enough to have two full teams. I’m really happy with those numbers."
While Hays and Williams will be the leaders of the girls team, Mulvaney expects Shawn Terrill and Kabott Harlan to lead the boys program.
"We have several that I hope show that is someone not just a force to be reckoned with in the fall, but also in the spring," Mulvaney said.
That depth, coupled with the success those runners have in the spring, gives Monroe City aspirations of winning medals in the program’s first season.
"I’m really hoping we can get some medals this year and do well," Hays said. "I think we can as a team because we have a lot of really good runners. We might be small, but I think we’e capable to do more than people expect."