Individually, Sikeston had three bright spots in Saturday's race. Dale Ham and Clay Lincoln qualified for the state finals, while Jhonathan Wiley finished his first and last season with the team on a high point, finishing 32nd and improving on his best time on this course by almost a minute.
"I wish Jhonathan would have started running cross-country years ago," said Sikeston head coach Gary Williams. "Jhonathan improved in almost every race. He is a good example of a student who wasn't doing a fall sport that came out and had great success his first year."
Ham, who was a little bit under the weather, qualified for state his second consecutive year.
"Dale went out hard, but seemed to lack the strength to hold a constant position in the race," explained Williams. "He faded to 14th but regained his momentum to finish 11th."
Lincoln went out in his usual fashion to the front holding onto seventh place until the two-mile mark. With the urging of his coach, he moved to fourth place in the next half mile only to run out of gas.
"Clay hit the so called wall and it about fell on him," said Williams. "Clay quickly started to struggle and was falling back to the pack. If Dale hadn't caught him and got him through the later stages of the race Clay may have not made it. And if Clay wasn't struggling enough with 100 meters to go his feet went out from under him around a sharp curve and he fell to the ground. Four runners quickly went past him but Clay was able to get up and get across the line before two more runners could pass him."
Lincoln's story is a remarkable one. During the summer, Coach Williams had him in driver's ed. During time driving around town Lincoln told Williams he would run cross-country. Then a week into driver's ed he badly dislocated his knee playing basketball. Not only did he have to stop driving, but he could hardly get off the couch for six weeks while his leg healed.
"Most cross-country runners are made in the summer when they put in big miles preparing for the season," said Williams. "Clay was preparing by watching TV. I really had no idea whether he was going to start the season or not. Then a couple of weeks before school Clay decides he will play both football and run cross-country. Since I barely have enough to field a team I decide to let him try it."
During the first six weeks of the season Lincoln practiced with the cross-country team once a week and ran some in the mornings.
Running mostly on talent and guts, he placed in the front of his first four races, winning one in Cape Girardeau and finishing second out of 200 runners in a junior varsity race in St. Louis.
"I have been around runners for 35 years and have never seen a runner do so much with so little training," said Williams.
With the real possibility of being a state qualifier Lincoln decided to concentrate just on cross-country. With only five weeks of real training, Lincoln became all-conference, all-district and a state qualifier.
"I would wager to say no runner has ever done this with less training and the fact that he is also a freshmen is just incredible," said Williams.
The state finals will take place this Saturday at Houch Golf Club in Jefferson City.
"Team-wise, we didn't finish as high as I had hoped," said Williams. "But with only a six-man team, four of which are beginning runners, we probably did as well as we could on a cold, cloudy day in Potosi. There are so many kids right now in Sikeston not doing a fall sport that could have success at cross country. This year for the first time in ten years we got the program going again. It is my hope that many of these students not doing a fall sport will join us next year.
"The worst thing that could happen to these students is that they will get in the best shape of their lives and I am willing to bet some of them could be very successful runners."
ST. LOUIS -- The Kelly High School boys cross country team qualified two for the state meet at the Oak Hills Golf Course in Jefferson City on Nov. 9.
The two qualified in Saturday's district race at the Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis.
Trey Simmons, a junior, placed sixth in the District 1 competition, running an 18:12. Sophomore Michael Glastetter placed ninth, running an 18:32.
The Hawks placed fourth out of 10 teams in the district, scoring 95 points to finish behind Herculaneum with 25, Hancock with 64 and Notre Dame with 72 points.
Other Kelly runners were Brandon Ayers in 22nd, Nolan Lewer in 26th, Derek Brucker in 35th, Jordan Felter in 37th, and Todd Brucker in 38th.
In the girls race, Leigh Ann Bucheit finished in 33rd place with a time of 26:01. Other finishers were Patricia Quillman in 37th, Kristina New in 38th and Cara Klipfel in 39th. The girls had only four runners and could not score as a team. Herculaneum won the girls district.
Last year Kelly's boys team finished fourth in the state, led by all-stater Adam Lofton, who is now ruining for Missouri Valley. This was a rebuilding year for the Hawks, which had several good performances with a very young team.
The freshmen worked hard and pushed each other to improve their performances. Every run resulted in new personal records for the boys and girls.
The team will lose one senior boy to graduation, Todd Brucker.
"Todd is a wonderful young man with a great work ethic," said Kelly coach John Merrick. "He will be missed by his teammates and his coaches."
On the girls side, Kelly will lose senior Kristina New, Katrena Martin and Natalie Scherer to graduation.
"Those girls will also be missed by their coaches," said Merrick.
The Class 2 boys will run at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday in Jefferson City.