FINDING ANOTHER GEAR

in Cross Country

After strong showing at invitational meets, Class 3A Clifton boys & girls cross country teams both capture second place overall in district to advance to regionals; Ochoa wins boys individual gold

After enjoying a wealth of success throughout the invitational meet season, the Clifton boys and girls cross country teams put together some of their best races of the year when they needed them most. Competing in the District 17-3A Championships at Rex Callicott Park in Keene Oct. 12, both the Clifton boys and the Lady Cubs captured the overall team silver medal behind district champion Keene.

“We just continued what we had been doing all season and carried it into the district meet,” Clifton cross country head coach Ryan Hunt said.  “We’ve been running with confidence, and it paid off. 

Leading the way for the Clifton boys, sophomore Ray Ochoa ran away with the individual district championship, taking the gold medal with a time of 16:42.03, just ahead of silver medalist and teammate junior Clay Kennedy with a time of 16:46.69.

With three Lady Cubs walking away with individual medals, freshman Evy Kennedy placed fifth with a time of 13:12.28, followed by junior Meagan Henderson in sixth with a time of 13:37.72, and sophomore Camy Barsh in seventh with a time of 13:42.31. With both teams qualifying for regionals, the Cubs and Lady Cubs advance to the Class 3A, Region III Championships to be held at Kate Barr Ross Park Oct. 25 in Huntsville.

“It’s exciting to run well as a group because the kids start feeding off each other, and it elevates everyone’s performance,” Hunt said. “Anytime you can get to regional, it’s an accomplishment. And I believe we still have our best performances ahead of us.”

Prior to the district championships, the Clifton boys and girls teams competed at the Keene Invitational Aug. 31, the Midway Invitational Sept. 8, the Glen Rose Invitational Sept. 14, the Crawford Invitational Sept. 24, and the Moody Invitational Sept. 29. Both boys and girls teams won the Crawford meet and the Moody event, the Lady Cubs placed third overall at the Midway invitational, while the Clifton boys captured third as a team at the Glen Rose meet.

Individually, Clay Kennedy captured the boys gold medal at the Crawford Invitational, while Barsh took first place at Moody and Evy Kennedy claimed the silver medal in Crawford.

“We have several returners from last year on both the girls and boys teams,” Hunt said. “I feel like those kids, along with several new faces, gives us a really solid team on both the boys and girls side.”

Clifton opened the season with a strong showing at the Keene Invitational Aug. 31 as the boys placed fifth and the Lady Cubs finished sixth as a team, while Kennedy led the Cubs with a seventh-place finish individually. At the Midway Invitational Sept. 8, the Lady Cubs captured third place overall in a competitive 20-team field as Evy Kennedy place 16th individually, Henderson finished 21st with Barsh following closely at 23rd

“Both the Keene and Midway meets were big meets as far as the number of schools that attended,” Hunt said following the season opening meets. “Both meets had around 20 schools competing. We were able to have really solid finishes in both.

“Keene is going to be the site of the distinct meet, so it was really good to be able to go there and get some experience on that course. We saw most of the teams that will be at the district meet and I feel good about how we competed against them.”

Clifton continued its success at the Glen Ross Invitational Sept. 14 as the boys placed third out of 11 teams while the Lady Cubs finished fourth out of 13 teams. Clay Kennedy placed fourth individually with a time of 18:13.62 followed by Ochoa in 10th place with a time of 18:31.60 for the Clifton boys. Barsh led the Lady Cubs with an 11th-place finish in a time of 14:13.31, followed by Evy Kennedy in 14th place with a time of 14:21.18.

Then a week later, both Clifton boys and girls teams took their performances to the next level at the Crawford Invitational. With Evy Kennedy capturing gold in a time of 13:37.1 for the Lady Cubs, Barsh placed fourth in 13:48.6, followed by Henderson in fifth with a time of 14:13.1, sophomore Kyndall Hunt in seventh with a time of 14:33.1 and sophomore Hailey Issacs in ninth with a time of 15:07.6.

Led by Clay Kennedy’s gold medal run in a time of 18:14.0 in Crawford, Ochoa took third place with a time of 18:54.8, followed by a strong field with Brayden Stone in sixth with a time of 19:43.9, Andres Devora seventh in 19:50.8, Eddie Gaona ninth in 19:58.2 and Jonah Payne 10th in 20:01.6.

“We feel like we have the opportunity to take a lot of kids to the regional meet next month,” Hunt said after the strong showing by both teams in Crawford. “It’s exciting to watch these kids progress as the season continues.”

Photos courtesy of SARAH GABLE & KALLIE JACKSON, CLIFTON HIGH SCHOOL YEARBOOK STAFF

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