On Sept. 19, Maryville cross country made another hour-plus expedition. This time to Pella, Iowa, to compete in the Heartland Classic.
Despite being their first time at this venue, coach Rodney Bade was pleased with his decision to enter his top four boys in the competition.
“We kind of needed this meet,” Bade said. “Mentally, we needed to go somewhere and run fast. We were trying to find somewhere where we would have a shot at that.”
The Spoofhounds were able to run well, as two of the four athletes set new personal records.
Senior Garrett Dumke finished with the third fastest time in the 5,000-meter red race, coming across the line in a personal best time of 16 minutes, 38 seconds and 1 millisecond. Junior Jag Galapin was the second Spoofhound to cross with a time of 17:40.
Closely behind was junior Cale Sterling, finishing the race in 17:47.7. To close out Maryville’s traveling squad, senior Jake Walker inched closer to his season’s goal of breaking the 20-minute barrier with a new PR of 20:22.7.
Among the anxiety that surrounded Bade predating this meet, the Heartland Classic gave Bade a vote of confidence in the season.
“I feel like our fitness was in the right place and progressing as it should,” Bade said. “You kind of need meets like this every once in a while where you can see what shape you’re in. As a coach, you kind of need this as well, because you start second guessing yourself.”
For Bade, he said this verifies that he is doing the right thing, coaching-wise, and hopes that his athletes will run faster as the season progresses. However, the more races closer to Maryville, the less likely he believes his athletes can perform at a high level.
“The nature of our courses up in this part of the state is fairly hilly and not very fast,” Bade said. “They have thick grass, soft ground — they’re just slow. They’re sluggish and slow.”
Bade said the times he sees from schools in other parts of Missouri at this point in the season are much faster than what his athletes can run with the courses they’re given. Part of the reason Bade was so happy about having his athletes run well in Pella was because he doesn’t expect fast times in the next couple of weeks.
Despite the course craze, Bade is worried about more of the mental challenges that he’ll have to face with his athletes.
“My challenge this year will be to get them to still go for good times,” Bade said. “It’s going to be a hard course, but you can still run fast. I tell them, ‘The top kids always run fast on courses, no matter what the course is.’ My challenge is, now that we’ve done kind of the same meets for a couple years, is to not set those limitations on themselves for the next couple weeks.”
One runner that seems to push past the limitations of hard courses is Dumke. Going into this course blind to its twists and turns, Dumke still managed to run faster than he ever has.
“Being able to run a PR on the course, I was pretty happy with my performance,” Dumke said. “At the beginning, there were about five or six of us that started pushing the race from the front, so we all stuck together and pushed each other through the first couple of miles and then at the end, we all brought it in.”
Dumke said the wooded areas and hard dirt made the course easier to maneuver than some courses in Missouri. After running in a divided Raymore-Peculiar meet, Dumke enjoyed having tighter competition in Pella.
“There was a lot more competition in this Pella meet,” Dumke said. “I’m definitely happy that I got to run in the group I did run in. Everyone on the team had a pack to run with and push ourselves, so it was the perfect race for us.”
The combination of a good pack and good weather carried the ’Hounds through their third outing of the season. Both Dumke and Bade are hoping to keep this momentum going as they don’t see a premature conclusion to the season.
“As of right now, I don’t see the season getting canceled,” Dumke said. “At school we go half the days now, and everybody is spaced out to prevent anybody from being sent home to quarantine. I feel like right now, we’re in the worst-case scenario, and we’ll be able to push through and still have championships.”
Bade and his ’Hounds will travel down to Kansas City, Missouri, to compete in the SPX Invite Sept. 26. In the week leading to the meet, Bade plans on making sure the team is rested and ready to run.