Maryville High School cross country team heads out for a run Nov. 2 on the trail located behind the high school. The cross country team is preparing for its next meet Nov. 5 at Gans Creek Cross Country Course in Columbia, Missouri.

Maryville cross country triumphantly returned from Platte City, Missouri, with four of the top 5 finishes and the Class 3 District 8 championship plaque in hand the evening of Oct. 31. Achieving this feat had been something coach Rodney Bade was shooting for since he seized the helm of the program.

“It feels really cool to finally win one,” Bade said “When I took over the program six years ago, I tried to compile some historical data, and it was spotty at best. One of my goals was to piece together history, and the top spot, it feels great.”

The Spoofhounds ran away with the team race, winning by 33 points. Similar to most of the meets this season, senior Garret Dumke led Maryville in the 5,000-meter run with a first-place time of 17 minutes, 16 seconds and 4 milliseconds. Dumke made history by becoming the first runner in school history to win an individual district title.

“Halfway through the race, I remember Bade telling me to enjoy the moment,” Dumke said. “Knowing that I’d gotten third in the past two years at districts, and being able to win my first cross country district title as a senior, is a great accomplishment. It’s great to know that I have amazing teammates to run with every day and have such a good coach like Bade to get me to that moment.”

Juniors Jag Galapin and Cale Sterling followed suit, finishing second and third, respectively, with times of 17:49.4 and 18:12.2. The fourth ’Hound to cross the finish line was freshman Connor Blackford, who finished fifth with a time of 18:32.9. Rounding out the championship team was senior Jake Walker, who solidified Maryville’s victory after finishing 23rd in 20:57.2.

The team’s confidence proved rightly placed, and Bade found no surprise in winning the district meet.

“Yeah, we knew that we would win this meet,” Bade said. “Just looking at our district, we knew that as long as we had four in the top 10 and Jake (Walker) finished healthy, we really felt like we were going to walk away with it.”

Now, the Spoofhounds direct their focus away from the rolling hills of Platte City to the fast flats of the Gans Creek Cross Country course in Columbia, Missouri. Maryville will line up against the fastest runners in the state Nov. 5.

The competition will be much faster than what any runner, besides Dumke, has seen this season. However, Bade said that the field should have nothing but a positive impact on the team’s performances.

“I really don’t think (the field’s effect) will be significant,” Bade said. “There’s going to be plenty of kids to race and be competitive with. I think everyone will say, ‘Oh my gosh, here’s 170 kids and they’re the best in the state.’”

Bade said each runner would react in a different way. He predicts that Walker will enjoy being able to run at state as a senior, Blackford will struggle slightly if he falls too far behind Sterling, and he predicts Galapin and Sterling will pull each other through the race.

However, Bade believes that Dumke will thrive in the heightened competition, similar to his first outing on the state course when he nearly broke the school record.

“I think it’s going to be better for Garrett (Dumke),” Bade said. “More competition will be better for him, kind of like what we saw when he went down on his own and ran at the Gans Creek meet. It’s hard to be 30 seconds ahead of the second place finisher and push for a school record. It’s a lot more doable when you’re trying to run someone down.”

Even with Bade’s predictions, different pressures fall on the athletes because of the varied level of stakes in this meet. For Blackford, this is the beginning of his high school career. For Dumke, this is his last chance to crown himself the fastest runner to compete for Maryville High School.

“I’m definitely having mixed emotions,” Blackford said. “Being my first big race — it doesn’t get bigger than this as a freshman — there’s all those nerves, but I’m really excited. It’s a fun opportunity. I don’t know how many times I get to do this, and I’m excited to go out and see what we can do.”

“It really hasn’t hit me yet that this is going to be my last race,” Dumke said. “I’m really looking forward to being able to travel down and compete with some of the best runners that Maryville has ever had and just enjoy the moment.”

In this meet, both runners are granted one last chance to rewrite Maryville’s history books. Blackford is aiming to leave everything he has on the state course to better his freshman record under the 18-minute mark. Dumke is pushing his limits to dip under 16:19 and walk away from his high school career with no what ifs.

Bade said it is going to be difficult for the team to place high at state because of the gap in between the fourth and fifth runners. However, he is not opposed to planting the idea in his athletes’ heads because he knows that his runners will perform to the best of their ability.

The ’Hounds will travel one last time to the fastest meet in Missouri of the year at the MSHSAA Class 3 State Championships Nov. 3. No matter the outcome, Bade will be happy with his team.

“If we get eighth and six personal records, which is realistic, we have to walk away happy,” Bade said. “I’m going to throw it out there that the top eight get trophies, but this year will be a lot harder. If we’re ninth and not eighth, but still have six PR’s, we have to be happy with that.”

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