Dexter's Nea, Notre Dame's Morris win SEMO Conference race

POPLAR BLUFF — Running in a conference championship race for the second time in four days, Dexter's Margo Nea ran away from the field Thursday for a clean sweep.

Nea won the SEMO Conference cross country race at Ozark Ridge Golf Course after earlier winning the SCAA title Monday.

"It was pretty difficult," Nea said of the turnaround. "My legs kind of felt a little tight but the weather's good. It was a good course, a little hilly, but it felt good."

Nea finished in 19 minutes, 32.9 seconds, winning by 52 seconds and was the only runner to earn all-conference honors not from either Jackson or Notre Dame. The Indians won the team title 32-37.

Jackson won the boys team title for the sixth straight year, beating Notre Dame 30-45 with all five runners earning all-conference honors.

Notre Dame's Blake Morris defended his title, winning in 15:42.94.

“Didn’t know what to expect,” Morris said. “I heard that it was hilly and on the walk out before noticed it had pretty good amount of hills, but also noticed it had good downhills.”

Once he saw his junior varsity teammates turn in fast times, Morris knew what to expect.

“I knew I could definitely go fast on it so I was ready,” he said.

Jackson’s Luke Wendel finished second at 16:21 while Poplar Bluff's Jaden Deaton followed 13.8 seconds later, earning all-conference honors for a third time.

"His (personal best) is 16:31 with less hills so that's pretty impressive," Mules coach Beth Lewis-Muse said.

Hosting the event for the first time since 2013, Poplar Bluff didn't have much of a home-course advantage. Deaton said the team had about four or five trips to the golf course to practice but this was the first time he had raced on it.

The junior said it reminded him of the old state course in Jefferson City, which was also held at a golf course, and that the 3.1-mile course does not repeat.

"It was nice just to be here instead of having to go somewhere else," Deaton said.

Nea said she didn't know what to expect from the 5,000-meter course that starts on the No. 1 fairway, loops through the back 9, then zig-zags around the front 9 before an uphill finish back near the starting line.

"I went out pretty fast and hit that first hill and slowed down a little bit but I felt good, used the downhill and it worked out pretty good," Nea said of the first steep incline at the one-mile mark.

Nea's time was faster than the previous winner here by nearly half a minute. She was nearly a minute faster than her time Monday to win the SCAA race in Bloomfield.

"There's a lot of sharp turns on the backside that kind of helped me see where I was at," Nea said.

Jackson had all five scoring runners in the top 10 led by Maite Higuera in third place. The Indians were able to defend their title thanks to their fifth runner as Mallorie Metzger, Layla Fliege, Elizabeth Steele and Addie Heisserer also earned all-conference honors.

Notre Dame and Jackson were tied after each team’s top four runners crossed the finish line. Heisserer finished 10th for the Indians while Kayden Fisher and Sophia McAdams also finished ahead of Notre Dame’s No. 5 runner.

The Bulldogs were led by Paige Beussink in second place while Haley Smith, Kathryn Taylor and Molly Turner also earned all-conference honors.

Cape Central’s Espy Zalite placed 11th.

Poplar Bluff was led by Salah McCormack in 12th place at 21:56. The Mules finished fourth as a team, seven points behind Dexter's 80. Alexis Richardson placed 19th for the Mules at 23:22. Paige Bradley (23:51) was 21st, Tymber Colvin (24:36) 23rd, Kenya Jones (25:11) 25th and Julia Smothers (25:35) was 27th.

Dexter's Gabrielle Brown (22:35) finished 17th, Alanie Lacy (23:38) 20th, Maria Ureta (25:14) 26th and Madison Slaton (28:30) was 28th.

Poplar Bluff's boys placed third, seven points ahead of Dexter, with a pack of four runners in front of the fourth Bearcat.

Aaron Taylor (19:48) was 21st followed by Ashten Hayman (19:49), Tristan Gillihan (19:50) and Brent Worley (19:57). Ross Dare (20:53) also finished ahead of Dexter's last scoring runner.

"We've been working really hard to get our top five under (20 minutes)," Lewis-Muse said.

Morris' winning time was 2 seconds off the winning pace in 2009 and 71 seconds faster than the last race here.

"I wanted to stay with Luke because I knew Blake would go out and run probably under 16, so I wanted to stay close to Luke but I let him get too far ahead," said Deaton, who finished second last year and seventh as a freshman.

Carter Dorton led Dexter in 12th place.


Madyson Kordick and Hannah Kee were the first to cross the finish line in the 3,000-meter girls race, leading Poplar Bluff to a team title.

Kordick won in 12:13.61 with Kee following 15.45 seconds later. Lyndsay Weaver (12:41) was fourth followed by Lauren Hobbs (12:55) while Samantha Ruiz (13:05) finished ninth to earn all-conference honors.

The Junior Mules won by 33 points over Jackson.

Jackson’s boys won the team title with 17 points led by Brynson Garcia’s winning time of 10:37.88. Zach Brazel and Bryce Gentry followed.

Poplar Bluff finished second with 54 points led by Cameron Sisk in fourth place at 11:17. Cayden Larkins (11:29) finished seventh and Jackson Moore (11:47) was 10th to earn all-conference honors.


At Ozark Ridge Golf Course, Poplar Bluff

BOYS:  Jackson 30. Notre Dame 45. Poplar Bluff 93. Dexter 100. Cape Central 106.

1. Blake Morris (ND), 15:42.94; 2. Luke Wendel (J) 16:21; 3. Jaden Deaton (PB) 16:35; 4. Nathan Caldwell (CC) 17:04; 5. Ethan Walz (J) 17:07; 6. Evan Stephens (J) 17:11; 7. Cade McAdams (J) 17:13; 8. Malcolm Patton (ND) 17:14; 9. Clayton Eftink (ND) 17:23; 10. Clayton Greenlee (J) 17:44.

GIRLS: Jackson 32. Notre Dame 37. Dexter 80. Poplar Bluff 87.

1. Margo Nea (D) 19:32.9; 2. Paige Beussink (ND) 20:24; 3. Maite Higuera (J) 20:29; 4. Haley SMith (ND) 20:32.63; 5. Mallorie Metzger (J) 20:59; 6. Layla Fliege (J) 21:07; 7. Kathryn Taylor (ND) 21:14; 8. Elizabeth Steele (J) 21:22; 9. Molly Turner (ND) 21:29; 10. Addie Heisserer (J) 21:40.

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