COC cross-country teams in the region are ready for the 2022 campaign | local sports

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High school cross country season is fast approaching for the Joplin Eagles, Webb City Cardinals, Carthage Tigers and Carl Junction Bulldogs.

Here’s how teams in each region of the Central Ozark Conference are formed:

JOPLIN EAGLES

The Joplin boys’ cross country team made history last year by winning their first Central Ozark Conference title.

After graduating Zaben Barnes, Nicholas Horton and Evan Matlock running at Missouri Southern, the Eagles have recharged and are looking to defend their COC title this fall.

Joplin’s top returnee is senior Hobbs Campbell, who is a multiple-time state qualifier in a host of sports. The Eagles’ top four will also include junior Ian Horton and sophomores Chance Tindall and Gray Edwards.

“We have four good players up front, but we’re figuring out who our five are right now,” Eagles coach Dustin Dixon said. “We have a few juniors who are competing for this role. Aidan Koch and Parker Durham top the list. The boy’s expectation is to defend the conference title. We want to get back to the state championship. The boys have been to the state reunion two years in a row. We are looking to do it again.

On the girls’ side, Joplin is entering a year of rebuilding following the graduation of standout and current Cornell runner Jennalee Dunn. The Eagles will be led by two-time state qualifier Allie Keizer and Mairi Beranek is back for her senior season.

Joplin is looking to newcomers Masyn Briggs, Averi Burks, Jade Parise, Isabella Cruse and Meridyth Mai to help college this season.

“We want our girls to get college experience,” Dixon said. “We’re confident that if we can just stay healthy, we can compete and race competitively at the end of the year at the conference meet and hopefully bring some girls to the championship meet. of state.”

WEBB CITY CARDINALS

The Cardinals will be a young team this fall, but have two of the region’s top runners in boys and girls, Abi Street senior and Evan Stevens junior.

Webb City coach Dustin Miller has high hopes for both this season.

“We’ve got a really good runner on both sides, so it’ll be exciting to see them leading most races,” Miller said.

Senior Hally Philpot is also back for the girls. The top newcomers are freshmen Brooke Hedger and Kristina Bundy.

The boys returnees are rounded out by junior Mason Hedger. Junior Dakota Grove and freshman Andrew Dawson are both looking to make an impact on the university.

“The goal is to develop brave and consistent college athletes,” Miller said. “We are young and experienced at the college level, so we expect to make significant improvements throughout the season. We can become a strong team by the playoffs.

TIGERS OF CARTHAGE

The Tigers lost three of their top seven runners on the boys side and said goodbye to a senior on the girls side from last season.

But the experience is not lacking.

Among the boys, Carthage finds Miguel Solano, Eddy Fuentes, Caleb Fewin, Michael Lanyon and Colt Pugh. The best newcomers are Devin Smith, Indiana Gray and Shane Ritzema.

“We’re going to rely heavily on Miguel, Eddy, Caleb and Michael to be our college leaders,” Tigers coach Brian Crigger said.

On the girls’ side, Maggie Boyd, Katy Witherspoon, Jennifer Rodas, Allyssa Williams, Mildred Elias, Mildred Vicente, Sonia Lopez and Jenna Wilson are back.

“On the girl side, Maggie and Katy are our two best comebacks from last year,” Crigger said. “I also think a number of other girls are ready to run for the top spots as well.”

Crigger added: “I think we’re going to have a great season this year. All the athletes are very positive and excited to have a great year. Last year we didn’t finish the season with any runners at the State Meet, and I feel like we have a handful of runners with a shot to make it to Columbia this year.

NEOSHO WILDCATS

The Wildcats will be led by a strong girls team this fall with junior Riley Kemna and second Chloe Wood leading the way.

Neosho only lost Bailey Miller for graduation. The former Wildcat is now competing at Northwest Arkansas Community College.

“I expect our girls to be in the top two throughout the regular season,” Neosho coach Emily Abell said. “I believe they can move forward in the conference game and have a solid fifth place.”

The Wildcats were hit hard by graduation with five of seven varsity runners gone. That includes Kaden Cole, who now races at Missouri Southern.

Neosho returns junior Carson Newell and senior Gabe Mabrey. The top newcomers are senior Brandon Cargile and rookie Christian Lindsay.

“Rebuilding the men’s team this year so far is proving difficult, but a challenge my boys are looking forward to,” said Abell. “The work ethic so far has been great.”

CARL JUNCTION BULLDOGS

Chad Fletcher is entering his first season leading the cross country program at Carl Junction.

“I’ve coached in college for the past five years, and of all the sports I’ve ever coached, this is by far my favorite,” Fletcher said. “I love him. I’m thrilled to have the chance to try and help teams take it to the next level with high expectations for themselves and for me as well. It’s a pleasure to work with this group . »

And Fletcher has unprecedented numbers in his first season at the helm.

The Bulldogs have 34 total runners.

On the girls side, Carl Junction is led by state qualifier Lexi Carpenter and near state qualifier Sadie Burchett. Senior Klohe Burk, juniors Bailey Feken, Audrey Fletcher, Bryanna McCabe and sophomore Delaney Harris also return.

The Bulldogs are led by senior Brock Feken and junior Jack Lawson on the boys side. Junior Luke Battagler and a slew of sophomores are looking to contribute for Carl Junction.

“We would like to qualify as teams for the state, but it will be a challenge,” Fletcher said. “But we have tough riders, who are ready for this challenge.”

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