Pintos, Lady Pintos advance to state cross country championships

Six members of the California High School varsity cross country team were among the top 15 individual finishers at the Class 2 District 4 Meet at Linn Saturday to earn All-District honors. Front row, from left, are Lizzy Kirby, Katie Imhoff and Leah Korenberg; back row, Adam Burkett, Zach Merrill and Dakota Harris.

Six members of the California High School varsity cross country team were among the top 15 individual finishers at the Class 2 District 4 Meet at Linn Saturday to earn All-District honors. Front row, from left, are Lizzy Kirby, Katie Imhoff and Leah Korenberg; back row, Adam Burkett, Zach Merrill and Dakota Harris. Photo by April Arnett.

The CHS varsity cross country team competed at the Class 2 District 4 Meet at Linn Saturday, Oct. 27, where both the Lady Pintos and Pintos qualified to advance to the 2012 State Cross Country Championships Saturday, Nov. 3, at Oak Hills Golf Center, Jefferson City.

"With the top two teams and top 15 individuals at the district meet advancing to state, there was a lot on the line," California Coach Josh Grotzinger said. "Both our girls and boys teams competed very well and the Lady Pintos continued their streak earning their sixth plaque of the year and winning the district meet."

Grotzinger added, "We were a little banged up from a tough week, where all but three of our athletes had the stomach flu at some point during the week."

The Lady Pintos captured the district title with 60 points for a first place finish. California senior Lizzy Kirby was the individual champion with 20:23.

"Lizzy led the race from start to finish, except for a fall she took about half a mile in," Grotzinger said. "How she recovered from that fall fit the personality of the team this season; she didn't sit there and cry, she got up and caught the new leaders in a matter of seconds and continued to push the pace. Our girls team has been through a lot this year, but anytime something good or bad happens, they get together and come back stronger as a team, which is exactly what they did at districts."

Joining Kirby in the top five were California's Katie Imhoff, who finished fourth with 20:50, and Leah Korenberg, who placed fifth with 20:57. Kirby, Imhoff and Korenberg earned All-District honors by finishing in the top 15.

California's Regan Downing finished 18th with 23:05.

"Regan ran a huge personal best and just missed All-District honors," Grotzinger said.

Emily Ziehmer finished 39th, and Anna Thibon finished 45th.

"Anna ran a full three minutes faster than last week," Grotzinger said.

The Pintos also earned a spot at the state championships with a second place team finish at the district meet, with 60 points. Top individual finishers for California, who also earned All-District honors, were Adam Burkett, in third place with 17:11; Zach Merrill, seventh, 17:33; and Dakota Harris, 13th, 18:05.

"The Pintos did a great job of competing," Grotzinger said. "We all knew after the conference meet it would be very close between the Pintos and Blair Oaks. I don't think anyone thought it would be as close as it was, with the Pintos edging the Falcons by a single point. It was incredible to watch our guys compete over the last 1000 to 800 meters of the course. They were just unbelievably tough and were racing for every spot. It's exactly how you want your team to compete at the end of the season."

California's Eli Freeman finished 17th; Justin Mitchell, 20th; Josh Long, 41st; and Mason Albertson, 48th.

"While Eli and Justin's finishes weren't exactly what I thought they might be, it was good enough to give us second place," Grotzinger said. "Both did a great job of passing other runners all the way through the race. Josh Long made great strides to finish in 19:55 for his first time under 20:00, and Mason Albertson finished in 20:58. The guys ran a very tough race and that little bit extra they gave at the end secured us the runner-up finish and our first state berth."

The JV Pintos also competed at the district meet.

"The JV boys did a great job," Grotzinger said. "Taylor Kuttenkuler ran an impressive race. He's starting to really turn himself into a runner. Jordan Brizendine, Cord Mitchell and Gregory Schroeter did a great job as well to get some of their fastest times this season. Kolten Barbour came down with the stomach flu Saturday morning, but still ran. I'm sure he'll remember the strength that took, which will serve him well in the future. Let's hope all of our runners can race with that same attitude at state Saturday. If so, big things could come."

The Class 2 boys' race at the state cross country meet Saturday will begin at 11:10 a.m., while the Class 2 girls' race will begin at 12:25 p.m.

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