The California High School cross country teams started off the 2012 season (California's third) with a bang as the Lady Pintos won second place at their first meet, Sept. 4 at the Jim Marshall Invitational, Jefferson City, then captured third place just four days later at the Linn Invitational Saturday, led by senior Lizzy Kirby who won the title in the girls' race with a 20:23.86 finish.
"Liz really did an outstanding job," California Coach Josh Grotzinger said. "Not only did she win the meet, but she smashed her own school record by 34 seconds and secured the first ever first place finish for a California cross country athlete, which was hugely impressive."
The Pintos also fared well at the opening meets as the varsity finished the Jim Marshall Meet in third place, and the Linn Meet in fourth, while the JV Pintos finished the Linn Meet in third place.
Medalists at the Jim Marshall Invitational were Kirby, Leah Korenburg, Katie Imhoff, Emily Ziehmer, Zach Merrill, Dakota Harris, Eli Freeman and Adam Burkett.
Medalists at the Linn Meet were Kirby, Korenberg, Imhoff, Merrill and Burkett. Korenberg finished seventh with 21:31.42; Imhoff, 12th, 22:00.65; Merrill, ninth, 18:07.62; and Burkett, 15th, 18:33.53.
"More than 10 teams competed at Linn and our girls' third place trophy was only two points behind Class 1 state champions Russellville and Class 3 competitor Owensville, which was a great accomplishment," Grotzinger said. "Our boys also really proved themselves at Linn. Finishing fourth was huge and they should be proud of this accomplishment for a long time to come."
Grotzinger said Greg Schroeter helped the varsity boys to their fourth place finish out of 16 teams at Linn, while Josh Long and Justin Mitchell led the JV boys to their third place finish.
"The boys team has strong competition forming in the JV ranks between returnees Mitchell and Long, and Schroeter, a freshman," Grotzinger said. "All three have competed well attempting to earn a spot on the coveted varsity roster. The competition between the top four varsity guys, Merrill, Burkett, Harris and Freeman has been fascinating to watch. Not only do they love to compete, they relish the fact that it does nothing but help the team score when they're racing hard with each other. With Linn being just our second meet of the season, you can really tell these boys are learning how to help each other in a race. The addition of Adam and Eli to the already powerful duo of Dakota and Zach has our boys team in a great position this year, and with the competition for the fifth spot heating up, we're going to have to start looking for our first plaque soon."
Grotzinger said the girls team consists of a good mix of experience, talent and hard work. "Lizzy Kirby possesses and exhibits the traits of a leader better than anyone. She ran the second fastest time ever on a course that's been around for 34 years, at one of the most competitive meets in Mid-Missouri. Linn usually features some of the best cross country athletes in a nearly 100 mile radius. To be among the top 20 at this meet is good, but to come out four days after finishing second at another hotly contested meet and win is just extraordinary. Actually, extraordinary might be the word that best exemplifies our girls team this year."
Grotzinger added, "Korenburg and Imhoff have had an outstanding couple of days, and Regan Downing's experience started to show at the Linn meet with her 37th place finish, and Emily Ziehmer came in 48th. Freshman Anna Thibon is following in the footsteps of her brother as she has shown huge improvements at every meet. She was outstanding in her first attempt at the distance, especially considering she had never run a 5K."
The CHS tracksters will compete at the Fulton Meet at 10 a.m. Saturday.