By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
Runners from Joplin, Carthage and Neosho will compete in the Class 4 sectional cross country meet today at Ha Ha Tonka State Park near Camdenton.
Boys qualifiers include juniors Matt Riechman-Bennett and Kush Bhakta of Joplin, senior Garrett Wood and freshman Chance Burr of Neosho and senior Andrew Burr of Webb City.
The adjustment to cooler weather this week shouldn’t be a factor, said Joplin head coach Jason Riddle.
“It really doesn’t affect anything in a negative way,” he said. “Mid-30s to upper-30s is about perfect for distance running as long as the wind isn’t too strong.”
Carthage qualified as a team out of the district meet at Nixa. The Tigers’ top six runners are juniors Ben Southwick, Carter Hensley and Brandon Lindsay, and seniors Mackenzie Smart, Hunter Blount and Oscar Sarceno.
In the girls’ division, Webb City’s Natalie Capron, a junior, and Kelsey Andro, a freshman, qualified for the sectional along with junior Amber Bates of Neosho and Bree Smart of Carthage.
Smart, a sophomore, became the latest in a series of Carthage runners who have captured the final qualifying position by placing 30th in a district or sectional meet.
“Her PR (personal record) was 21:47. I figured she would have to run 21:20 to get in,” said Carthage head coach Andy Youngworth. “With some encouragement from her teammates — male teammates — in the last 400-500 meters, she started to pass some people who were dying and she made it.”
Former Carthage runner Charles Whitehead placed 30th at the district meet last year but still qualified for the state meet, where he placed 108th — two places ahead of Riechman-Bennett. Two years ago, Mandolin Smith of Carthage qualified for the state meet by placing 30th at the sectional.
In Class 3, Carl Junction, Cassville, McDonald County, Monett and Nevada will run at the District 6 meet at Bolivar.
The Class 2 District 5 meet will be in Springfield. Teams in the field include College Heights, Diamond, East Newton, Purdy, Sarcoxie, Seneca and Southwest. Big 8 Conference boys champion Lamar will be at the District 7 meet at Holden.
In Class 1, Thomas Jefferson, Jasper and Sheldon will run at the District 6 meet at Bolivar, while Wheaton will be in the District 5 meet at Springfield.