For the fifth time in six years, the Webb City boys cross country team will have a full squad competing at the MSHSAA Cross Country Championships.

The latest group of Cardinals to qualify for the state meet will compete this afternoon at Gans Creek Cross Country Course in Columbia.

In recent years, ending the season at state has become a yearly occurrence for the Cardinals.

“It’s pretty special,” Webb City coach Dustin Miller said. “We’ve been able to do it with several different groups of kids. Our kids have been dedicated to the process, and that speaks volumes to the sacrifices they’ve made to have success.”

This fall, the Cardinals won the Central Ozark Conference title before taking third at the district meet and fourth at the sectional.

“These guys are carrying on the tradition,” Miller said. “They’ve worked hard and they’ve shown that they’re worthy of carrying the torch.”

Webb City’s lineup consists of seniors Haddon Spikereit, Parker Hansen and Marcos Encarnacion, juniors Joseph Dawson, Owen Weller and Samuel Winesburg and sophomore Roman Borboa.

“I think if we have a great race we can finish seventh or eighth,” Miller said. “If we just have a decent race, I think we can finish between 10th and 12th. We need to run relaxed and stay confident. They need to stay within themselves and not panic at any point during the race.”

Spikereit, last year’s lone qualifier, finished eighth at the sectional at Missouri Southern, with Dawson 10th and Weller 13th.

The Class 4 boys race is scheduled for 12:05 p.m. The top 25 runners will be recognized as all-state.

“Haddon’s goal is to be an all-stater,” Miller said. “He’s confident and knows he can be that. To have him get on the podium would be pretty special.If Joseph runs confidently, he can be on the all-state podium as well. Owen has been running well and he looks confident. I wouldn’t put it past him to be on the all-state line.”

Webb City will be represented in today’s girls race at 1:05 by sophomore Riley Hawkins and junior Mileah Metcalf.

“For the girls, it’s now an individual focus,” Miller said. “The goal for both of them is to stay poised, run confident and have fun.”

Before the Cardinals left town on Friday, the team received a nice sendoff at the high school and at local elementary schools.

“It’s great that we have a community that’s so supportive,” Miller said.

Like the trip to state itself, the special sendoff in town has become a regular occurrence for the Cardinals.

“We try not to take these moments for granted,” Miller said.

NOTES: For the first time since 1976, the state meet will not be held at Oak Hills Golf Course in Jefferson City. A number of area teams competed at Gans Creek earlier this season, so there’s a familiarity with the course.

“It has rolling hills and gradual turns,” Miller said of the home of the University of Missouri cross country program. “It’s a two-loop course. There’s a 2K loop and then a larger 3K loop. Mizzou did a really good job with the design. I’m curious to see how state will go.”

Area individual qualifiers in Class 4 on the boys side are Joplin’s Micah Bruggeman, Neosho’s Kaden Cole and Carthage’s duo of Noah Talamantez and Mariques Strickland. Carthage’s Jenari Lopez and Joplin’s Jennalee Dunn qualified for the girls race.

In Class 3, Carl Junction’s girls and Lamar’s boys qualified entire squads. College Heights advanced its entire girls team in Class 2. Also in Class 2, East Newton is sending boys and girls teams, while Southwest qualified its boys. Liberal is taking full boys and girls teams to the Class 1 event.

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