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2017 Tri-State Cross Country Coaches Association All Area Picks

Quincy High's Lydia Kurfman is the Female Cross Country Runner of the Year in Tri-State Circles

2017 Tri-State Cross Country Coaches Boys All-Area Team

Written by Jared Schmidt - Tri State Cross Country Coaches Committee Member

Runner of the Year - Jacob Bryan, Sr., Illini West

Most athletes would be pretty excited to finish 29th in the state as a junior but, for Illini West's Jacob Bryan, it wasn't exactly the fairy tale ending he had hoped for heading into the 2016 season. Unfortunately for Bryan it had been a long and stressful season and after he finished, a deep sigh may have been more from relief of the roller coaster season being over than the quality finish he was able to achieve. Bryan, throughout the 2016 season, struggled to finish multiple races, sometimes crawling across the finish line and needing medical attention. He was forced to sit out meets while his family and himself questioned doctors on what could possibly be wrong with the extremely fit distance runner that couldn't finish a three mile race. "The health/iron issues were definitely stressful for all of us (coaches, his parents, teammates, and Jake). We weren't sure if or when the episodes would happen. Once he figured it out medically, we at least had an answer" said Illini West Head Coach Ryan Bliss. The answer was an iron deficiency that lead to Bryan becoming fatigued during strenuous times of exercise. Thankfully, the cure was an iron supplement to boost his iron stores in his blood which allowed his body to carry more oxygen an allowing his body to function properly. For Bryan the diagnosis came with several weeks left in the season, just enough time to properly recover and prepare for a post season run. Although he missed training, he was still able to capture his 29th place finish and narrowly miss an All-State honor. 2016 was done. 2017 had to be better.

Fast forward to the Fall of 2017, following a Spring track campaign that included 4 All-State track medals (4x8-1st, 800m-3rd, 1600m-4th, 4x4-2nd)and a team state championship Bryan was poised to show the state what he was actually capable of on the cross country course. Jacob started with a bang and never looked back. Bryan won 10 different meets in the Fall of 2017 including the Running Raider Invite, Tom Oakley, and Liberty Invitational's. "Once he got a couple of meets under his belt this season, his confidence started to climb and he got more dominant with each race," said Blliss. His confidence hit its apex as the post season arrived where he was able to win the West Central Conference and Aledo Regional Individual titles while helping his team qualify for the Elmwood Sectional. At Elmwood, Bryan placed 6th overall earning himself, his 2nd straight trip to the IHSA State Meet and his shot at redemption. With the past behind him Jacob Bryan toed the line at Detweiller Park in Peoria on November 4th to show everyone that 2016 was a fluke and he was a better runner than he was a year prior. That's exactly what he did. He saved his best race for last, running 15:08 to place 8th overall and set a new personal record. It's likely that Bryan also took a deep breath and sighed that day when he crossed the finish line at the IHSA 1A State Meet . He probably also smiled a little bit knowing that he had shown the state what he was truly capable and that 2016 really was a fluke.

Bryan signed a National Letter of Intent to run collegiate track and cross country at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL earlier this Fall. For his efforts on the course in the Fall of 2017, Jacob Bryan has been named this year's Tri-State Cross Country Coaches Boys Runner of the Year.

First Team All- Area - (Alphabetical Order)

Max Brandenburger, Jr., Bowling Green - The Bowling Green had a stellar Junior season with quality finishes throughout. Ending his season with a 3rd place finish at the EMO Conference meet, 5th at the Missouri Districts, and a 91st place finish at the Missouri State Meet netted him 1st team All-Conference and All-District accolades. The 2016 Tri-State Honorable Mention, worked his way on to the 1st team in 2017 with solid performances throughout the 2017 season.

Dalton Ellingboe, Sr., West Hancock - A now 3 time 1st Team All-Area selection, Ellingboe was yet again one of the most consistent runners in the Tri-State area. Always willing to put himself in the race netted him great results throughout the 2017 season. 6th at the QND Running Raider and 3rd at both the QHS Tom Oakley and West Central Conference meets were just a few of his top performances. To cap his Senior season, Ellingboe placed 5th at the Aledo Regional and 18th at the Elmwood Sectional running 16:07, narrowly missing an individual state qualification.

Noah Fleer, Jr., QHS - The Junior leader for the Blue Devils jumped from Honorable Mention to 1st team honors from 2016 to 2017. A 12th place finish at QND and a 5th place finish at the Tom Oakley Invitational show he belonged at the top of any local race. He placed 7th at the Western Big-6 Conference meet to earn All-Conference honors. Leading the Blue Devils in the post season, Fleer placed 15th at the 3A Belleville West Regional and 70th overall in 16:31 at the always loaded Granit City Sectional. Look for Fleer to continue to improve in 2018 and be in the running again for 1st team honors.

Nathan Frazee, So., Clark County - Frazee was able to continue where he left off in 2016 with another solid season in 2017. The Clark County Sophomore was 4th at the Tom Oakley Invitational along with winning the Centralia Invitational and the CCC Conference Meet. Frazee also placed 2nd overall at the Missouri District Meet and earned All-State Honors at the Missouri State Meet where he ran 17:23 to place 12th overall.

Zach Haley, Sr., QND - Haley had a rough and tumble season. Derailed early in the season with a broken hand due to a football injury, Haley continued to train despite missing most of the 2017 races. He ran well in the early season placing 2nd at the PORTA Invitational and 7th at the QND Invitational. After missing a lot of time, Haley returned for the post season and capped his Senior season with a 20th place finish at the Elmwood Sectional, narrowly missing an individual State qualification.

Corbyn Harper, So., Clark County - The 2nd Sophomore to earn 1st team honors from his team, Harper was a vital part of helping Clark County qualify for the Missouri State Meet for the 2nd straight year in 2017. He placed 2nd at the CCC Conference meet and was 4th at the Missouri Districts before he placed 54th overall in 18:14 at the State Meet. Harper also placed in the top 10 at 5 other meets for Clark County throughout 2017.

Cole Kirchner, Sr., Clark County - A lot of Clark County's team successes this year was because of their trio of runners near the front. Kirchner was a vital and consistent part of that trio. A strong end to his Senior season netted him 1st team honors at both the CCC Conference meet and the Missouri Districts where he placed 3rd overall in both. Kirchner was also a top 10 finisher at 4 other meets throughout 2017 and finished his high school career with a 43rd place finish at the Missouri State meet in 18:03 for 5k.

Dalton Melvin, Sr., Illini West - Melvin was a 2016 All-Area Honorable Mention selection, but propelled himself to 1st Team honors in 2017. A consistent top 10 performer Melvin had quality finishes of 9th at QND and 7th at both the QHS and Liberty Invitational's. He placed 4th overall at the West Central Conference Meet and 12th at the Aledo Regional to cap off a consistent high school career that saw him improve steadily from start to finish.

Avery Mudd, Sr., Bowling Green - Mudd was a 1st team All-Conference and 1st team All-District selection after placing 5th at the EMO Conference Meet and 6th at the District Meet. Helping the Bobcats qualify for the Missouri State Meet, Mudd was able to end his 2017 season with a 62nd place finish in a time of 18:26 in Jefferson City.

Devin Neff, Sr., Mark Twain - When it comes to Tri-State Cross Country, you cannot have a conversation without including Neff among the top. A constant presence at the top for his entire high school career, the Mark Twain Senior didn't disappoint in his final season. Neff was able to finish with 5 meet victories in 2017 including the EMO Conference Championship and the Missouri District title before capping his high school cross country career with a 7th place finish at the Missouri State Meet to earn his 2nd All-State honor in a time of 17:15 for 5k.

Ayden Nichols, Sr., Hannibal - Nichols finished his stellar high school career with yet another quality season. The 2015 Tri-State Runner of the Year was top 3 in every meet this year until late in the season when a sickness hindered him from advancing in the post season. His sickness may have hindered his Senior season, but Nichols has left his mark on the Tri-States in the last few years. Season highlights include meet championships at the Fleet Feet 2 Mile and Palmyra Invitations, and a runner up finish at the QHS Tom Oakley Invitational.

Eli Ten Eyck, Sr., Pittsfield - The reigning 2016 Tri-State Runner of the Year was set back by a stress fracture in his ankle during the summer. Not willing to throw in the towel, Ten Eyck worked his way back slowly to be at his best at the end of the 2017 season. His planned worked, as Eli was able to qualify for his 2nd straight IHSA State Meet by running 15:29 at the Elmwood Sectional to place 5th overall. A week later he added a 2nd straight All-State performance to his resume with a 18th place finish at the IHSA Class 1A State Meet. Ten Eyck also placed 3rd overall at the Carlinville, Jacksonville, and Macomb Invitational's throughout the season.

All-Area Honorable Mention -

Highland- Joshua French, Sr., Collin Nelson, Jr.

Illini West- Kevin White, Sr.

Macomb- Alex Dranes, Sr., Dakota Shepler, Jr.

Palmyra- Brock Boulware, Sr., Brett Griesbaum, Jr., Spencer Locke, So., Nick Mudd, Sr.

QHS- Jacob Spooner, Jr., Carson Triplett, Jr.

QND- Nathan Haxel, Jr.

Rushville- Dylan Crook, Fr., Conner Davidson, Jr., Nick Seaver, Fr.

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Girls Winners

Runner of the Year - Lydia Kurfman, Jr., QHS

The last two years have been a tale of two seasons for Quincy High School junior Lydia Kurfman. In the middle of the 2016 season she was diagnosed with a stress fracture in her foot, an injury that would force Kurfman to sit at a large chunk of the season and limit her to strictly cross training activities on a bike or in a swimming pool. " She spent four weeks training on a bike and in the pool by herself. When I look back, I think this gave her time to reflect on where she was as an athlete and where she wanted to be," said Quincy High Head Coach Matt McClelland. After the time off her foot, Kurfman was able to rebound late in the season to place 2nd at the Western Big 6 meet, a performance that would propel her to qualifying for the IHSA 3A State Championship as an individual, where she would run 18:33 at Detweiller Park and just miss the QHS School Record.

Kurfman would go on to have a strong sophomore track campaign early in 2017 where she would qualify for the IHSA State Track meet in the 3200m. After finishing her season with the Blue Devils, Kurfman went on to race throughout the summer in the USATF Summer Track Series and finished runner-up at the National Championship meet in July. That performance was impressive but a long season of racing can take a toll on a runner and Kurfman had raced almost a full year. " As a coach, I was excited for her, but nervous as well. It can take a toll on you mentally when you race too much and she raced all summer," said McClelland.

In the Fall of 2017 the QHS Junior would show no signs of mental or physical fatigue. She started her season by breaking the Quincy High school record, running 18:24, at the Western Big 6 Kickoff Meet besting her personal best in the process. Kurfman would go on to break the QHS school record on several occasions throughout the 2017 season along with winning 5 different meet championships, including the QND Running Raider, Tom Oakley, and Liberty Invitational's. Kurfman was also able to improve on her conference championship position when she won the Western Big 6 Conference Meet to start her post season run. She placed 2nd at the Belleville West Regional, and 4th overall at the loaded Granit City 3A Sectional setting a personal best and school record with the time of 17:27. The final finish the Kurfman's junior campaign came at Detweiller Park at the IHSA 3A State Meet where she placed 31st overall running 17:36, narrowly missing an all state finish.

In 2017, Kurfman showed everyone in the Tri-States that she was the one to beat on the course and earned the title of best Blue Devil ever with her school record performances. For her efforts, Lydia has been named the 2017 Tri-State Cross Country Coaches Girls Runner of the year.

First Team All- Area - (Alphabetical Order)

Megan Adams, Sr., Mendon - Adams has been a part of the 1st Team since its inception in 2015. The 3 time All-Area pick was again a constant at the top of every local race in 2017. With 3rd place finishes at QND, QHS, and Liberty Invitational's there is no arguing Adams belongs on this list. The Mustang Senior continued her success in the post season winning the West Central Conference individual title before earning her final trip to the IHSA State Meet where she placed 53rd in 19:05.

Carrie Balzer, So., Liberty - The Eagle sophomore was impressive in her first year of cross country. From start to finish she continued to improve and put herself in the mix with the best locals at every meet. Balzer started the year placing 12th at the QND Running Raider and then finished 4th at both the Tom Oakley and Liberty Invitational's. A 5th place showing at the QND Regional propelled her to a 13th place finish at the Elmwood Sectional running 19:01, barely missing a trip to the IHSA State Meet.

Camy Grote, Fr., Bowling Green - In her first season at the high school level, Grote definitely exceeded expectations. 1st team All-Conference (5th) and All District (7th) accolades boast this freshman's resume. She was able to cap her season with a 14th place finish at the Missouri State Meet where she ran 20:53 for 5k.

Zarra Humphrey, Jr., West Hancock - As West Hancock's number one runner, Humphrey was relied on to be the front runner that she is. A slow start propelled her throughout the season as she got better with every race. She was 5th at both the Tom Oakley and Liberty Invitational's before she placed 4th at both the West Central Conference meet and the Aledo Regional. Humphrey finished her season with a 17th place finish at the Elmwood Sectional running 19:13.

Kate Klott, Jr., Bowling Green - After a slow start to 2017, Klott continued to improve by leaps and bounds late in the season. She was the EMO Conference Runner-up before she won the Missouri District meet on her home course in 19:40. To cap her season the Junior placed 4th overall at the Missouri State Meet running 19:55 for 5k. That achievement marks the 3rd year in a row that she has been able to place in the top 15 at the State Meet. Look for her improve on that to finish her Senior season with a bang in 2018.

Kendall Marks, Sr., QHS - Marks was one of those runners that got better as the season continued. She was 15th at the QND Running Raider before placing 6th at the QHS Tom Oakley Invite. She placed 8th at the Western Big 6 meet and ran under 20 minutes in her final two races placing 17th at the strong Belleville West Regional running 19:41. She finished 76th in the loaded Granite City Sectional to cap her Blue Devil career.

Claudia Nichols, So., Hannibal - Nichols sees herself on this list for the 2nd year in a row. The Pirate Sophomore was a consistent top 5 presence in many of the meets she competed in throughout 2017. She placed 2nd at both the Palmyra Invitational and the Tom Oakley Invitational in Quincy along with being the NCMC Conference Runner-up. 2017 was another strong season for Hannibal's best. Look for Nichols to continue to make a splash in 2018 with a state qualification.

Meredith O'Neal, Jr., South Shelby - One of only two runners on her team, O'Neal leads by example on and off the course. The South Shelby Junior was among the top runners locally in Missouri and in the Tri-State area. The Highland Invitational Champion also placed 2nd overall at the Frank Lemons Invitational in Hannibal and 4th overall at the Palmyra Invite. She was All-Conference placing 6th at Clark County and ended her season with a 10th place finish at the Missouri Districts and 34th overall at the Missouri State Meet in 21:33 for 5k.

Katelyn Robbins, Jr., Liberty - Early season successes were enough to put the Eagle Junior among the area's best, all while suffering an injury that derailed most of her Junior season. Robbins won the PORTA Invitational early in the season and placed 2nd at both the Quincy Running Raider and the Travel Meet in Palmyra. Add in a 3rd place finish at the Rochester Invitational in Early September and the 2015 Runner of the Year belonged on the 1st team. Robbins will look to rebound in 2018 to build on her already impressive HS resume.

Sierra Stewart, Fr., Clark County - Stewart had an impressive freshman campaign. Placing 1st in 5 different meets throughout the season including Keokuk, Palmyra, and the Frank Lemmons Invitational's boosted an impressive resume. She then proceeded to win the CCC Conference meet before placing 4th overall at the Missouri District Meet. Stewart was able to end her freshman season with an All-State finish placing 12th overall at the Missouri State Meet where she ran 20:46 for 5k.

Maya Stovall, Jr., Macomb - The reigning Runner of the Year had another impressive season in 2017. The Bomber Junior had four meet championships including the Canton, Macomb, and Monmouth Invitational's. Stovall was the West Central Conference runner-up and placed 8th at the Aledo Regional. She finished the season placing 6th at the Elmwood Sectional running 18:40 to earn a trip to the IHSA State Meet where she placed 38th in 18:42.

Sylvia Wagner, Fr., Bowling Green - Having a 3rd place team in the state takes a quality 5. Having a solid runner in the middle of your pack is something you need and exactly what the Bobcats had. Wagner was able to solidify herself with 1st Team All-Conference and All-District accolades with top finishes before narrowly missing an All-State finish by placing 29th overall at the Missouri State Meet running 21:18 for 5k.

All-Area Honorable Mention -

Bowling Green- Nichole Bruni, Sr.

Clark County- Madison Kauth, So.

Highland- Makayla Dickerson, Sr.

Liberty- Christen Balzer, Sr., Courtney Riley, Jr., Kaela Wellman, Jr.

Macomb- Halle Evans, So.

Mendon- Katie Conry, Sr.

Palmyra- Lauren Reid, Fr., Lydia Szarka, Fr.

Pittsfield- Chloe Lemons, Fr.

QHS- Valerie Howerton, Jr., Katie Vogler, Sr.

QND- Lindsey Ayo, Jr., Ella Borrowman, Jr.

West Hancock- Allison Morgan, Sr.

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