The St. Joseph Christian girls cross country team returns to the state championship for the fourth straight year. But for the first time, they enter as district champions.

The St. Joseph Christian girls took first place in their Class 1 District 8 meet last week, scoring 40 points. Christian scored four top-15 finishers on the day beginning with senior Anna Carter who came in third.

“I think encouraging one another and staying positive throughout the race was really helpful,” Carter said. “We were really confident going into this year and very optimistic.”

After placing third at state last season, the Lions have carried that momentum over into their 2019 campaign.

“Last year we were on the podium as a team at state and there’s a possibility of that again this year,” Christian head coach Lisa Olson said. “We’ve had some rough patches and the team sticking together is the main thing that has really helped us come out strong.”

Senior Audrey Maggart struggled with health issues this season, causing her to miss an entire month. Fortunately, she was able to return and go on to place ninth at the district meet.

“At the end of September we really weren’t sure if I’d be able to run anymore this season, so I am just beyond grateful,” Maggart said.

A second chance also was given to senior Victoria Orton this season. An injury kept Orton from competing her sophomore year at Central. She was then unable to run with the Lions at state last year, due to MSHSAA transfer rules.

“A lot of hard work paid off to get me back to this point. It’s great to be on this team. We have a strong group of girls right now that really work for each other,” Orton said.

Orton, Maggart and Carter will close out their senior season this weekend. All three said it’s surreal to be in their final year, especially for Maggart and Carter who have been coached by Olson since seventh grade.

“At the start of it, I never dreamed that we’d ever go to state, let alone all four years we’d bring a team with us,” Maggart said. “It’s been really amazing and I can’t believe it’s my senior year.”

Olson said Saturday will be “bittersweet.”

“State will be their last cross country race, high-school wise,” she said. “It’s going to be a sad one, but it’s going to be a good one.”

Foster Scheerer will be joining the girls at state, representing the boys team as an individual runner. He finished 15th in the district meet.

The state meet will take place Saturday at Gans Creek in Columbia, Missouri.

Kristen Carver can be reached

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