Bigger numbers for Blair Oaks boys, girls cross country

Easton DeMilia (left) will be one of three returning state qualifiers this season for the Blair Oaks cross country team. (Ken Barnes/News Tribune)
Easton DeMilia (left) will be one of three returning state qualifiers this season for the Blair Oaks cross country team. (Ken Barnes/News Tribune)

WARDSVILLE -- The numbers are looking good for the Blair Oaks cross country teams.

If the numbers help produce the results they want, it could be a great postseason for the Falcons and the Lady Falcons.

“It would be awesome to get a boys team and a girls team qualified for state,” Blair Oaks coach Marc Keys said. “I’m not sure if we’ve ever done that before in the same season.”

The Falcons and Lady Falcons open their season today in the CoMo Kickoff at Gans Creek Course. Three of Blair Oaks’ first five races will take place at the state championship course in Columbia.

“It’s a beautiful course and it’s 35-40 minutes from our school,” Keys said. “People say, ‘You’re only going to Columbia?’ Well, it’s right there. Why drive six hours to go to some other course when this one is good enough for the NCAA championships?”

The Blair Oaks boys have their sights set on getting back to state as a team for the third time in four years.

“We’re in a lot better spot now than we were at this time last year,” Keys said. “I think that bodes well for the rest of the season.”

Seniors Easton DeMilia and Cody Pickett are trying to join a rare club within the Falcons’ program by qualifying for state in all four seasons.

DeMilia led Blair Oaks with a 69th-place finish at the Class 3 state meet in 2022.

“He’s been solid, he’s been working a little bit more this summer,” Keys said. “He’s motivating himself and he got some guys on his team that are picking it up.”

Pickett was 144th in the state meet last season but he posted the Falcons’ best time at the district meet.

“He’s embraced running and working hard,” Keys said. “The talent is there. We have two or three other guys that are running hard and pushing him.”

Also returning for the Falcons is junior Nolan DeMilia, who qualified for state as a freshman.

Rounding out the top seven for the boys are freshman Caiden Casey and juniors Carter Kempker and Isaac Stafford.

Freshmen Ethan Pickett and Bret Heislen could make their way from JV to the varsity level.

“It’s just going to take time, they’ll have some opportunities to run in the JV races,” Keys said.

A total of 10 boys and 15 girls are on the Blair Oaks cross country roster.

“I think that’s the most girls we’ve had, in my recent memory,” Keys said. “We’re fairly good and deep.”

Leading the way for the Lady Falcons is senior Clara Lackman, who finished in 51st place at last year’s state meet. Also returning are senior Chelsi Forck and junior Macey Smith.

“They’ve done really well in early workouts,” Keys said. “All three of them ran over the summer and are really prepared.”

Seniors Brooklyn Heislen and Jazmin Birky also return to the varsity roster.

Blair Oaks has five freshmen on the girls roster. Kennedy Fitzpatrick and Emily Pickett could make their way into the varsity lineup by the end of the season.

“They did really well in eighth grade, but we have the luxury that they don’t necessarily have to race varsity (right away),” Keys said.

The Tri-County Conference meet is Oct. 10 in Eldon. Last season, the Tri-County boasted both Class 3 individual champions and had a total of eight all-state medalists: five girls and three boys.

“We will not be surprised when we get to state,” Keys said. “We’ve seen them and we’ve raced against them. We’ll be prepared.”

New to Blair Oaks’ schedule is a Sept. 6 home meet located behind the high school. The format of the meet will be a combination of cross country and track and field, with teams running a 3x1,600-meter relay around an 800-meter loop, which is mostly flat ground but has one 10-foot tall hill.

Middle school teams will run a 3x800-meter relay around the loop.

“I wanted something a little different,” Keys said. “Relays are always fun, and a cross country relay is unique.”

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