Calvary Lutheran girls set for Class 1 cross country championships

Calvary Lutheran's Mahaila Brunner sprints to the finish line during this season’s Calvary Lutheran Cross Country Invitational at Binder Park. (News Tribune file photo)
Calvary Lutheran's Mahaila Brunner sprints to the finish line during this season’s Calvary Lutheran Cross Country Invitational at Binder Park. (News Tribune file photo)

After taking third as a team last season, the Calvary Lutheran Lady Lions are headed back to the Class 1 state cross country meet. And this year they are going in with a district champion.

Sonya Brunner took first in the Class 1 District 3 meet with a time of 21:03.27 to help propel the Lady Lions to a second-place finish as a team and a third consecutive team appearance in the Class 1 meet.

“She’s very, very steady,” Calvary coach Kerri Morris said. “We’ve worked a lot on shifting gears and last week is where I really saw it. … I think people have kind of overlooked her, I don’t think they will anymore.”

Brunner returns to the state meet after placing seventh last year with a time of 21:06.8 and 34th as a freshman in 2021 with a time of 22:25.5.

“If you look at her race times, rarely does she have an off day unless she’s sick or something,” Morris said. “She is just probably one of the most consistent runners I’ve ever seen and I think that will bode well for her at state.”

Calvary Lutheran took 11th as a team in 2021 then improved to a third-place finish last season.

Maddy Sprengel returns to the state championships for the second time after taking sixth in the district with a time of 23:35.33.

“She’s battled injury and when she’s not running, she’s in a boot,” Morris said. “… We had to kind of pick and choose to have her running at the end. She wanted to run New Haven at the beginning, but we needed her at the end, so she’s worked really hard. I see a lot of maturity in her this year.”

Sprengel took 30th in last year’s state meet with a time of 22:18.2, just missing the medals, but 30th this season will be a state medal after the rule change to the top 30 all-state times from the previous 25.

“She was right there last year,” Morris said. “She missed the medals at 30, but this year 30 will medal, so that’s obviously a big goal for her. She would love to get in those medals this year.”

Alayna Sprengel, in her first cross country season, took 24th in the district meet with a time of 25:02.33, while Mahaila Brunner finished 35th in 25:40.16. Mahaila Brunner took 152nd in last year’s state meet in a time of 28:26.4.

“Alayna Sprengel had never run at all, she was at New Haven asking ‘What should I do with my arms?’” Morris said. “We were working through the mechanics and she’s done great. Mahaila Brunner has just had a phenomenal year, she’s gotten so much faster and they ended up running every race after thinking they were only going to run a couple at the start of the season.”

Mikayla Yutzy took 42nd in the district meet with a time of 26:17.19 and Sydney Morris finished 46th in 26:36.14.

Both return with state experience as Morris took 132nd in last year’s state meet with a time of 26:15.8 and 147th in 2021 with a time of 27:46.7, and Yutzy took 108th last season, crossing the finish line in 25:14.2.

“So many of these girls jump into cross country without really knowing anything about cross country, they willing go into it,” Kerri Morris said. “I hope that this is just going to show that these girls are dedicated and that they’ve put in the work. Besides doing well, they’re building a program and hopefully going to cause some interest for those coming up.”

The Class 1 girls race at Gans Creek Course in Columbia will take off from the starting line at 9:45 a.m., with the award ceremony set for 10:45 a.m.

Right after will be the Class 2 boys race with the starting gun firing at 11:15 a.m.

The Lions only have one competitor running in the state meet, but he’s coming in with a program first.

Jaxson Jobe claimed first place in the Class 2 District 3 meet with a time of 17:23.88, becoming the Lions’ first district champion.

“Start to finish, he ran a smart race,” Morris said. “… When he made his move, at about the two and a half mile mark, he just looked strong. I think people have referred to him as always the bridesmaid never the bride. He had a great leader in Kyle (Hagemeyer), but you know, he achieved something Kyle actually never achieved.”

Jobe is headed to the state meet for the fourth time, earning medals in all three of his previous appearances.

“He steps up,” Morris said. “… He’s mature enough, he knows how to do this, make this experience be of benefit not an additional stressor. That’s how he sees it, he knows not everybody gets to make it to state at all, so to get there in his fourth year with three medals already and a team medal, I anticipate he’ll get there and he’ll run well and get where he wants to be.”

Jobe placed 31st in the Class 1 race in 2020 with a time of 18:14.5, helping the Lions earn a first-place team plaque, which pushed the Calvary boys into Class 2 the past two seasons.

He then improved to a 23rd-place finish in 17:13.0 as a sophomore before improving once again to 15th with a time of 17:24.8 in last year’s meet.

“He puts really high expectations on himself,” Morris said. “… He’s really handled it well, he’s taken a good approach, he’s worked really hard. He puts the work in and he was a team leader. He’s really helped to build up some of those younger ones.”