The Jefferson City Lady Jays cross country team will reach territory the program has not seen since 2018 when the Class 4 girls cross country state championships begin at noon today at Gans Greek Course in Columbia.
The Lady Jays are set to post a team score after placing third in the Class 4 District 2 Tournament last weekend.
It will be the first team score posted by Jefferson City at state since the boys team took seventh in 2018 and first for the Lady Jays since a 14th-place finish in 2015.
Posting a team score at state was the lone goal headed into the season for Jefferson City.
“We had one goal and that was to make it to state for the first time in seven years,” Jefferson City coach James Murphy said. “So we basically told them that we are proud of them and are excited to see them race this weekend.
“Now it’s time to go surprise some people.”
Reaching the state meet is a big step for the program as a whole.
“It shows that we are headed in the right direction,” Murphy said. “These kids really bought into what myself, being a first-year head coach, and Coach Schreiber were trying to bring to the program.”
The Lady Jays will be led by senior Ella Jobe, who will be making her fourth straight appearance at the state meet.
Jobe will bid for an all-state finish after narrowly missing it the past two years, taking 32nd with a time of 19:54.4 in 2021 and 47th in 20:57.8 last year.
Jobe finished 79th in Class 5 as a freshman with a time of 20:24.0.
“We’d love to see Ella get all-state, however that’s not how we are selling it to them,” Murphy said. “We are just telling them to go out, race hard and just do what we’ve done all year.”
Jobe will not be the only Jefferson City runner with state experience as senior Adelaide Jones and sophomore Jenna Schnipper will both make their second appearance.
Schnipper made it as a sophomore in 2021 and finished 94th in 21:00.5 and Jones made it last year as a freshman, finishing 81st in 21:37.3.
Jobe (ninth, 19:36.97), Jones (19th, 20:42.25) and Schnipper (25th, 20:58.84) all received all-district honors after placing top 30 last week at Nixa.
“It was a nasty day, and that course down there at Nixa is an extremely fast course,” Murphy said. “We knew people were going to come out fast with it being a district race, we just preached to our girls that they need to run how they have all season, which is run smart and run your race.”
The experience of the three has been important in prepping the newcomers: Junior Victoria Smith, senior Makayla Cordes and freshmen Kelsey Muhlenbruch and Caidence Winemiller.
Smith narrowly missed out on all-district honors with a 34th-place finish in 21:33.6, Muhlenbruch was close behind in 47th in 22:22.9, Cordes finished 59th in 23:21.4 and Winemiller did not run in the district meet.
“Those three girls have provided a lot of expertise, just kind of tips and stuff, to the girls that are competing for the first time,” Murphy said. “It’s really good to have them guide the rest of the team.”
With a clear forecast and warmer weather, runners -- and fans -- couldn’t ask for much better conditions.
“Especially after the 40-degree, rainy day that we had at districts, I think everyone, including spectators, are really excited about this race,” Murphy said. “Because of the good weather, I think we are going to see some good times on Saturday.”