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story.lead_photo.caption Jack Crull of Helias will be bidding to become a four-time state medalist today. Photo by Associated Press / News Tribune.

The Helias Crusaders and Lady Crusaders worked hard in the offseason for runs at Class 3 cross country honors.

Two weeks into the season, the Missouri State High School Activities Association released cross country district assignments. Helias was in District 3 — Class 4 District 3.

"We are the smallest school, by far, in the biggest class," Helias coach Brad Hake said. "I think eight of the other 12 schools in our district were more than twice our size."

The Crusaders and Lady Crusaders knew that any hopes for a team trophy were off the table.

"It was tough the day the assignments came out, I could see it on the faces of our kids," Hake said. "On the boys side, we knew we had a legitimate chance to make some noise in Class 3. Festus is really good, but we would have been right there and our kids trained so hard knowing that we had that chance.

"We didn't quit, we didn't give up, we battled all season. But it was just a punch to the gut."

Facing stiffer competition in the postseason, Helias advanced senior Jack Crull to today's state championships at Gans Creek Cross Country Course in Columbia.

Crull is looking to be a rare four-time state medalist after finishing third as a junior, fifth as a sophomore and 14th as a freshman.

"We've talked strategy and I think we have a good plan," Hake said. "I think Jack is ready to have his best race of the year."

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Wes Porter of Rockhurst is the individual favorite. Among the others in the hunt for top individual honors are Raden Zaner of Raymore-Peculiar and Matthew Hauser of Rock Bridge.

Hake had a talk with Crull after last season on the importance of being a senior leader. Crull embraced the challenge.

"He demonstrated to everyone how to train and he would work with them to make the entire team better," Hake said. "And we saw the results of what he did."

Crull won the district title by 11 seconds two weeks ago. At last Saturday's sectional, Crull won the event by nearly 17 seconds.

As a team, the Helias boys advanced out of districts with a fourth-place finish before being eliminated in the sectional.

On the girls side, Helias advanced a pair of runners to the sectional in sophomore Alexa Lamb and freshman Danielle Buker.

"We didn't have any senior girls on the team, but we really grew together and improved as the season went along," Hake said.

This will be the debut at state at Gans Creek, a rolling course with no steep hills.

"I think the times will be very fast," Hake said. "It's a great course."

The Class 4 boys race is scheduled for a 12:05 p.m. start.

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