COLUMBIA, Mo. – Ryan Unruh didn’t jump in a lake Friday, but he might be getting some permanent ink on his body to commemorate an historical day.
After his Blue Springs South girls cross country team won the Class 5 District 4 meet, he jumped into a lake. It’s become a tradition he enjoys, only because he’s celebrating his team’s success.
“The lake was cold,” Unruh said. “It’s been worse before, so it could have been worse.”
On Friday, the Blue Springs South coach had a bigger reason to celebrate. But, his punishment wasn’t decided yet.
After the awards ceremony, Unruh said he might be getting a tattoo, but that wasn’t official yet.
“There will be some sort of celebration,” Unruh said. “I’ll let them come up with what they want me to do. Who knows what will happen.”
The reason for celebrating?
After a handful of years of bringing home a trophy, the Blue Springs South girls cross country team brought home the top prize Friday from the Class 5 state meet.
The Jaguars left the Gans Creek Recreation Area with the state championship trophy for the first time in program history.
“This feels good,” Unruh said. “I feel like we’ve been close so many times. I know how hard these girls have worked – and not that everybody doesn’t – but I’ve seen it first hand how much they’ve wanted this. To see them do everything right and be rewarded for it is a really good feeling.
“We’ve always been right there. We just could never quite get over the hump, and today, I told them we’re not just getting over the hump, we’re busting that down.”
A year ago, the Jaguars finished third in Class 5 after three-straight years of placing fourth. They also finished third in 2014.
The feeling of finally getting over the hump and taking the crown wasn’t lost on the Jaguar’s top runner.
“We’ve been talking about this since we ended last year,” senior Mya Trober said. “We came here then and didn’t quite run the race we wanted to, and the first thing we said was, ‘We’re going to be back.’ We’re back and we did it. We made promises to each other and we fulfilled them.
“… I don’t even have words to describe it, honestly. It means the world to us that we get to give back to our coach, because it’s his first state title ever. Just bringing it home to our school to represent, it means more than anything.”
The Jaguars scored 89 points to clinch the title, beating runner-up St. Teresa’s Academy by 28 points. Cor Jesu Academy (125) and Rock Bridge (139) were the other two teams to bring home trophies Friday.
Blue Springs South had just a single medalist – a top 25 finisher – but its next four runners finished within an 18-second span and all in the top 40.
Trober was the top Jaguar. She placed fifth overall in her final state meet. It was 21 spots higher than she finished last year.
“It was a lot better than last year,” Trober said. “I’ll just say that. It just felt good to kind of redeem myself and run for my team, and give back to them.”
Trober’s 5K time of 18:03.9 was also a personal best – by about 10 seconds she said. Unruh said most, if not all, of the Jaguars set new PRs at the state. meet.
“We were ready and we were dialed in,” Trober said. “We’ve been dialed in the entire season. We’ve been wanting to put together our perfect race, and I think we did that today. It comes from the connection we have with each other. Our team chemistry is what carries us to success.”
After Trober, junior Magdalene Boley was the second Jaguar across the finish line, placing 29th overall. Within the next 18 seconds, junior Caitlin Grover (31), senior Amy Woolsey (35) and sophomore Emmerson Allen (39) finished the race.
The other participating Jaguars were senior McKenna Ledgerwood (49) and sophomore Hayley Neff (140).
“I liked what I saw during the race,” Unruh said. “I knew when we came through the 1K, we were in good position. It was just a matter of were we going to have the legs today, and were we going to get beat by someone better today? When I saw the 3K, I thought we were in really good position, and it was just about finishing it off. They did a great job of finishing.”
The top six Jaguars ran under 19:34 for the 5K race on a day that was especially fast for every race.
“Their eyes lit up this morning,” Unruh said. “They saw the times from the Class 4 race, and thought it would be a good day.”
The Jaguars will graduate three seniors from the seven that ran at state. Those seniors were key to Friday’s historical moment.
“I think we have three really good seniors,” Unruh said. “They’ve just invested so much. Their talent and training kind of took having a bad race out of the equation, and they just collectively as a group stayed connected and really battled together. They knew what they had to do, and they went and did it.”
– story by Jimmy Gillispie