Norris wins Class 4 district meet

With less than one kilometer in the race, Kayleigh Norris made her move up the last big hill Saturday and left Sisely Mitchell behind en route to winning the Class 4 District 4 championship.

Norris, a Harrisonville sophomore, separated herself from the Platte County junior on the last big ascent at the Jesse James Park course in Kearney. Norris kept the gap as she made her way down the final stretch of the 5-kilometer race and crossed the finish line.

Her winning time was 19 minutes and 15.95 seconds – nearly six seconds ahead of Mitchell. The next runner came across 46 seconds later.

“This is crazy,” Norris said. “I’ve had kind of a weird season. My times have been all over the place, so I just wanted to come out and get a good race in before state.”

Norris and Mitchell ran with each other for most of the race until Norris made her move. She pushed up what is known at “Bulldog Hill” and gain separation from her opponent. 

“All of my teammates were down at the bottom of the hill yelling at me,” Norris said. “I knew I had to push hard through this and I got it.”

The first-year cross country runner had just one thought as she sprinted down the home stretch with victory in her sight.

“I was hurting pretty bad, so I thought the faster I finish, the faster I’m done,” Norris said. “I knew I just needed to give it my all.”

For Norris, the district race was a nice improvement from the Missouri River Valley Conference meet on Oct. 19. She began the race as the favorite, but finished fourth – more than two minutes behind Pleasant Hill sophomore Brooke Beck, who cruised to her second-straight MRVC title.

“My mindset was just off,” Norris said. “Coming into cross country, I didn’t realize how much of a mind game it is. There were also some tough hills, and toward the middle of the race, everything just kind of went numb. I also started getting dizzy.”

Norris said the mental side of the sport is something she’s still learning to deal with and fight through, because it’s one aspect of cross country she wasn’t aware of before the season. She played tennis in the fall of 2021 as a freshman before running track last spring. 

That was when she turned heads and drew the interest of Harrisonville cross country coach Shawn Gibbs. He immediately saw someone special.

“I did track last year and the cross country coach could see potential, so he was begging me to start running in the summer,” Norris said. “I thought I’d run in the summer and see if I wanted to start doing it. I started doing it and feel in love with it.”

Norris joined the cross country team this fall, but it wasn’t her only sport. She was already a tennis player for the Lady Wildcats. Norris was a part of the tennis program the previous year as a freshman.

This fall, Norris was the Lady Cats’ No. 2 singles player, and she advanced to the Class 1 sectional tournament. She said it wasn’t easy playing multiple sports in the same season, but she has enjoyed it.

“Every day after school, I would go from cross country to tennis,” Norris said. “I had different mindsets I had to go through for each sport, but it’s a lot of fun.”

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