The Parkway West girls are off and running. Finally.
The cross country Longhorns, who finished second in the Class 4 state meet last fall, at last got their 2019 season under way. They did so in winning fashion.
The Longhorns finished first in the Stan Nelson Invitational at Northwest High. Parkway West won with 76 points. Marquette finished with 96 points to come in second.
Winning the Nelson is something Parkway West has had a stanglehold on. The Longhorns have won the meet each season since 2015.
However, this year with heavy graduation losses, it didn’t seem like a sure bet for Parkway West coach Charlie Cutelli’s squad.
Another reason was they hadn’t had any competition before the Nelson.
“(Our) Season has been going well. It feels like it has been long one already as Stan Nelson was our first race of the year,” Cutelli said. “The Parkway Quad got rained out so we had to wait another two weeks to race. The girls were chomping at the bit to see what they could do.”
The Nelson Invitational is a good test for a team, Cutelli said. The field had 14 teams this year.
“It is a great early season bellweather,” Cutelli said. “There are some great teams at the meet like Kirkwood, Lindbergh, Marquette, DeSoto and so on. (It’s) a relatively fast course, and this year we got beautiful weather.”
Since his squad didn’t get an opening meet, Cutelli didn’t know how his Longhorns would run. The team lost experienced runners from last year due to graduation. Only two varsity runners are back this season.
“I honestly did not know what to expect,” Cutelli said. “Our varsity had a lot of turnover due to graduation and Saturday we only two of our returnees from last year’s second-place finish raced. We always go into meets aiming to finish in the top three and it looks like we made that happen. “
Parkway West indeed finished in the top three by grabbing first place. Cutelli was pleased.
“It was a great win. I think the girls were a little shocked,” Cutelli said. “Marquette is a top tier program with some phenomenal runners and phenomenal coaches. They are in our district so in order to move on to sectionals we have to be able to compete against teams of their caliber. I think they were running shorthanded and I look for them to be hot on our heels the next time we meet them.”
Individually, all the Longhorns ran good races, Cutelli said.
Sophomore Kate Yates was fourth in 20 minutes, 4.25 seconds to lead the Longhorns.
“She was in our varsity top 5 last year and trained her tail off this summer,” Cutelli said. “She ran a smart race … sitting behind the front runners and slowly working her way up as the race went on.”
Junior Emily Sipp was other top 15 runner for Parkway West. She came in 11th place with a time of 20:42.84.
“Emily ran a great race. Her finish helped us to our victory,” Cutelli said. “She is now an upperclassmen and was also a member of our state team last year. We look forward to seeing what she can do as the season progresses.”
Cutelli liked how the other Longhorns performed as well.
“All of the other girls did great. Everybody else was new to the varsity squad. Anjali Shah PR’ed by almost a minute which was awesome to see. Freshmen Kennedy Whitaker was thrown into the fire in her first race and ran great.
“Anna “Mater” Butler ran 300 miles this summer in preparation for this season and capped it off with a PR at this meet. Kacy Paul is a senior in her varsity debut and did a great job. I was super happy with how everyone did. “
When the Longhorns realized they had won the meet, they didn’t know how to react at first, Cutelli said.
“The girls seemed shocked at first but soon came around to the idea of winning the meet,” Cutelli said. “Definitely excited when it was made official.
The victory will help his young squad, Cutelli said.
“Definitely, (it’s) a confidence boost,” Cutelli said. “We had a lot of question marks rolling into the season and I think this answers some of them.”
A biggest test lies ahead for the Longhorns. Parkway West will compete Saturday (Sept. 21) in a huge meet.
“We are headed to the Paul Enke Invitational at Sioux Passage County Park,” Cutelli said. “It is billed as the hardest course in the state and one of the hardest in the country. The girls love this course as it is cross country at its finest.”
The girls will have to be tough. That ties into Cutelli’s motto.
“As I like to say ‘toughness wins,’ ” Cutelli said.