Lafayette freshman Grace Tyson capped a solid first year running for the Lancers by earning a state medal.
Tyson finished third in the Class 4 race at Gans Creek Cross Country Course in Columbia. Tyson had a time of 18 minutes, 31 seconds.
The state meet capped a spectacular season for Tyson. She won the Suburban Conference meet and then captured district and sectional titles. Earlier in the fall, Tyson placed third at the Forest Park Festival in the meet’s elite division.
Coach Steven Stallis said Tyson had a season to remember. She likely will have more, he added, in the next three years as well.
“I don’t know if you can have a much better freshmen season,” Stallis said. “She just started this sport and she has fallen in love with it. I think we will see many cool things happen from Grace.”
After she won the district, Tyson came back to win the sectional in 19:09.56 at Parkway Central.
“Grace ran really well at sectionals,” Stallis said. “She loves hilly courses and Parkway Central’s course constantly rolls up or down. She had fun winning her first sectional championship.”
That qualified Tyson for state. The meet was held on a new course and location in Columbia.
“The new course is beautiful and state of the art. It has to be one of the nicest courses in the nation,” Stallis said. “This new course is actually easier than our old state course (in Jefferson City) but has some hills to keep it challenging. The whole team said they really enjoyed racing on it. We look forward to racing there over the next few years.”
Stallis believed Tyson would medal at state.
“Grace had a shot at winning,” Stallis said. “She went out hard with the leaders and the race went out faster than expected. She is a tough kid and was able to hang out for third after going out faster than she ever has in a race. I was expecting her to medal. Top 5 was definitely a goal on the day and she came through big.”
Her outlook before the race was good, Stallis said.
“She was confident in her mentality and physical state,” Stallis said. “She said that she felt the best she has the week leading up to the race.”
Stallis tried to put at her at ease before the race.
“I talked to her about having fun and not putting to much pressure on herself. She needed to remember why she runs — because she loves running and competing,” Stallis said. “It was also her first state race and her first race in weeks that she was not going to be winning right from the start.”
Although her time of 18:31 was a personal best, Stallis said, Tyson believed she could have gone faster.
“It was a personal best but she was a little disappointed,” Stallis said. “She and I both know that she can run faster but the quick pace, in the beginning, took a toll on her later in the race. It will be a very exciting year next year after a good year of running and racing experience.”
The race was pretty simple, Stallis said.
“She went out on the heels of the leader. (She) Was not able to hang super tight on her hip,” Stallis said. “She stayed in second for the majority of the race but was passed by another running about halfway through and then she held on for third. No major lead changes or craziness occurred.”
Third was a good result, Stallis said.
“I think with more experience and now experiencing the new state course she will have a better chance in years to come,” Stallis said. “She had a chance at state this year and she went for it but didn’t quite have it on that day. Good thing she is only a freshman.
“She was happy and disappointed at the same time. She sets high expectations for herself and she really wanted to get another win that day. She is more excited now that it has set in a little.”
Tyson loves running, Stallis said. It brings her great satisfaction.
“She loves it. She loves every part of it and continues to love it more and more each day,” Stallis said.
Her future looks bright, Stallis said.
“She has a very high ceiling. She was not a kid who came in running junior track for many years,” Stallis said. “She has been running since Day 1 of cross country practice and as she continues to train I see her improving a ton over the next three years.’
Overall, the Lancers as a team finished sixth at state.
“(I’m) Super pleased. That is one of our best finishes in team history,” Stallis said. “We have had many trophies but being sixth is a great accomplishment for these girls. Our goal was top eight this year and we went down and raced how we were capable of. “
Several Lancers stood out to Stallis at state.
“Hope Ware and Kelsey Johnson both had phenomenal state races both finishing in the top 35 and running season personal records,” Stallis said. “They are our junior leaders on the team and going into their senior year they are motivated to finish strong.”
The Lancers will lose one scoring running from state this year.
“The team is very excited to put in the work to see if they can better that sixth place finish next year,” Stallis said. “The future is always bright when you have a bunch of freshmen who are bought in and want to continue to work hard and get better. I am excited to see what the team can do over the next few years.”