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Cavness makes history as Eagles’ first cross-country champion

Jace Cavness and coach Carl Doyle at the cross-country state championship on Nov. 9. Cavness took first place out of 171 runners.

You get out of running what you put into it.

This past offseason, junior Jace Cavness of The Fulton School of St. Albans put a lot of time and effort into distance running, including workouts and multiple-mile runs on a daily basis.

His reward? Cavness became the first state cross-country champion for The Fulton School Eagles. The 5-foot-8, 140-pound St. Albans resident won the Class 1 state championship with a time of 16:39.7 at the Gans Creek cross-country course in Columbia, Missouri. Tyler Blay, a West Nodaway junior, placed second with a time of 16:42.9. The race had 171 runners.

“I couldn’t believe what had just happened,” Cavness said. “After talking to a few people right after the race, I found my coach gave him a hug.”

Fulton School coach Carl Doyle believed Cavness had the chance to be a good runner, but he didn’t know just how good.

“It’s always hard to predict how well a runner will turn out in the beginning,” Doyle said. “I knew he could be a successful runner with some hard work.”

Cavness didn’t start running competitively until seventh grade. He began running seriously in ninth grade.

“My goal was to, in ninth grade get to state, in 10th grade get all-state [a top 25 finish], 11th get top 10, and senior year [be] first,” Cavness said. 

Cavness did reach state as a freshman and came in 51st with a time of 18:39.97. He improved further as a sophomore, meeting his goal again and placing 23rd with a time of 18:23.11.

“I decided that I was going to have to train harder than I had before, trying to get in runs every single day I could,” Cavness said. 

The Class 1 District 2 meet was held on the course at Spanish Lake in north St. Louis County. Cavness won the race in 17.03.18. It was a personal best time and his first ever meet victory.

“At the one-mile mark, he was in a pack of six runners. At that point I told him to ‘go now.’ Within a few seconds he had a 10-yard lead on the pack,” Doyle said. “I didn’t see him again until the two-mile mark and he had a lead of almost a minute. He held that lead all the way to the finish. “

Cavness won the district race and went on to the state championship at Gans Creek.

“My expectations at state were kind of unclear,” Cavness said. “Before districts, with my previous [personal record] in the 17:20s-30s, we thought top 10 was a very real possibility. But after districts, we began to think that at least top three might be within reach, but I would have to work for it.”

After discussing strategy with Doyle, Cavness was ready to go.

“Before the race we talked about strategy again and not running too fast in the first mile but fast enough to be in striking distance of the lead,” Doyle said. “I told him to go out there and enjoy the race.”

For almost the entire first mile, Cavness was with the top five guys. Around the 1 mile marker, Cavness and the other two runners took off and started to get ahead of the pack.

“For the entire rest of the race, I tried to stay right with the first-place runner, trying to always keep him within striking distance,” Cavness said. “I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep up with him … but after hearing the yelling and cheering of my parents and coach, I knew that this was my chance to get state champion, so I kept with it as best I could for as long as possible. Then in the last stretch of the race, I took off as hard as I possibly could … By the final 100 meters, my form had completely fallen apart and it was just about not stopping and holding out until the very end.”

His winning time set a school record. The previous record was held by Elliott Voelkel, who ran a 17:13 at the state meet in 2017 and placed fifth that year.

So, what is Cavness’ next goal?

“My original goal going into this season was to get top 10 and first place next year, but now that I did it this year, I know that I’m going to have to keep working and training the whole year harder than ever if I want to do it again next year,” Cavness said. 

Doyle is just as glad to have Cavness back for another season.

“Jace is hard working and determined,” Doyle said. “I definitely see him trying to defend his title.”

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