Lady Panthers place ninth in state cross country competition

The PHS girls cross county team  finished ninth place in the program’s first-ever team appearance in the Class 2 state meet in Columbia Friday.  

“Their finish beat the previous best result from two years ago when our guy’s team finished in 12th place,” said Coach Nicholas Koeetters.  

Palmyra’s Lauren Sheputis (left) led Palmyra with a 38th place finish in her first trip to state. (Photo by Will Johnson, Gasconade Republican)

Laurin Sheputis, a freshman, led the team with a 38th place finish, the best in program history, with a time of 23:02.  

“The weather was warmer then usual for a state meet, so times were not as fast as normal,” Koetters said.

Also competing at the state meet, held on the Gans Creek Cross Country Course, were Alyssa Noland, 72nd place; Bella Perkins, 87th; Lydia Szarka, 112th; Lauren Reid, 116th; Emily Jeffries, 121st; and Emily Malone, 148th.  

“Overall, it was an amazing season for this group as they accomplished more than any group has ever accomplished,” Koetters said. “They won five meets altogether. As a program, we had won four combined between the boys and girls over the last eight years.” 

The girls finished second in conference and in districts which are both the best finishes by a girls team ever.  

Three girls earned all-district honors this season as well.  

“Reid made it to state for the fourth year in a row,” Koetters said. “No boy or girl has ever done that for us, and Szarka made her third appearance, and was also the only person besides Reid to do that.  

“At the beginning of the season none of us knew if the season would happen, when it might get shut down, or what was going to happen.  So, it was hard to plan and do offseason work.  

“But we had a group of seniors who have been in the program for a long time and wanted to do well in going out, and that’s exactly what they did.”  

Five of the state participants were seniors, including Reid, Jeffries, Malone, Perkins and Szarka.

“They have been like daughters to me, and the fact that we got to end their careers on the state course was an amazing experience I will never forget,” Koetters said.