Girls cross country, volleyball earn State titles as fall season concludes


Diya Gupta

At the Forest Park Festival on Sept. 10, Lafayette varsity girls cross country gets recognized for placing second. Senior Grace Tyson placed first, junior Natalie Barnard placed fourth and senior Elissa Barnard placed eighth.

Sonya Sud and Penelope Proffitt

Girls Cross Country

This season, the team took first overall at the Class 5 State Meet and senior Grace Tyson repeated as the individual State Champion with a time of 18:10.05. 

Tyson spent most of the season on the sidelines with an injury.  The last time she ran before the State Meet was on Sept. 9, at the Forest Park Festival. Though it was a meet she had never won before, this time she took first in the Green Division with a time of 18:30.6.

“It felt amazing to be able to race at my last cross country meet after my injury,” Tyson said. “[I got a] stress fracture in my foot. I was out for six weeks. I cross-trained 10-12 hours a week swimming, aqua jogging and elliptical. It made it all worth it to race with my team at State.”

Head Coach Jill Harmon was not surprised by Tyson’s comeback.

“If you saw how much Grace worked in the pool before and after school over the past two months, there was nothing to be worried about. She loves to run and she loves to compete. We were just glad to have her back in a jersey & racing spikes. [We knew that] whatever she was going to do that day was going to be spectacular,” Harmon said. 

Additional top individual finishers included junior Natalie Barnard, who came in second with a time of 18:24.8, and her sister senior Elissa Barnard, who placed fifth with a time of 18:38.6. Junior Ashley Rinkenberger and senior Blair Lobdell also placed in the top 30.

Team members knew the State Meet would prove to be a big challenge, but they said they were ready for the competition. 

“We went into the meet knowing that we had the potential to do very well. There were five other teams who could also do very well, it just depended on what teams showed up that day. Our goal from the beginning of the season was to earn a spot on the podium. When the gun went off, the girls went for it,” Harmon said. 

Harmon said she wasn’t surprised by the results because of the work the girls put in all season, but knows the work was not always easy.

“We had a lot of ups and downs this season and it was great that we were able to come together as a team to make it happen. I am incredibly proud of the girls and all the hard work they have put in this season. They deserve all the recognition,” Harmon said. 

Girls Volleyball

Hard work and dedication starting in the summer led Lafayette’s girls volleyball team to their seventh State Championship as they defeated Kickapoo High School at Southeast Missouri State University’s Show Me Center, 3-1. The scores were: Lafayette- 25-19, Kickapoo- 24-26, Lafayette- 25-10 and Lafayette- 25-17.

Lafayette began the game with a lead in the first set, then were rebutted by Kickapoo, who won the second set. The Lancers came back in the third set to break the tie and then went on to dominate the last set with a game-winning ace served by sophomore Mya Witherspoon, the 32nd of her season.

Senior Caitlyn Little said it was just as important to not play scared in order to win the game.

“We usually have a pre game hype session were we all just dance and we go around the circle. Before each game we say what we are going to improve on and work on in that specific game and we go around the circle. We worked hard the whole year and we won our district games, those were really hard matches,” Little said.

Through summer and into the season, senior Anna Kraemer said the team worked hard at practices but also worked to bond as a team and how to deal with intense game situations in order to prepare.

“We had started team bonding very early and were together almost every day of the summer. Our practices were tough, we were put in extreme game-like scenarios, like being down by 10 points, or only being able to score by one certain play,” Kraemer said.

Following a bump at the beginning of the season with the loss of assistant coach Chris Toomey on June 6, Whitherspoon finds motivation in dedicating a good season to him, putting down 21 kills, a match-high.

“We had too many things to play for. Coming back from an upset in our Sectional game last year, we all just wanted it more. We especially found motivation in the memory of our coach Chris Toomey,” Witherspoon said. “He was a huge part of our program and we dedicated every game and every practice to playing for him. We owe it to him to love like he did, and put the same passion into each other as he put into our team.”

The competition for Kraemer to win the game was not only against Kickapoo but against herself in order to remain confident.

“During the game, it was most important that we played how we normally did and did not let the nerves take over. It was clear in the first five points of the game that we were very nervous because we were just making silly errors. After that, though, we played well and ended up winning the game after giving Kickapoo a five-point lead,” Kramer said.

Junior Allison Risley was rewarded for her hard work, having eight kills and a team-high 18 digs, with the feeling of accomplishment and the community’s support.

“It was amazing to win. It felt that all our hard work and even though it’s cliche to know our blood, sweat, and tears paid off was insane. The best part of the day was looking up into the stands and seeing how many people came to support and how many people texted after the game saying congrats. It was really touching,” Risley said.

Head Coach Zachary Young credits the win to the team’s hard work leading up to the state game.

Our team really came together in the last month of the season with a 21-game winning streak. The girls came in focused in practice and played some of our best volleyball at the end of the season,” Young said.

Although their advancement into the postseason wasn’t easy, it helped the team grow.

We knew we had a shot, but our playoff road was incredibly difficult.  The last four teams we beat in the playoffs each had over 30 wins on the season.  Our team had to bring their A-game in each playoff match,” Young said. “I’m so proud of their efforts and very happy for their hard-earned state championship.”