Cross Country Moves to Class Five


Nicki Mabry

Members of the boys team congratulate each other after a tough race at the “Border Wars” Cross County Meet.

Over the past ten years, Westminster has competed in class three for both boys and girls cross country alongside teams in their conference such as MICDS, John Burroughs, Lutheran South, and Priory. This year though, MSHSAA decided to mix things up, expanding the total number of classes in cross country from four to five, while also moving Westminster from their usual spot in class three all the way to class five alongside schools that are over 1,000 students bigger than them.

“We are now in [the same district] with Marquette, Kirkwood, and SLU”, said Thomas Gorline.

This is extremely disappointing for the senior-heavy team, who had been looking for the first state title in school history after finishing fifth a year ago in class three.

“It’s pretty frustrating because senior year was supposed to be the year where we reached our peak performance and tried to place highly at state. Now, though, because we are in a much higher class, the competition is a lot better, and those chances, which we’ve been chasing for three years, have become a lot less likely” said Hayden Turley, senior.

The new system that MSHSAA developed, known as “the championship factor” , puts public schools in a class by their school size, and makes it so private schools are moved up based on past success. The system is based on success “points” accrued over the course of the past six seasons.

“The board of directors actually put together an ad hoc (temporary) committee strictly for looking at the classification system. Based on the discussions within the classification system, the ad hoc committee for this championship factor determination formed, coming from a section of that subcommittee from private school representatives that were on the classification committee,” Jason West, MSHSAA communications director.

The reason private schools need this “championship factor” is because kids can go to a private school from wherever they live when public schools have specific area codes for what students can go to what school. If a private school has a really good program, good coach, or good facilities for a specific sport, talented kids may all end up at the same school, which would be unfair to the public schools.

MSHSAA forms a system like this primarily to make the state competitions as competitive as possible.

“I think one of the biggest pros is it is by sport and by gender, and not by the school. If you have a highly successful football team but your softball team is not as competitive, then now your softball team has the ability to play those schools that are closer to their size, and then they may be able to build up that competitiveness,” said West.

It’s unfortunate that this rule applies to all private schools, though, because Westminster has not had anyone come to the school specifically for the cross country program. In fact, most of the kids on the team started at Westminster in seventh grade, not even knowing that they were going to do cross country in high school.

And, while they have been a very competitive team in class three, Westminster has by no means been overwhelmingly successful.

Instead, there is another team that has ruled class three: The Festus Tigers. Over the past three years, the WCA boys team has had state finishes of seventh, ninth, and fifth. Festus has finished first, first, and first. In fact, Festus has won the class three state championship six years in a row, but, because they are a public school, they only got moved up to class four this year, whereas Westminster was moved up to five.

Despite the change in classes and the other COVID-related obstacles that have faced the Cats this season, there is no question that they are still determined to make state as a team.

“This year even with the struggles that come with being moved to class 5, we are working hard to make it to state, and make a run in our final year,” said Hunter Freiner, senior.