CLINTON • The Walnut boys cross country team claimed their first state title in program history. The Wildcats had five runners finish inside the top 17 runners, totaling 53 points, besting St. Patrick by seven points.
Senior Bailey Quinn led Walnut with a seventh place finish at 18:31.56. Gabe McElwain followed him in eighth place at 18:31.57. Kaden Braddock landed in 10th with a time of 18:45.89. Trenton Braddock crossed the line in 16th with his time of 19:16.36. Wyatt Hopper finished off the Wildcats' score with a 17th place finish with a time of 19:17.29.
The Wildcats' first title comes on the heels of a state runner-up finish a season ago. St. Patrick won the 2018 title.
"Last year, our boys really bought into the program and they were runner-up," said coach Jackie Vuncannon. "I think they were heartbroken getting that close and not getting the win. So this year, they worked really hard. They were all running the hardest and best races they could."
In just four years as a cross country program the Wildcats have steadily improved. Their first season ended in a 11th place finish in 2016. In their second year, they got a little better with a 6th place finish. Then in 2018, they started knocking at the door with the state runner-up finish before bouncing back to win the whole thing this go-around.
The Wildcats lose just two seniors off of this state championship team: Quinn and Hopper. Returning three of the top 17 runners in Class 2A along with Owen Hopper (31st) and Corbin White (63rd) could pay off in another title when 2020 rolls around.