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Alternating year pattern holds true, as Ozark's Delong makes State for second time


Ever an optimist, Ozark's Kopelyn Delong found encouragement after finishing 31st at Districts and one spot short of a State berth a year ago.

She also placed 31st at Districts three years ago. In between those 31sts, she qualified for State two years ago.

"I was kind of shocked after being 31st again last year," Delong said. "At the same time, I thought, 'It must be a pattern, so hopefully next year I go to State.'"

The pattern indeed held true, as Delong easily punched her ticket to State by finishing fourth in Class 5 District 2 action at Nixa's Inman Intermediate School Course on Saturday.

Delong was clocked in 19:18, more than a full minute ahead of the 31st-place finisher.

Delong was second among COC competitors, as Ray-Pec had five of the top nine finishers.

Delong recorded a 19:06 earlier this year at Inman and felt with the cool, overcast conditions Saturday she should have been closer to that time.

"I zoned out a little in the middle," she said. "I settled into my pace, instead of staying uncomfortable.

"The conditions are beautiful," she added. "I was able to bring it back for a good time. I finished good. I'm usually not that good at kicking. But my kick was good today."

Delong will be joined at State by teammate Laine Garner, who was 24th in 20:24.

Delong has had to adjust this year to not having Ozark grad Ellie Kitchin, now at Southwest Baptist, running beside her. Kitchin made State last year.

"I do miss having her next to my side in workouts," Delong said. "Instead of tagging her in a workout, I have to know my paces and times and be more accountable myself."

Nixa's Erin Seale was 21st (20:16), Mackinzie Harris 23rd (20:16) and Adelyn Janssen 25th (20:26).

In the boys race, Nixa's Mason Shank finished seventh in 15:53. The Eagles' Aaron Ashley was 18th (16:16), Reyes Martinez 22nd (16:27) and Logan Richart 24th (16:32).

Looking ahead to State, Delong is looking forward to returning to the Gans Creek Course in Columbia.

"I love the course. It's gorgeous," she said. "It's mostly rolling hills, but not that big of hills. It's easy to use tangents on the course because it's windy and wide. Everyone has a good amount of space to run."


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