Riley Arnold has discovered self-motivation to be one of her strengths.

Arnold has had to run without her twin sister, Avery, during their junior year this season at Blue Eye. Avery has yet to compete this fall due to a stress fracture she suffered in the summer. 

No matter, Riley remains a winner. She was a runaway champ at the Branson Cedar Ridge Invitational on Saturday, posting a time of 18:26 that was more than a minute ahead of the rest of the pack. 

The Arnolds also had to prove their self-motivation upon transferring from Nixa to Blue Eye following their eighth-grade year. After competing against fellow Class 4 runners in junior high, they had to prove they can reach their potential while running primarily against Class 1 foes in high school.  

“There’s not as much competition at smaller schools. I've had to run by myself,” Riley said. “It's taught me to know myself and my limits. It's been good for me from that aspect. I know my times and where I need to push myself.”

Arnold is a two-time Class 1 state champ and as she showed Saturday, can also hold her own against the likes of Nixa, Ozark, Republic and Branson.

Arnold was back at her old stomping grounds at Nixa’s Inman Elementary School course to run in the Riann Lubinksi Invitational three weeks ago. She took first in the Small Schools Division by more than two minutes. She would have won the Large Schools Division by :31.

“They split the small schools and big schools, so I was bummed about that because I wanted to race against the bigger schools,” Arnold said. “I like that course. Being back at Inman brought back a lot of good memories.I used to run the mile in PE when I was in school there.” 

The Arnolds transferred to Blue Eye when their father, Doug, was hired as superintendent at Blue Eye. Their mother, Patti, remains at Nixa as the associate principal at the high school.

“It was definitely a tough decision to leave Nixa,” Riley said. “Our sister (Taylor) moved to Blue Eye for her junior year, so we wanted to play (basketball) with her during her senior year and our freshman year. I miss the girls at Nixa. But I love the team and coaches at Blue Eye. It’s the best fit for me.” 

Nixa won the girls team title at Cedar Ridge, with Ozark placing second.

The Lady Eagles had four top-10 finishers. Alicen Ashley was seventh (21:43), Brookelyn Bidinger eighth (21:49), Adelyn Janssen ninth (22:03) and Macy Kopp 10th (22:03).

Ozark was paced by Kopelyn Delong and her fourth-place showing (20:54). The Lady Tigers’ Kimberlee Surface was 14th (22:54).

On the boys side, Ozark’s Gabriel Bauer took first in a time of 16:41. Bauer was a repeat winner. A year ago, he was first in 17:02.

The Tigers’ Camon Lairmore was fifth (17:34).

Nixa’s Devon Kemp took eighth (17:48), Brandon Butler ninth (18:05) and Logan Richart 10th (18:09).

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