Norris runs personal-best time at state meet

By: 
Theo Tate

Wellsville-Middletown junior Layne Norris placed 38th with a career-best time of 18:29 in the Class 1 state cross country meet on Nov. 7 in Columbia. THEO TATE PHOTO

Even though he didn’t pick up another medal at the Class 1 boys state cross country meet on Nov. 7 at Gans Creek Cross Country Course in Columbia, Layne Norris still had reason to celebrate.

The Wellsville-Middletown junior ran a personal-best time of 18 minutes, 29 seconds, surpassing the previous mark of 18:54 he ran at the District 2 championship meet on Oct. 30 at McNair Park in St. Charles.

“I don’t know if I ever had an athlete run better at state than anywhere else,” W-M coach John Slovensky said. “He had a fantastic season and capped it off with a fantastic race.”

Norris finished 38th out of 175 runners in the boys race, coming up 13 places short of an all-state medal. He also turned in the best finish out of the four W-M runners who competed at the Class 1 state meet.

Freshman Jenelle Boeckelman placed 72nd with a 24:39 in the girls race. Senior Jacob Hollensteiner came in 90th with a 19:37.5 in the boys race. Freshman Bethany Slovensky didn’t finish in the girls race.

Norris and Hollensteiner competed at state for the second time. Two years ago, Norris and Hollensteiner finished 121st and 171st, respectively.

Norris qualified for state by placing eighth in districts. He also earned medals in the Van-Far, Wellsville-Middletown, Elsberry and Clopton meets. His best finish was third at the W-M meet.

John Slovensky said Norris’ effort at state gave him a boost of confidence for next year.

“He’s excited, but he also wants to make it into the top 25,” the W-M coach said. “He said before the race that he was glad to be on the other side of the fence this season, meaning that instead of watching, he was able to participate. But he did way more than participate, getting a career-best at the state course and running the way he did. He did absolutely fantastic.”

Hollensteiner competed in his final high school cross country race at state. He clinched a berth for Columbia by finishing 15th in districts. Hollensteiner had five medals this season.

“He actually had a little trouble breathing today,” Slovensky said. “It was something in the atmosphere that affected his breathing, but he still ran a fabulous time. He wanted to improve even more on what he has done this season. He was a little upset that he didn’t feel like he could breathe very well. But he had an absolutely fantastic senior season.”

Boeckelman was the second member in her family in two years to compete at state. Her older sister, Natalie, participated in the 2019 state meet.

“We’ve been trying to convince her for several years now that she is a really good cross country runner,” Slovensky said. “She is an amazing competitor and a super tough individual. She gets out there and runs hard. We’re always proud of what she has done.”

Bethany Slovensky was in 31st at one point of the girls race before dropping out due to injury.

“Bethany had a calf and Achilles injury that has been bothering her in the second half of the season,” John Slovensky said. “She made it to about 3,000 meters, but was just in terrible pain and was asked to step off the course. And I let her.”

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