PALMYRA, Mo. -- Palmyra girls cross country coach Nick Koetters looked at the field for the fifth annual Palmyra Invitational and had one thought.
The field was loaded.
It featured a state track champion in Marion County's Delaney Strauss and state medalists in Monroe City's Bailey Hays and Emmalee Williams, who are part of a first-year cross country program. It also had Hannibal's Claudia Nichols.
That made winning the team title special.
"It was one of our better fields we've had," Koetters said. "It was good competition."
Palmyra handled it.
Aly Noland finished sixth in 23 minutes, 29 seconds as the first Palmyra runner to cross the finish line. Her four teammates all finished in the next 11 spots to give Palmyra five of the top 17 placers.
Lauren Reid was ninth in 23:48, Lydia Szarka was 15th in 24:47, Emily Jeffries was 16th in 24:48.7, and Bella Perkins was 17th in 24:50.7.
Palmyra won the title with 46 points, beating out Monroe City by seven.
"That's really good for us, especially Bella and Emily," Koetters said. "They've always been on varsity, but they knew coming in they had to work and get the miles in and they have."
Straus won the race nearly wire-to-wire in 20:59.7.
Nichols took third in 21:56.2 after passing both Hays and Williams in the final mile.
"I knew I was gaining on them, and once I got there I just finished the race that way," Nichols said. "I think it was a combination of them wearing out, and I always want to finish faster than I started."
Hays admitted that, as a first-year cross country runner, she is still adapting to running on grass and hills rather than an oval track.
"It's a lot harder to keep your feet up in the grass," said Hays after finishing fourth in 22:02. "It's only my third meet, so I'm still getting used to running the courses, but I think as the season goes on it'll get easier."
However, she's pleased with three finishes in the top 5 in all her races.
"I didn't know what to expect because I didn't know how fast people ran these," Hays said. "Hopefully I can get top 2."