By BRETT MARSHALL
WAMEGO — Greg Cook knew at least two things were going to happen at Saturday's Class 1A state cross country championship at the Wamego Country Club.
First, if his Greeley County girls team ran the race as planned, the Lady Jackrabbits had a good chance of defending their state championship.
Second, if his runner-up boys team from a year ago ran a near-perfect race the Jackrabbits might be able to dethrone top-ranked and defending champion Ness City. That last possibility would only occur, Cook thought, if Ness City didn't have its own near-perfect performance as it had done a year ago when they were one placement away from a perfect team score.
When the respective two races were completed Saturday morning, Cook had every one of his wishes come true and the Jackrabbits ran their way to two state team championships with a pair of seniors leading the way for each team.
Isaac Wilson paced the stunning upset of the Eagles with a third-place finish to allow the Jackrabbits a narrow win with 24 points, compared to 25 for Ness City. Madison Moser equaled that third-place individual finish to pace the Lady Jackrabbits to their second straight title and third in four years.
Cook's boys accomplished the unlikely triumph by having his third (Ralph Stone) and fourth (Clay Robertson) runners outduel Ness City's third and fourth runners.
Greeley County needed the effort to overcome the 1-2 finish of Ness City's duo Colton McNinch and Kyle Calvin, whose times of 17:12:15 and 17:15.01 were just ahead of Wilson's 17:19.88. Jackrabbit senior Kellum Schneider scored next for Greeley County with a 10th place finish
"We just decided to win if they gave us a chance and as a team we ran really well," Wilson said. "We all improved our times and we just thought if we did that the rest would just come out the way it was supposed to."
Wilson said he felt good throughout the race but just couldn't close the gap on the two Eagles' runners.
"Colton just took off and Kyle got up in front of me at about the two-mile mark," Wilson said. "They're just better than me today."
It was Stone and Robertson, though, that pushed the Jackrabbits to the title.
Stone, a sophomore, and Robertson, a junior, placed 13th and 15th with times of 18:11.90 and 18:18.87 and finished ahead of Ness City's Josh Snodgrass (16th) and Dustin Foster (25th). Troy Wineinger's 20th place finish for Greeley County even had an impact on the final team score as he cost Foster another point. Both Snodgrass and Foster had placed in the top 15 a year ago. When calculating team scores, Ness City was ahead 3-9 after two runners and it was 16-16 through three runners. That's where the fourth runner made the difference by just the single point.
"Isaac, Ralph and Clay really picked it up today," Schneider said of his teammates. "They're the reasons we won. We all thought we could win, were capable of winning but we knew it would be close. This is really something."
With just four runners figuring into the final team score, it was the depth that made the difference for Cook's team.
"Our 2-3-4 runners got in and hurt their third and fourth runners and our fifth hurt their fourth as well," said Cook. "I think getting as close to them as we did at regional (a two-point loss the previous week) gave us a lot more confidence to know that we could beat them. They're a great team and have two fantastic runners, but this is all about team and our depth really showed up today, big time. It's a great group of kids."
And while the boys were basking in their victory, the girls team, paced by Moser, could enjoy their back-to-back titles with a little more breathing room than a year ago.
"I'm surprised where I finished because I don't think I was ready physically for the hills," Moser said. "I didn't feel as strong as in the past so third is good for the way I felt."
Rachel Renken of Downs-Lakeside and Naomi Reeh of Bird City-Cheylin finished comfortably ahead of Moser with times of 15:55.12 and 15:57.44 compared to Moser's 16:17.57. But Moser finished well ahead of fourth-place KimbraLee Adams of Thunder Ridge in 16:34.93.
"I was more confident in our girls where if they ran the way I thought they could, that they had a good chance of winning," Cook said.
In addition to Moser's third-place finish, sophomore Kennedy Schneider placed 12th (17:11.72), junior Carly Robertson 21st (17:4055) and freshman Brittany Splitter 28th (17:53.42) to round out the top four for the Lady Jackrabbits.
"I've only been dreaming about this for about four months," Cook said. "Holy smoke, we did it! Amazing, I just don't even know how to describe it. The kids worked their tails off for this."
See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.