By BRETT MARSHALL
SYRACUSE — Her name is Kennedy Schneider. She's a cross country runner at Greeley County High School, situated in Tribune just a few miles from the Colorado border. It's one of the few Kansas counties who still go by the Mountain time zone.
And it's one of the few small communities to have a family that has been dominant in sports for more than four decades in this small Class 1A school of 52 students (sophomore through senior).
Now a junior, Schneider is the No. 1 runner for the Lady Jackrabbits, who have won back-to-back Class 1A state cross country titles. Saturday, she won the Syracuse Invitational with a time of 14:28 over the 4-kilometer layout at Tamarisk Golf Course and her time was 24 seconds faster than Wichita County's Paige Wells, one of her chief rivals who was coming back after a nearly two-week layoff due to severe shin split issues.
If you're from southwest Kansas and haven't heard of the Schneider name, then you've probably not been paying attention to high school sports.
Kennedy, and cousin Chaz, who plays football, basketball and golf for the Jackrabbits, are the last of this generation of Schneiders to compete in sports.
They have quite a heritage and quite a legacy to uphold, and now Kennedy is trying to uphold the family success in running.
Her older brothers — Kaman and Kellum — both won state track titles, Kamman in the 1,600-meters (2008) and Kellum in the 800-meters (2009 and 2010). Kamman is a red-shirt freshman at the University of Kansas while Kellum, also enrolled at KU, has not decided if he will eventually run for the Jayhawks.
As a freshman and sophomore at GCHS, Schneider competed with her elder teammate, Madison Moser, also a freshman cross country team member at KU. Now, the banner of cross country rests solely with the youngest Schneider.
"Both of my brothers have won at state and I want to get one of those myself," Schneider said Saturday. "My dad (Dirk) also won the hurdles, so it's definitely something I have set for myself as a goal. I don't really feel any pressure, but definitely motivation is there."
It has been a much-improved year for Schneider compared to her freshman and sophomore seasons when she battled minor injuries on and off during the fall 2009 season. Still, she finished 12th individually at the 2009 1A state cross country meet in Wamego while Moser led the title defense with a third-place finish.
Schneider said she sees improvement each time she runs this season. For example, her time Saturday was a minute, 11 seconds faster than her 2009 mark at Syracuse.
Schneider, who has yet to lose a Class 1A or 2A runner, said she was reminded of how much work she still has to do when she lost last Thursday to Class 3A defending state champion Jenna Snell of Ellinwood, who finished 17 seconds ahead of Schneider at Ness City's meet.
"It will help keep me working hard and motivated," Schneider said of her lone setback.
Hugoton's Heber Jiminez had hoped to make Saturday his first victory of the season over Ulysses' Israel Mendoza,
At the two-mile mark, Jiminez and Mendoza were running nearly side-by-side. Then, Mendoza stepped on a rock, slightly injuring his foot and told Jiminez that he was stopping. Then, Jiminez was all alone for the remainder of the race and won it going away, finishing 26 seconds ahead of Elkhart's Seph Iman.
"Everything went pretty good, I went out quick," Jiminez said. "But when Israel had to drop out, it was a little disappointing. He really makes me run better so it was strange running alone the rest of the way."
Running in temperatures that hovered in the low 50s, Jiminez said that the Syracuse course was ideal for him.
"It's a good course, not hilly and when you run in the middle of the course, there's no wind because of the breaks from the trees," Jiminez said. "I just really wish Israel would have been able to stay up there. It would have been nice to see how we would have finished. He's really one that keeps me pushing."
See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.