Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of 10 stories counting down The Telegram's top 10 sports stories of 2012 as chosen by The Telegram staff.
By KEVIN THOMPSON
The name Greeley County High School has become synonymous with cross country excellence.
In October, the boys and girls teams took both titles at the Kansas Class 1A state meet in Wamego.
That makes three times in the past four years the aptly named Jackrabbits have swept those titles.
It's also the fourth title in five seasons for the girls.
And it's enough to make that The Telegram's No. 10 sports story of 2012.
The Lady Jackrabbits won their title by 22 points, 59-37. The boys won by 10 points over defending champion Pike Valley, scoring 34 points.
For the girls, Coraima Yanez placed fifth and Kelli Holthaus was sixth, finishing just a second apart. Kashmir Holthaus also medaled by placing 18th.
Brooke Wineinger was 37th, and Yanitza Yanez 61st.
On the boys side, Troy Wineinger finished third, Miguel Trejo eighth, and Sergio Trejo 14th to take home individual medals.
Martin Veleta placed 22nd, Isaac Stone 36th, Casey Randolph 55th, and AJ Govert 57th.
Greg Cook, who now has nine state titles as Greeley County coach, said his teams looked to his school's tradition of running well at state as a source of inspiration going into this meet on a course they know well.
Any source of inspiration for racing on the Wamego Country Club layout helps.
"We wanted to win, and we looked at the teams we needed to beat," Cook said, and that worked. "We just had a great day. We've always been a little leery of the start there. It's such a long uphill climb and sometimes you can get out too fast and not have anything left. I thought the kids did a good job managing that without killing themselves."
Sophomore Coraima Yanez was the top returner for the girls from the team that was runner-up the previous year. She led a group that ran smart and gutsy.
"Coraima gave us a really good race (16:34.0)," Cook said. "We got great races from Kelli and Kashli, and Brooke, despite some problems (nearly falling at one point) still ran strong for us."
Yanez's time was 14 seconds faster than the previous year, when she placed eighth.
And all the girls are coming back for 2013, which will either put pressure on them or him, Cook said, a good problem to have.
On the boys side, Wineinger was shooting for an individual title as well as the team gold. His 17:00.1 was 10 seconds out of second and 44 out of first.
"Troy told me all week that if he couldn't get the individual, he wanted to help the team win and we were able to do that," Cook said. "We got great races. Four in the top 22 is pretty special."
Wineinger, a senior, was a member of all three of Greeley County's team titles during his career. He was also part of a state basketball title two years ago.
When the team finished second last year, he placed fifth, and this year's time was 30 seconds faster than 2011. He placed 20th as a sophomore in 2010.
Veleta, a junior, finished 15th a season ago.
Wineinger and Miguel Trejo, both seniors, will leave big shoes to fill, and Cook said they'll look to returners and newcomers to create a new mix of talent.
Cook gives all the credit to the runners he's had over the years.
His high school runners are great ambassadors for the program's tradition and make excellent recruiters in the middle school, helping Greeley County keep the numbers and the quality filtering up.
"And I greatly appreciate the help," he added.
That tradition has landed former runners at the collegiate level. Siblings Kaman, Kellum and Kennedy Schneider, and Madison Moser, run for the University of Kansas, and Isaac Wilson ran at Cowley County on their national junior college championship team.
"I've been fortunate to have some good kids who have gone on and competed, representing not only Tribune but western Kansas well," Cook said.
A quality program is a mix of being good and being lucky, Cook said. Practicing hard and competing hard as well as avoiding major injuries have all played a role in the Jackrabbits' success.
"But it's worth it when you see what the kids can accomplish," he said.