By KEVIN THOMPSON
CIMARRON — Saturday's Class 3A regional cross country meet produced both the expected and the unexpected.
The Holcomb boys ran away with the team title once again, as might be expected, earning their 14th consecutive team trip to state.
The Lakin girls qualified for state with a third-place finish, somewhat of a surprise.
Returning to state for his fourth time, Holcomb senior Brendan Thomas finished a surprising second to lead the Longhorns to their title.
Sophomore teammate Tayler Chelemedos finished ninth and freshman Jose Tapia 10th to propel Holcomb.
The Scott City boys placed third to qualify for state with 91 points, just eight behind runner-up Norton.
Norton's girls (43 points) and TMP-Marian of Hays (55) dominated the first race of the afternoon, while Lakin used four top-20 finishes to sneak into the third state-qualifying spot with 100 points, just nine points ahead of Minneapolis.
Holcomb's girls, on the other hand, finished sixth and failed to qualify any individual, disappointing after winning their league (Great West Activities Conference) meet just a week ago.
For Thomas, second place individually was just fine, since he was expecting maybe sixth. He said he stepped up just before the first mile when two teammates caught up with him and told him he wasn't going to do the race alone.
"That kind of motivated me to push through the barriers that every runner has to run through," he said.
After making the turn around the first mile marker, Thomas caught up with early leader Joey Meyer of Scott City, who had just been passed by eventual winner Alex Conn of Beloit.
Thomas and Meyer ran 2-3 up the straightaway, where Thomas passed Meyer and set his sights on the leader.
Thomas made a move to get within 10 seconds of Conn on the backstretch but fell off on the homestretch.
While he didn't think he was running a smooth race, Thomas said he must have been.
"Everybody (teammates and coaches) told me I was running 'butter smooth,'" he said.
His 17:57.54 was only one of two times less than 18 minutes, and he said he couldn't have run any better.
Meyer, a junior, got off to a strong start on the first mile, the pace he ran at the league meet in Ulysses on a similar course, where he ran a 16:52. But a half mile later, he said he got a sideache and literally gutted it out the rest of the race, coming in at 18:52, the same time he ran in the season's first meet, which was disappointing.
Other area qualifiers were Peter Wiebe of Southwestern Heights and Julian Enriquez of Lakin.
Holcomb coach Lindall Cox said this was only the second meet his boys have run with a complete varsity squad all season.
"We're finally healthy," he said. "They've been practicing really well. It's nice to have them all here and ready to go."
Thomas' performance, Cox said, was exactly what he expected from his senior.
"He's the lead guy, so he needs to go as high as he possibly can," he said. "The guys just put together a great race today."
As great a race as the boys ran, that was the antithesis of how the Holcomb girls ran. Cox said they had the same race preparation, but the results were dramatically different, which is hard to explain.
"Had we run like we ran last week (in winning the league meet)..." Cox said, leaving the statement hanging. "That's how cross country is; it's strange that way."
For Lakin coach Ron Overeem, the third place for his girls was a very pleasant surprise.
"We knew we would have to run our best race of the year as a team," he said. And they did.
Alex Martinez's 10th place led the team, as expected, while senior Jaden Bolmer's 20th place provided a solid effort. Just ahead of her were two freshmen, Rachel White (17) and Cristina Castillo (20).
Two Cimarron freshmen also qualified. Kari Blattner placed fifth (16:48.39) and Joisan Smith seventh (17:01.35).
Hays-TMP's Heather Ruder won in 15:51.34.
Scott City coach Kevin Reese was pleased that his boys' team qualified for state but was disappointed in the overall performances from both sides.
"Our times have been much better than this. I felt like this week we were fairly well rested," Reese said. "I was just disappointed in how flat we seemed to run."
Besides Meyer's fifth place, the Beavers had runners place 16th, 18th and 19th, good enough to place them a comfortable 28 points ahead of Beloit for the third team spot.
Taylor George was Scott City's highest finisher at 16th.
The state meet moves to the Rim Rock Farm course in Lawrence, where the Longhorns ran earlier in the season, anticipating a return to state, Cox said.
"And I'm glad we did. It is a different running course," he said. "Wamego we had down pat. We always ran our best there. But we look forward to the new challenge."
Holcomb has won the state 3A title three other times (2001, 2008, and 2009).
"It's a brand new adventure for all of us," Overeem said. "We train on hills, so we're looking forward to the trip."
See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.