By BRETT MARSHALL
SYRACUSE — Chisholm Branscum has been all too familiar with the cross country layout at Tamarisk Golf Course when she and her Ulysses Lady Tiger teammates have arrived for the Syracuse Invitational in 2010, 2011 and on Saturday.
But what she didn't know until arriving was the course had been re-measured, lengthened by several hundred yards.
The slightly longer layout didn't seem to bother the Ulysses junior, though, as she cruised to a 15-second victory over Caraima Yanez of Greeley County. In the process, she helped her team capture the girls division title with 66 points, easily outdistancing runner-up Boise City, Okla., which tallied 88 points. Holcomb and Cimarron tied for third with 91 points while Stanton County and Greeley County rounded out the team scores with 93 and 102 points, respectively.
On the boys side, Southwestern Heights' Peter Wiebe raced to a 17:48 clocking in the 3.2-mile race, also a longer race for the boys than a year ago. He was an 18-second winner over Greeley County's Troy Wineinger, who has his sights set for his senior season on a Class 1A state title. Ulysses also garnered the boys team title with 47 points to Stanton County's 67. Hugoton, minus four of its top runners due to event limits, was third with 68 points and Holcomb fourth with 78 points.
For Branscum, it was a day to enjoy, both for the accomplishment and for the weather that greeted the runners for the 11 a.m. start — overcast, no wind, with temperatures hovering around the 60-degree mark.
"We started out real fast, and I was just trying to stay up with Kari (Cimarron sophomore Blattner)," Branscum said. "The first three minutes just felt too fast, and then the mile time was a little slower. I just tried to push through."
Having taken the lead near the mid-point, Branscum then knew it was a race to the finish line.
"I heard cheers for the girls behind me, so I knew I had to keep pushing," Branscum said. "It's tough to run here because there's rock and some hills and the second mile always feels horrible to me."
Branscum said she is much stronger this season after a summer of extensive training, resulting in improved times in nearly every race this season.
"I've just been shocked by all my times," Branscum said. "The girls team is coming along. Individually, I'm just focusing on winning league, then trying to win regional and state. For the team, we want to win league, and then get to state."
Greeley County's Yanez is now one of the key components for the Lady Jackrabbits, last year's Class 1A team runner-up after the team had won three consecutive state titles behind the talents of Madison Moser and Kennedy Schneider, now both running for the University of Kansas.
"We're really excited about this season," Yanez said. "We're having a lot of fun. We're going to try to keep it going, but it does feel different without Kennedy. The thing we learned from her was to keep pushing yourself to do better. That tradition really pushes me to do better and to improve."
Yanez finished nine seconds ahead of Cimarron's Blattner (16:37) while Autumn Mizer of Boise City was fourth in 16:39 and Cimarron freshman Isabelle Coopman took fifth with a time of 16:49.
"Knowing the course from running last year helped me today," Yanez said. "I've run several times against Chisholm and she's really good. She's really a good sport, too."
While Greeley County's Wineinger didn't capture the boys individual title, the Jackrabbit senior said he is on pace for goals that he has in mind for the final month of his final prep season.
"It was an excellent day to run, and I felt really strong," Wineinger said.
Perhaps somewhat surprising considering that the Jackrabbits had run on Thursday, just 48 hours prior, at the Ness City Invitational.
"With just one day rest, I just tried to tell myself to come out and do my best," Wineinger said. "At first, my legs felt heavy, but with no wind and overcast, the weather really helped. Even though they lengthened out the course, it's still almost no hills and that's the best for a runner."
After helping his team claim 1A championships in 2009 and 2010, Wineinger's fifth-place individual finish enabled the Jackrabbits to take second behind Pike Valley. He wants to cap off his career with another gold medal.
"I think we have an excellent chance," Wineinger said. "It would complete my career, but I want to win both the individual and state this time around. I trained my butt off this summer, but I've still got room to improve. I haven't really worked on my speed yet, but I hope to drop into the mid-to-upper 16s (minutes)."
See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.