By KEVIN THOMPSON
ULYSSES — With a home crowd watching and cheering, you can't fault Ulysses' Israel Mendoza for wanting to put on a good show.
So all the Tiger junior did was run a sub-18:00 time to lead his team to a top finish at the Bentwood Golf Course on a typically hot and windy day.
Mendoza - "Izzy" to his fans - looked as though he could have gone a few extra miles, that's how good this race felt.
Starting with the lead group, Mendoza took sole possession of the top spot at the first mile marker, a stretch down the new back nine at the course and directly into a strong southerly wind gusting over 30 mph most of the afternoon.
All part of his strategy, he said.
"It's terrible back there," he said of that portion of the course. "But the reason I decided to kick it there is that's where most people decide to slow down, so it made sense that I took the lead, I'd be even further ahead of them."
It was a calculated gamble that paid off. At the 11:00 mark, Mendoza was over 100 yards ahead of his closest competition and headed into the long uphill section, but with the wind at his back and feeling strong.
"It gets into people's minds that they're not going to catch me when the wind's going against them," he said. "It's like, 'He's crazy,'"
But nobody was laughing at Mendoza's 17:55 time.
That strategy of getting into the competitions' heads has spilled over to his Tiger teammates, who are now starting to use it regularly. And it must work because Ulysses placed five runners in the top 10.
Hard training in practice pays off, he explained, and showing off that talent in front of a home crowd was a bonus.
"It really helped," Mendoza said of the extra motivation. "I loved that everybody came out. All the other sports were here,"
Joshua Mehl of Wichita County was second in 18:31, followed by Christian Perez of Syracuse, Carlos Galindo of Ulysses and Ted Boersman of Cimarron, all over 19 minutes.
On the girls side, Dodge City's Ines Rodriguez captured first in 18:12, 21 seconds ahead of Nicole Huber of Wichita County and 30 seconds ahead of Hugoton'sAshley Goode.
Rodriguez' strategy was fairly simple.
"I stayed at a steady pace, I used the downhills to give me a little speed, and I used the hills," she said. "Toward the end I just went for it."
She ran the first mile behind a human wind block, she said, to offset the wear and tear it was creating. Then in the second half of the race, she just took off, feeling pretty fresh.
Huber said the course was memorably windy, but her coach gave her some good advice, similar to what Rodriguez did.
"He told us that when the wind was against us, get in behind someone and use them as a wind block," she said. "And when the wind was to my back, I'd just sprint."
Wichita County placed three runners in the top seven, and that was without sophomore Paige Wells and junior Sarah Ridder, both not running due to injury.
The three who placed - Huber, Hannah Mehl and Rachel Busch - just pushed up the pack and went to make up for their injured teammates, Huber said.
Ulysses placed four runners in the top 10. Kalea Barlow placed fourth, Stephanie Hager fifth, Angelica Corral eighth, and Chisholm Branscum ninth.
Syracuse's Kayla Horton placed 10th.
For results see scoreboard on page B2.