By KEVIN THOMPSON
CIMARRON — Forgive Holcomb cross country coach Lindell Cox if his memory might seem a little off.
But after so many trips in a row to the Class 3A state meet for his boys team, it's hard to remember exactly how many it's been.
Add another to what is probably 14 straight after the Longhorns dominated the field at the 3A regional Saturday at the Cimarron Golf Club.
Senior Michael Banderas, who lost a shoe during the race, paced the Holcomb squad with an eighth-place finish, and teammates Caleb Stewart and Ian Rupp finished 10th and 11th for a solid team showing, edging Norton 60-64 for the team title.
"They came and ran really well today. With pride on the line, they laid it down. This is by far their best race of the season," Cox said of his boys.
With race-time temperatures in the upper 80s, Cox said his team didn't let it affect them.
"They were on a mission," he said. "They weren't going to let anything get in their way."
Banderas' top-10 finish was expected, Cox said, but Stewart's and Rupp's showings were not. It just shows the dedication this team has, he said.
The Scott City boys placed third with 75 points to qualify for state, led by senior Joey Meyer's third-place finish.
Peter Wiebe of Southwestern Heights edged Meyer by .33 seconds at the end.
Meyer ran in the lead pack, running about five seconds behind Wyatt Ratzlaff of Phillipsburg and just ahead of Wiebe through the 10-minute mark, right where he wanted to be, given the unusually warm conditions.
"I wanted to start a little slower because I knew the heat was going to get to me in the middle of the race," Meyer said.
For Scott City coach Kevin Reese, the team qualifying felt good with his other top four runners placing between places 15th and 24th, but he wondered if his runners could have done better.
"I think they ran a bit tentative. Maybe we should have got a a little bit stronger," Reese said. "Towards the end of the race, I felt we should have been more aggressive and going after people, especially Holcomb."
Still, he's happy his team is getting to return to the state course, especially since they competed there earlier this season and know its nuances.
The Rim Rock course in Lawrence will present its own unique challenges, Cox agreed. But the Longhorns will be ready.
"Banderas is a hard-nosed kid. That course is kind of designed for him. If it's 90 degrees up, he'll run 90 degrees up," he joked.
Call it a good coaching move or a stroke of luck; it all means the same thing.
The Cimarron girls are headed to the state cross country meet in Lawrence next Saturday after placing second, thanks in part to a coaching hunch.
Sophomore Kari Blattner finished second in the 3A regional on her home course to earn her second trip to state.
Blattner's time of 18:21 was 30 seconds behind Heather Ruder of Hays-TMP, a slight disappointment, she said.
"My goal was to beat her, but she's tough," Blattner said.
Freshman Isabel Koopman finished fourth for the Lady 'Jays, a placing that helped the team.
Those performances were expected, Cimarron coach Jessica Nothern said. The team placing was not.
Her team has run five girls most of the season, she said, but at regionals she decided to add a sixth.
Good move, because one girl didn't complete the race, but her sixth runner did, scoring high enough to give the Lady Bluejays the second team qualifying spot by four points over Hays-TMP, which finished just seven points ahead of Holcomb for the final spot.
Only the top five scores count in the team standings, so without the extra runner, Cimarron would not have qualified as a team.
As it was, second place was a pleasant surprise, Nothern said.
"I really thought we would compete for third. Pulling the sixth girl, I guess, was worth it," she said.
Blattner and Joisan Smith, who finished 17th, both ran at Rim Rock last year as freshmen, placing 11th and 12th, respectively.
"We're going in with a little bit of experience and a lot of excitement," Nothern said.
The hills there will be a concern, Blattner added, but at least running the course last year has prepared her.
Also qualifying from the area were Chelsi Hess (11th) and Taylor George (14th) of Scott City and Alex Martinez (13th) of Lakin.