By BRETT MARSHALL
WAMEGO — For the first time this year, the Holcomb Longhorns' four seniors ran in order for coach Lindall Cox on Saturday at the Class 3A state championship at Wamego Country Club.
The result was a second consecutive state title for the Longhorns and their third of this decade.
"This has been an amazing group of seniors," Cox said. "They've really set a standard that will be hard to match. They've been terrific leaders and will really be missed."
It marked the first time in school history that any team had won consecutive state crowns and the group was basking in triumph following their impressive run on the demanding WCC layout.
The Longhorns had 77 points to defeat Minneapolis, and has been the case most of the last two seasons, it was their third, fourth and fifth runners doing their "pack" running that made the difference.
"It was my toughest race ever but it feels really good," said senior Mike Wolf, who led the Longhorns' title chase with a fourth-place finish in a time of 17:32.30 while teammate JaCee Jarnagin was right behind in fifth at 17:34.82. "We just ran close and talked a lot during the race to make sure we knew where everyone was. Honestly, this is better than I thought I'd do because I didn't feel like I warmed up as well as I normally do. I didn't sleep last night and I was really nervous."
With five scores figuring into the team total, the Longhorns had to utilize their depth to overtake Minneapolis which produced the inidividual state champion in sophomore Collin Truckle (17:02.41).
Southwestern Heights' Enrique Sanchez, last year's runner-up, finished in sixth right on the heels of Jarnagin (17:35.41).
Through the first three runners, Minneapolis had a 13-point advantage on Holcomb. Mitchell Gaede had been the No. 3 finisher for Cox's team in 34th while Brett Robinson, the fourth senior, was in 34th place and scored 18 points to cut the deficit to just four points (38-34). It was sophomore Brendon Thomas who took 59th place, scoring 39 points, that was the difference as Holcomb teammate Nolan Gaede was 71st and still finished ahead of Minneapolis' fifth runner, Isaac Kuder, who was 76th and scored 54 points. That made up the deficit and then some for the Longhorns.
"In my mind, the team running is much more important for us than anything individually," Wolf said. "It's been on our mind to defend and I wanted to beat people who beat me (last year)."
Wolf was especially happy, too, that his senior teammates had come through with strong performances.
"No matter how good one runner is, running as a team defines who we are," Wolf said. "You have to run in a pack to do well as a team and that is our strong suit."
For Wolf's sidekick, Jarnagin, the second win proved to be just as satisfying as the first.
"Most teams are satisfied with just getting one so this one for me is better," Jarnagin said. "We just knew that if we took care of business up front that the others would do their job as well and they did. This group is like brothers, we enjoy doing things together away from running and it just takes a lot of dedication and we like what we do."
For Cox, the triumph was the conclusion to a year in which the boys won virtually ever major race where they ran a full team.
"Our seniors really stepped up today," Cox said. "It is the same (as last year) but different. The idea you've done something that never has happened in our school really makes this special. Nothing is guaranteed and we didn't assume anything all year. These guys have done everything you'd want to get to this place and it's nice to see them get the reward."
See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.