By MIKE KESSINGER

mkessinger@gctelegram.com

It comes down to one thing for Eric Ruth when he looks back at his high school cross country career hard work.

"As my grandpa puts it it's a culmination of six years of work and preparation all funneled into one final thing," Ruth said. "It's a great feeling knowing I could finish cross country with a win like that."

Ruth's prep cross country career ended like any other senior would want it with a state title. He was well aware that two of the three runners who placed in front of him at last year's state meet in Wamego were back, and he knew where he needed to be in the early part of the race. Ruth jumped out immediately and was in the front group from the start. He stayed behind Wathena's Cody Miller, drafting when he could.

"I just stuck right behind him until it was time," Ruth said.

Somewhere between a half mile left and the finish line Ruth passed Miller and never looked back as he cruised to his first Class 2A state crown. He finished the race in 17:01.97, which was about 12 seconds ahead of Miller. When they met at state last year, Miller passed Ruth in the final 50 meters and so the Stanton County senior had been wary of Miller until he finished the race. For an athlete who missed the early part of the season with a virus, then didn't really get into his full training routine until the middle of the season, the win couldn't have come at a better time.

Ruth was also the Hi-Plains League individual champion this year and so going into state he had plenty of experience running against several of the top runners in southwest Kansas ranging from Class 1A to 4A.

"We have amazing runners (in western Kansas)," Ruth said. "There is obviously a number a good runners and it's always nice, because say, one of those guys is having an off day there's three or four that can step up. No matter what, you're still going to have to have a good race to win out in this area."

With cross country now behind him, Ruth is looking ahead to college and if he is given a chance he'd like to run for some team.

"I'd love to run in college if I'm good enough for them," Ruth said. "If I can go and be a part of a team without it interfering too much with my academics then I'd love to run in college."