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MARSHALL: Cross country—Joys of long-distance running

Published 10/29/2012

Sometimes one has to wonder what motivates athletes to participate in certain sports.

I know I do.

I mean, really, what motivates an athlete to run long distances?

A long distance to me is about 200 meters and even 100 meters looks daunting to me.

But that's the way it's always been. Four or five kilometers?

I could never get the hang of the joy of running. No smiles.

But that's not the case with high school athletes in southwest Kansas.

According to figures compiled by the Kansas State High School Activities Association, the governing body for high school sports in the state, there were 3,684 boys and 2,898 girls — a total of 6,582 athletes — were competing in cross country during the 2011 school year.

Once again, on Saturday, running proved to be an enjoyable and successful sport for the teams of The Telegram area.

If you missed Monday's edition, let's take a quick summary of what happened at Rim Rock Farm (Class 6A/3A) in Lawrence and at Wamego Country Club (Class 1A/2A/4A).

Garden City's girls finished second as a team, the highest place in school history. Junior Alex Miller garnered the second-place individual spot with a sterling, courageous, gutsy finish in which she overtook 28 runners in the last 1.5 miles.

Scott City's boys also brought home a runner-up team trophy in Class 3A while Beavers' senior Joey Meyer had a top 5 finish, running his career best for a fifth-place finish. Holcomb's boys were not far behind in fourth place. Cimarron freshman Isabelle Koopman had a top 20 medal performance by taking 11th place in the 3A girls race.

Traveling westward to Wamego for most of the small-class school races, Greeley County re-established itself as the top 1A program in Kansas by sweeping the boys and girls championships. It marked the third time in four years and the fourth time in five years for the boys and girls to return home with the state championship trophy.

Can anybody explain the Jackrabbits? Even veteran coach Greg Cook is somewhat perplexed by how his teams have been able to run at such a high level over the years. He can now boast the fact that he has two girls — Madison Moser and Kennedy Schneider — running cross country for the University of Kansas. In addition, he has two of Schneider's brothers — Kaman on the cross country team and Kellum on the track squad — at KU.

Big running shoes for a small school. The entire girls team returns while just two boys leave. Troy Wineinger and Coraima Yanez topped his list this season.

Stanton County's boys took second in 2A boys with Raul Pantoja placing seventh. Wichita County's Paige Wells earned a 10th place finish in 2A girls.

Hugoton's boys, behind Patrick Weaver (4th) and Jacob Martin (10th) were fourth in Class 4A boys at Wamego. Ulysses' Chisholm Branscum had a top 10 finish in 4A girls.

It was with admiration that I watched Garden City coach Krista Linenberger praise her girls for how well they had run.

When she finally told the anxiously-awaiting girls, they were exultant in their celebration of the achievement. It was refreshing to see these faces of sport's purity. These girls were running simply for the fun of it — for the sense of accomplishment, and for each other.

It will be one of my favorite memories of the fall of 2012. A time when running was the in sport.

Yes, I will never quite understand the joy of running. But then, I don't have to.

All I have to do is to write about it. And for me that is joy, too.

Sports Editor Brett Marshall can be reached at bmarshall@gctelegram.com

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