The cross country course at Wamego always presents its fair share of challenges with its hills and the coolness of late October. Area runners were up to the task.
The best area team performance of the day came by way of the Greeley County Jackrabbit girls, who captured yet another team title, scoring 34 points.
Runner-up honors went to Ingalls, who won on a tiebreaker over Wallace County, both teams scoring 53 points.
For the Greeley County girls, it was familiar territory — their ninth team title dating back to 2006. All under the guidance of head coach Greg Cook.
They won three straight from 2008-10 and four straight from 2012-15.
Make more space in the school trophy case.
Nine rings; only one finger left for Cook, who laughed it off and gave all the credit to his girls.
“They were really good conditions to run in and all four of my girls had their best race of the season,” he said.
Familiarity with the course helps, too, he added.
“We’ve been up there a time or two,” Cook said, adding how much his team practices running hills to prepare for the Wamego course.
“We know what’s coming when we get to Wamego. We talk about it, train on them (the hills) and talk about them some more,” he said.
The top three teams all came from the same regional, so Greeley County knew what they were running against.
“The girls, going in, knew we’d run against Ingalls and Sharon Springs last week and they knew which girls they had to beat, and they knew they needed to run their best. The girls really stepped up and — pardon the pun — they put their best foot forward,” Cook said.
Highest-finishing runner for the area, though, went to South Gray’s Sarah Tarn, who finished fourth. The sophomore finished the 5K course in 21:02.2. Teammate McKaylee Batman medaled by finishing 10th in 22:22.0.
Greeley County’s top finisher was sophomore Lauren Crottinger, who finished ninth (22:17.2). Freshman Jordyn Bosson was 11th, senior Abigail Berggren was 12th, and Arely Yanez 42nd.
Ingalls’ Kaylee Simon took the medal stand after finishing seventh, clocking a 22:11.5 in her final race for the Lady Bulldogs.
Also running for Ingalls were Ashley Cure (39th), Alexa Lightner (43rd) and Britlyn Beach (62nd).
Satanta freshman Sicely Jackson finished 33rd (23:53.2).
On the boys side, Greeley County finished fifth (103 points) and South Gray eighth (138) behind winner Beloit-St. John’s 19 points.
Greeley County sophomore Fabel Yanez led the Rabbits with a 15th-place finish, running an 18:12.2. Aaron Vazquez finished 29th.
South Gray’s Adam Thiessen finished 40th and Brett Koehn 41st (19:08.3 and 19:09.9).
Dighton’s Brendan Whipple finished 31st and Burke Shapland 49th.
Satanta freshman Rosalio Ruiz finished 63rd.
Junior Jack Thomas did something no other Scott City Beaver has been able to do in a decade, and that is bring home the Class 3A cross country individual state title, finishing first with a time of 16:04.87 at the Rim Rock course in Lawrence Saturday.
The Beavers also had great performances from both teams, as the Scott City girls — led by Makayla Stevens’ fifth-place finish — took second with 76 points, nine back of champion Hiawatha, and the boys finished third with 113 points. Halstead took the team title with 102, and Central Heights was second with 104.
“Jack is just one of those kids that doesn't come along very often,” said head cross country coach Kevin Reese about his state champion runner. “He ran an extremely smart and strategic race. We talked about not going out too fast, but he knew he had some stiff competition with a couple of Kingman runners. He definitely wanted to dictate his own pace early on.”
Reese said homas had been preparing for this race all season long with all of his training he had done all year long, “He is a strong mental runner. Physically, he’s gone above and beyond as far as training this year. He was about as prepared you can get for this race. I was happy to see him do as well as he did, and he ran a great time.”
Thomas is the first Scott City boy to win and individual title since Trace Kendrick did it 10 years ago in 2007.
Thomas’ first-place finish also helped the Beavers finish third in state, which is their best team performance since they won state in 2007.
The two Scott City seniors had strong performances to help the Beavers attain their third place finish on Friday.
“The boys team also had a very strong year, particularly Conner LeBeau and Austin Rios,” Reese said. “Connor would admit that he didn’t have his best run at state, but when you’re talking about someone who gives you every ounce of effort every time he runs, you can never doubt the amount of effort he puts forth.
“Rios ran one of his better races of the year at state — proud of both those seniors.”
Though lacking an individual champion, the girls’ team had an even better day.
“I’m extremely happy for the girls. They all ran extremely well, especially looking back to last week after regionals,” Reese said. “We didn't have our best showing of the year. We regrouped and the seniors, especially, came out and had a strong showing led by Makayla Stevens.”
Stevens took fifth with a time of 20:29.10.
Individually, the Scott City girls did the best they had done all season.
“Four out of the five girls ran their season PR (personal record), which is something you hope to do at state, but you never know what you’re gonna get, so they definitely stepped up when they needed to,” Reese said.
This performance at the state meet comes a week after the girls ran a less than ideal race at regionals last week, and finished second. Perhaps expectations were brought down to earth after last week’s performance. Not according to Reese.
“I wouldn't say we exceeded our expectations. We kind of have known all along that our girls are one of the stronger teams in the state,” she said. “We took a step back last week, but I definitely knew what we were capable of doing if we performed well.”
After winning state titles with both the boys and the girls last season when they moved down to Class 3A, the Hugoton Eagles moved back up to Class 4A.
The boys finished third and the girls 12th.
Towanda-Circle won the boys title with 54 points, just ahead of Andover-Central (59), while the Eagles scored 83 points.
Wichita Collegiate senior Lakelin Conrad won the title, clocking a 16:19.5, but just behind him was Hugoton senior Abraham Garcia-Aguirre (16:23.1).
Junior Ethan Fox ran a 17:01.9 to place 13th.
Jacob Eckert finished 24th and Rafael Guereque was 46th to score for Hugoton.
“We knew coming in Andover-Central and Towanda-Circle were going to be pretty tough to beat,” coach Nick Rodriguez said. “We figured third is where we ought to place, but we thought we might have an outside chance of catching one of those two on a bad day. You never know how the scoring might come out.”
Hoping to place four runners in the top 25, Hugoton managed three, and Rodriguez was pleased with that. Four runners ran personal bests on the Wamego course and two others ran their season bests.
“You can’t complain about that,” Rodriguez said. “Throughout the race, I felt we weren’t in the best positioning. I’m pretty pleased with the results.”
He also thought Garcia had a shot at being in the top five, but his senior ran a smart race.
“He stayed with the lead group. (Conrad) just had a little bit more of a lead on him at the end,” he said.
Garcia went through the 2-mile mark at around 10:24.
“That’s pretty quick on that course,” Rodriguez said. “He still had a mile left and he knew it was going to be tough. That last little hill on the back side and that last turn to come into the finish, he was struggling at that point, he said.”
The boys ran just before noon, and the conditions could not have been much better, Rodriguez added.
Holcomb senior Chris Nemechek finished his high school career by medaling, finishing 19th (17:11.5), along with Efrain Flores (22nd, 17:16.7).
Leading runner for the Hugoton girls was Cielo Garcia. The sophomore finished 64th (21:56.7).
Ulysses freshman Yessenia Ornelas finished 61st (21:52.1).
The Stanton County boys placed third in the Class 2A division, carding 118 points behind winner Yates Center (61) and Bennington (76). Wichita County was eighth (188).
Sophomore Isaiah Barrera paced the Trojans, running a 17:39.9 to place ninth. Jose Rodriguez was 28th, Blaze Batterton 42nd and Jarreth Carrasco 45th. Trey Summers finished 58th and Clayton Carruth 61st.
"I was really pleased. I was hoping that the boys could make the podium," head coach Mike Horton said. "I thought Isaiah might finish higher, but he finished pretty close to where we thought. For the boys to make the podium after graduating so many last year. They put in a lot of great work during the season."
Horton said Peterson and the Trojan girls also competed well.
"I thought most everybody gave a great effort," Horton said. "We had many run personal bests and season bests, so you couldn't ask for much more."
Wichita County’s John Bierman paced the Indians. The sophomore finished 13th in 17:55.5.
Syracuse sophomore Chris Giancola medaled in 12th place with a 17:54.5.
On the girls’ side, Bennington finished first (24 points) and Ellinwood second (121).
The Stanton County girls were seventh (183) and Syracuse 12th (227).
Pacing Stanton County was freshman Peyton Peterson, who finished 18th (21:26.9) and earned a top-20 medal, and Caelyn Cook (24th).
Syracuse’s top runner was Nedra Gallegos, who finished 35th.