The Central Kansas League usually has a state title contender or two no matter the season. Cross country is no exception. Thursday, the best in the league went head-to-head at Camp WaJaTo in Lyons. Halstead won the boys’ title behind a league championship from junior Steven Cline. .
“I think we saw the individual state champ and the 3A team champion in Halstead, I really do,” said Lyons Coach Larry Dumler.
Cline was part of one of the more memorable state finishes last year when Collegiate’s Lakelin Conrad won the 3A title, finishing just 0.1 seconds ahead of Cline. Cline may be the 3A frontrunner this year as Conrad has moved to Class 4A, and the third and fourth place finishers from a year ago graduated.
Despite running on a new course, Cline easily won Thursday’s race by 11 seconds in 16:58.47. “I knew it was going to be tough,” he said. “I’ve never been to this course so I didn’t know what to expect course-wise. It was harder than I thought and it made me stronger.”
“It’s a deceivingly tough course,” Dumler said. “In the mid-two miles there is nothing but rolling hills and they’re pretty sharp – steep down and steep up. They’re 10-15 yards long but they’ll knock your legs out.”
Pratt’s Tony Ibarra finished second in 17:09.06, followed by Kingman’s Owen Pearce in 17:11.12 for the bronze. Smoky Valley’s Calvin Shannon and Logan Windholz ran fourth and fifth, respectively, in 17:19.18 and 17:26.72.
All five of Halstead’s scorers finished in the top-13 to give the Dragons just 46 points. Smoky Valley finished second with 57 points, and Pratt was the only other team to stay under the century mark with 69 points.
Patrick Porch ran ninth for Halstead in 17:59. The next three Dragons finished in spots 11-13. Cory Hiebert led the trio in 18:06.81, followed by Dakota Blaylock in 18:16.88, and Neil Owens in 18:22.66.
Hesston scored 106 points despite leaving three runners behind due to a respiratory illness. “We’re just trying to get through it this week and we just really have to focus on it next week so we can qualify for state,” said Swather senior Austin Bollinger, who ran eighth at the 3A state meet last year.
Luccas Schmucker paced Hesston in eighth Thursday with a time of 17:51.22. Bollinger rounded out the top-10 in 18:00.59. He said the team will take it easier next week as they heal up and prepare for the 3A regional meet at Lake Afton.
“We went really hard this week because it’s league,” Bollinger said. “Next week we’ll take it easy and do low miles and try to focus on getting qualified to state as a team. We really want to do that because last year we missed out as a team because everyone had bronchitis. Hopefully it’s not bronchitis again.”
See more on the Cross Country meet at CatchItKansas.com