Trojans win first MCAA title

Paced by three top-10 finishes, the Hillsboro High School boys cross country team won its first-ever MCAA league championship Thursday at the Cessna Activity Center in Wichita, outdistancing the seven other participating teams.

The Trojans’ top five finishers combined for a team score of 43 points, giving HHS a 17-point edge over runnerup Smoky Valley. Collegiate was third with 63 points, followed by Hesston 109, Halstead 114, Lyons 143, Sterling 171 and Haven 195.

“It was what we were hoping for, it was very satisfying,” coach Brian Kennell said. “Coming in, we knew it would be close with Smoky Valley, and we were really hoping we would win it. We thought if all five of the guys would run their best race, we should beat them.”

Senior Garrett Call, who had been struggling in his last couple of races after a strong early season, was the top Trojan finisher, placing fourth in a time of 18:11.

“He got back on track,” Kennell said. “He ran as he had in the first few meets of the season. We were hoping he’d be able to do that for the post-season part of our season.”

Call was followed by Aaron Yoder, who placed sixth in 18:35; Daniel Yoder, seventh in 18:37; Matt Unger, 12th in 19:09; and Adam Jilka, 14th in 18:11.

Two other Trojans ran in the varsity race. Andy Unger finished 28th in 20:15 and Nick Unruh finished 35th in 21:06.

Kennell said the highest a Hillsboro team had placed in the MCAA during his four-year tenure was sixth. Winning the title with only one returning runner from a year ago made the accomplishment particularly satisfying, he added.

The Trojans’ showing in the MCAA league meet should bolster their reputation as one of the top teams in Class 3A. A recent poll of cross country coaches in the state ranked Hillsboro boys sixth among 3A schools.

The Trojan girls did not have the five runners needed to qualify for team points.

Heather Pankratz was the team’s top finisher with a time of 15:37. She was followed by Kara Kaufman at 16:51 and Jocelyn Kliewer in 16:54.

Halstead won the girls’ team title, followed by Haven and Collegiate.

In the boys’ junior varsity race, Tyler Stout was the Trojans’ top finisher, placing second in 22:02. He was followed closely by Michael Bookless, who placed fourth in 22:49.

Also competing in the JV race were Wade Kimbrel, who finished in 25:54, and Kaleb Borg, who finished in 27:51.

The Trojans will compete in regional competition Saturday, which will be hosted by Southeast of Saline. The girls’ race begins at 2 p.m. and the boys’ race at 2:30 p.m.

The top three teams will advance to state competition Oct. 28 in Wamego. The top 10 individuals, plus the top five individuals from non-qualifying teams can also compete.

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