Trojan harriers are Class 3A runners-up

The Hillsboro Trojan boys’ cross country team ran their way to a second-place finish at the Class 3A state cross country meet Saturday in Wamego.

Riley County, who had finished ahead of Hillsboro in the regional meet a week earlier at Southeast of Saline, repeated the performance at Wamego to win the state crown with 83 points.

But Hillsboro, who had entered the meet ranked fifth in the state, exceeded those expectations with strong races across the board to finish with 119 points-one point ahead of Holcomb and Northern Heights for the runner-up spot.

“It was a very close race for second, third and fourth place,” said HHS coach Brian Kennell. “Just a fraction of a second made the difference between the teams. It is exciting for us to be on the better end of this.”

Twelve teams and 105 runners competed in this year’s race.

Trojan senior Garrett Call continued his late-season surge, finishing the 5-kilometer course in 17:20-his second-fastest time of the season and good enough for a state medal with an 11th-place finish overall and a team-score finish of fifth.

“Garrett Call ran his best race of the year,” Kennell said. “A medal at state has been Garrett’s goal all year, and this was great for him to run so well and earn it. His leadership as our No. 1 runner was the key to our success this year and in this race, also.”

Call was followed by a pair of freshman brothers, Danny Yoder and Aaron Yoder, who finished 31st and 34th overall, respectively, with times of 17:49 and 17:54. They finished 19th and 21st in the team competition.

Junior Matt Unger finished next in 18:11, good enough for 45th overall and 28th in team competition. Senior Adam Jilka rounded out the Trojan scoring by finishing 66th overall and 46th in team competition with a time of 19:01.

Also competing for Hillsboro were senior Andy Unger, who finished 80th overall and 58th in team competition in 19:29, and sophomore Nick Unruh, who placed 99th overall and 77th in team scoring in 20:31.

Kennell had special praise for Matt Unger, whose performance was particularly significant because of the side cramp he developed.

“Matt Unger ran through a bad side cramp this race and still ran a strong race,” Kennell said. “The team making it to state and finishing high has been a strong motivating factor all year for Matt. He did a wonderful job rising to the challenge.”

Though in many ways, cross country is an individual sport, Kennell said the camaraderie on this year’s team was key to their success.

“All our runners were motivated by finishing high as a team,” Kennell said. “They came together as a team and encouraged each other. This was another important component to our success.”

Call was named the Trojan’s “Boys’ Best Runner” this season. Tyler Stout was chosen the team’s “Most Inspirational Runner” and Kaleb Borg was picked “Most Improved Runner.”

Heather Pankratz was named “Girls’ Best Runner.”

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