ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Even with one runner at less than full strength, the Hillsboro Trojans ran away with their first regional cross country championship in the history of the program Saturday afternoon at Ellsworth.
Hillsboro finished with 40 team points, easily outdistancing the 80 points for runnerup Ellsworth. Marion placed seventh among 10 schools in team competition with 157 points.
“This was extremely exciting for us to win,” said Hillsboro coach Brian Kennell. “A highlight for us was having three runners medal by finishing in the top 10.”
Heading that threesome was senior Pete Richert, who continued his late-season surge by finishing second overall in a time of 17 minutes 56 seconds-only six seconds behind the winner, Adam Willis of Hoisington.
Willis led early in the race, then Richert took the lead during the second mile and held it into the third mile. With about a half mile left, Willis had enough kick to retake the lead and hold on for the win.
“Pete did an excellent job competing for the individual championship,” Kennell said. “Pete will be looking to beat (Willis) this Saturday at the state meet.”
Joining Richert in the top 10 for Hillsboro were Daniel Yoder, who finished fourth in 18:16 and Matt Unger, who placed ninth in 18:45.
“Daniel and Matt both set goals to finish in the top 10 and did a super job accomplishing this,” Kennell said. “They will both be looking for similar finishes this Saturday at Wamego.”
Rounding out the Trojan scoring were Aaron Yoder, who finished 13th in 19:28, and freshman Kody Borg, who placed 16th in 19:44.
“Kody did a very good job to finish as our fifth runner again,” Kennell said. “We will be counting on him again this Saturday.”
Aaron Yoder, Hillsboro’s top runner through much of the season, ran as much on courage as on talent at Ellsworth.
“He was sick with a cold and this slowed his time considerably,” Kennell said. “He was hoping to compete for one of the top three spots. He did a good job, running strong enough to get the team victory. He is a strong competitor and should be over his cold by Saturday and be back in the form he has been in all year.”
Also running for Hillsboro were Nick Unruh, who finished 25th in 20:38, and Tyler Stout, who placed 49th in 22:08 among the 74 runners who completed the race.
Kennell said despite some strong finishes, his runners were disappointed in their times.
“We had scouted the teams and thought we should win this meet,” Kennell said. “This took some of our drive away. This is a great group of runners and I am confident they will have their best races next Saturday.”
The state meet will be held in Wamego. The Class 3A boys are scheduled to run at 11 a.m.
Joining the Trojans in that showdown will be Zac Ewert of Marion, who qualified as an individual by placing eighth in 18:42.
Also competing for the Marion boys’ team at Ellsworth were Brian Bina, who placed 17th in 19:54, James Davis, 38th in 21:18, Jared Hett, 50th in 22:12, and Nick Carlson, 57th in 22:38.
The Marion girls’ team placed eighth among nine teams. The Warriors’ top finisher was Jessica DeForest, who placed 29th among the 61 runners who completed the race. Her time was 15:26.
Also running for Marion were Nikkie Moody, who finished 30th in 15:31, Emily Davis, 46th in 16:21, Becky Taylor, 50th in 17:26 and Emma Parli, 61st in 20:36.