ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
How good was the Hillsboro Trojans cross country team this season? Good enough to be disappointed about repeating last year’s second-place finish at the Class 3A state meet in Wamego on Saturday.
“This was a little disappointing for us since our goal was first place,” admitted coach Brian Kennell. “With that said, we are still very excited to finish second. The third- and fourth-place teams, Belleville and Riley County, are excellent teams and our runners did a great job to beat them.”
Led by three runners among the 20 individual medalists, the Trojans finished with 98 points, a solid 32 points behind first-place Holcomb. Belleville finished third with 105 points and Riley County followed with 119. Hesston of the MCAA finished seventh with 173 points.
Senior Pete Richert finished his season and high school career with another strong late-season performance, taking sixth-place overall in 17 minutes and 4.46 seconds. He was third among runners from qualifying teams.
“It has been fun watching Pete develop throughout this season,” Kennell said. “He did a good job improving all year after not running cross country the past two. It leaves one wondering how much better he would have been if he had run all four years. The team will miss him next year.”
After the race, Richert felt he may have started the 5-kilometer route a little too slowly.
“So many of the guys were starting out so fast, I didn’t want to do that and then not have anything left at the end,” he said.
Finishing 19th and 20th among individual medalists-and 13th and 14th among team competitors-was the brother combo of Aaron and Daniel Yoder. The sophomore twins finished the hilly course in 17:24.22 and 17:25.09, respectively.
“Aaron and Danny have been team leaders all season and this showed Saturday as we prepared for the race,” Kennell said. “They both ran very good races. Earning an individual medal at the state meet as a sophomore is a great achievement.”
Rounding out the scoring for Hillsboro were Matt Unger, who finished 38th overall-25th in team competition-in 19.00.29, and Kody Borg, who finished 61st-43rd in team competition-in 18:35.03.
“Our one individual disappointment was Matt Unger not getting an individual medal,” Kennell said. “This was his goal for the race. He was sick and cramped up a little bit during the race. He cramped up at state last year and it was hard to watch it happen again this year.
“The disappointment is lessened because Matt is an absolute team runner,” Kennell added. “He was more concerned about his finish costing the team a place than not getting an individual medal.”
Borg, meanwhile, capped his freshman season with personal-best time-which is no small accomplishment, given the demands of the course.
“Kody picked a great race to excel in,” Kennel said. “He ran his personal best by 30 seconds. Wamego is a hilly course and improving this much is an excellent athletic performance. Only seven other freshmen finished in front of him.”
Also competing for Hillsboro were Nick Unruh, who placed 84th in 19:37.17, and Tyler Stout, who finished 92nd in 20:07.60.
Completing the course were 103 runners. Zac Ewert, Marion, placed 45th in a time of 18:07.77.
With their second-place finish at state, the Trojans completed their most successful season in program history.
The varsity team competed in eight meets and won six of them-including the MCAA and regional meets.
Aaron Yoder was named “Boys’ Best Runner” while Matt Unger was selected as “Most Inspirational Runner” and sophomore Michael Fisher was selected “Most Improved Runner.”