HHS runners slip past tough field to qualify for state

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Just as Hillsboro coach Brian Kennell predicted, the Class 3A regional cross country meet at Leon-Bluestem Saturday turned into a 4-H event.

The top four boys’ teams shared the same first letter-Holcomb, Hesston, Hillsboro and Halstead.

Fortunately, Hillsboro, fueled by three top-10 individual finishes, placed third and was the last of the four teams to qualify for the state meet in Wamego on Saturday.

Holcomb won with 55 points, followed by Hesston with 72, Hillsboro with 84 and Halstead with 88.

“We knew this regional would be this competitive and recognize how disappointing it is for Halstead not to make it, so we are overall happy with our third-place finish,” Kennell said.

Aaron Yoder was the first Trojan to cross the finish line, completing the muddy 3.1-mile course in 17 minutes 13 seconds. He was 39 seconds behind the winner, Cody Lemon of Southwestern Heights, and 14 seconds behind Chris George of Holcomb.

Daniel Yoder placed seventh for the Trojans in 17:35 and Kody Borg was 10th overall and ninth in the team competition in 17:52, just two seconds out of eighth place overall.

“Aaron and Danny ran very good races,” Kennell said. “Third and seventh are excellent places at this competitive of a race.

“Kody had a great race,” Kennell added. “We talked before the race that we might not qualify, so he knew he needed to be in the top 10 to guarantee himself that he would run next week.

“He has come through with great races all year when we needed them most,” Kennell added. “He did this again for us.”

Also scoring for Hillsboro was Karl Magnuson, who placed 26th overall and 25th in team competition in 18:47, and Sammy Espada, who finished 43rd/40th in 19:35.

Rounding out the Trojan performance Daniel Bookless, who placed 50th/47th in 20:01 and Nick Unruh, who was bothered by shin splints but placed 56th/52nd in 20:37.

Even though his team finished third at its regional, Kennell said the field was extremely competitive and he and he and his team are aiming for a high finish at state.

“This should be a very competitive state meet,” Kennell said. “I think Holcomb and Kansas City Christian are the favorites at this point. Hesston, us, Belleville and Riley County are not far behind them.

“We are all close enough that it is still open,” he added.

Leon-Bluestem’s course is one of the flatter ones on the Trojans’ schedule, but Wamego will be on of the most hilly.

That doesn’t concern Kennell, whose teams have finished in second place there each of the past two seasons.

“We feel that we run our best races on hills and many other teams do not,” he said. “We look to this as our advantage at Wamego.”

He said the Yoder brothers and Borg have proven themselves to be consistent top individual competitors. The key to Hillsboro’s state finish may rest more on the team’s fourth, fifth and sixth runners.

“We will be looking for (Magnuson, Espada and Bookless) to have great races next week,” Kennell said. “If they run really well, we should finish high.”

Two Warriors qualify

Marion High School qualified two runners for state competition at Leon-Bluestem

Zac Ewert, the team leader all season long, finished eighth in the boys’ race in a time of 17:50, and Jessica DeForest was eighth in the girls’ race in 13:38.

Alissa Vogel just missed making the cut, finishing 14th in 14:11.

“She just missed it as a sophomore,” coach Matt Robert said. “We were really thrilled about that.”

Finishing next for the Warrior girls was Johanna Pape, who placed 28th in 14:52, Brianna Vogel, 48th in 17:03, and Haley Creamer, 50th in 17:50.

For the boys, senior Brian Bina completed his high school career with a 27th-place finish in 18:52, and freshman Brandon Watson was 54th in 20:32.

“We had a great season overall, especially with me being a first-year coach,” Robert said. “I am really excited with how things went.

“I’m just really proud of all of them. They represented themselves really well the whole season. They were respectful at all times and worked hard.

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