ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
That the Hillsboro boys’ cross-country team won its fifth consecutive Mid-Central Activities Association title Thursday was no surprise.
After all, the Trojans’ steady performance during the season made them a favorite in the 10-team field.
But the margin of their victory at Marion Reservoir’s Cottonwood Point was an eye-opener.
Hillsboro posted a winning low score of 44 points, outpacing its closest competitor, Wichita Collegiate, by 25. Hoisington was third with 95, edging Hesston at 96.
The rest of the field included Halstead 116, Smoky Valley 152, Lyons 179, Marion 216, Ellinwood 217 and Sterling 247.
The key to Hillsboro’s comfortable win was simple: The Trojans put in a championship performance across the board. All five of the runners who contributed to the team score earned medals for finishing among the top 15 runners in the field of 65.
What’s more, for the first time in school history, all five of Hillsboro’s runners crossed the finish line of the 5-kilometer race in less than 18 minutes, according to coach Stuart Holmes.
“The results speak for themselves,” Holmes. “Special congratulations to our seniors, Kody (Borg) and Westie (Magnuson), as they really came through and led the team.”
Borg was the team’s top finisher, placing fourth overall in 17 minutes, 29 seconds-30 seconds behind the winner, Andrew Neel of Collegiate.
Magnuson was the eighth runner to cross, finishing in 17:43. But right behind him were teammates Sean Leihy and Nate Holmes, who placed ninth and 10th in 17:46 and 17:48, respectively.
Freshman Cody McMillen rounded out Hillsboro’s scoring by placing 13th in 17:59.
Also running for the Trojans were Daniel Bookless (27th, 18:38) and Robert Jost (43rd, 19:22).
Leading the pack for Marion was Luke Bowers, who finished 22nd in 18:24. He was followed by Daniel Goentzel (34th, 18:64), Ben Leppke (48th, 19:52), Justin Heidebrecht (54th, 20:19), Jordan Timm (58th, 21:23) and Matt Kirkpatrick (61st, 21:47).
In the girls’ two-mile race, Marion placed third among six teams and Hillsboro fifth. Fifty-five runners from 10 schools participated,
Danielle Cope led the Warrior effort with a medal-winning 12th-place finish in 13:39. Following her were Alissa Vogel (17th, 14:08), Laura Holt (23rd, 14:40) and Katie Hett (24th, 14:44), Sabine Teichert (14:55), Annika Wegner (32nd, 15:12) and Briana Vogel (38th, 15:42).
For Hillsboro, Elissa Richert led the team by finishing 19th in 14:20. Also competing were Hannah Marsh (25th, 14:54), Jacque Fisher (28th, 15:04), Greta Kliewer (34th, 15:16), Megan Peachey (44th, 16:26) and Megan McCarty (51st, 18:30).
“The girls competed very well,” Holmes said. “To place fifth as a team in the top half of the league, with four of our six girls running their first year in cross country, is outstanding.”
In the boys’ junior varsity race, Jon Janzen led the Hillsboro runners with a time of 20:52 and a ninth-place finish. Also competing were Zach Magnuson (13th, 21:09), Clint Schneider (22nd, 22:11), Alex Jost (26th, 22:56), Gavin Serene (27th, 23:18), Tyrel Blecha (28th, 23:18), Lance Kliewer (31st, 23:42) and Zach Luthi (34th, 25:09).
The runners had near-ideal conditions, with cool temperatures, partly cloudy skies and only a light breeze, and the nature trail at Cottonwood Point made for an attractive environment for the event, which Hillsboro organized and hosted.
Holmes was grateful for the work of HHS Activities Director Max Heinrichs, as well as for the assistance provided by Tabor College cross-country coach Karol Hunt and her runners.
He also recognized the contributions of Trojan manager Victor Rodgers.
“Victor covered several miles going back and forth to get everyone’s split times, and then was willing to go back out on the course and pick up cones,” Holmes said.
Coming-Hillsboro and Marion will compete Saturday in the regional cross country meet at Halstead. The girls will race at 3 p.m. and the boys at 3:30.
Joining the field will be Northern Heights, Caney Valley, Eureka, Fredonia, Garden Plain, Southeast of Saline, Halstead, Hesston, Bluestem, Neodesha, Osage City, Wichita Independent and Wichita Trinity.
The top three teams in the regional will qualify for state competition in Wamego the following Saturday.