ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro High School cross-country boys gave some credence to their new No. 1 state ranking by taking second place at a tough Southeast of Saline Invitational on Tuesday, Sept. 20.
The Trojans, ranked No. 1 in Class 3A by the Kansas Cross Country Coaches Association, and only three days removed from a tough test at Rim Rock Ranch, was runner-up to Abilene, who is ranked third in Class 4A.
The Cowboys finished with 68 point to Hillsboro’s 90.
“To come back and run another meet on Tuesday after running at Rim Rock on Saturday really showed the competitive nature of this group of young athletes,” coach Stuart Holmes said.
“They should feel good about the level of determination they demonstrated today.”
Following Abilene and Hillsboro on Tuesday were Clay Center with 101 points, Southeast of Saline 113, Sterling 114, Sacred Heart 122, Hesston 167, Ellsworth 229, Halstead 261, Smoky Valley 266, Goessel 278 and Chapman 331.
Six teams in the field are state ranked, including Southeast and Hesston, fifth and third, respectively, in Class 3A, and Sacred Heart, No. 1 in Class 2A.
“To finish second to a very good Abilene team and beat all of the 3A and smaller schools was a good showing for the guys,” Holmes said.
Setting the pace for Hillsboro was Daniel Bookless, who finished the 5-kilometer course in 17 minutes, 31 seconds to place third.
Following Bookless were Cody McMillen (14th, 18:17), Sean Leihy (18th, 18:37), Nate Holmes (22nd, 18:55), Isaac Leihy (38th, 19:35), Thad Holmes (40th, 19:36) and Robert Jost (45th, 20:03).
The top 25 finishers earned a medal.
The Trojan girls, meanwhile, placed eighth among nine teams.
Ellsworth won the team competition with 60 points, followed by Smoky Valley with 76, Clay Center 82, Sacred Heart 92, Halstead 113, Southeast of Saline 123, Abilene 166, Hillsboro 186 and Chapman 208.
Carrie Schroeder, Hillsboro’s only medalist, finished the 2-mile course in 14:17, good for 20th.
She was followed by Jacque Fisher (36th, 14:51), Elissa Richert (48th, 15:16), Greta Kliewer (51st, 15:23), Courtney Fast (66th, 17:27) and Megan McCarty (72nd, 19:16).
Including the junior varsity runners, four Trojans ran a personal-best time at Southeast and six others ran a season’s best time. In all, 12 runners improved their time on Southeast’s course from previous years.
“In many ways, today has been our best meet so far,” Holmes said. “Overall, everyone ran more aggressively and, despite it being over 90 degrees, the kids really dug down deep to run hard.”
Junior varsity-Hillsboro placed second to Abilene in the boys’ junior-varsity race as well, trailing the Cowboys 66 to 62.
Brandon McMillen placed third among 84 runners in 20:23. He was followed by Ric Johnson (7th, 20:58), Johnny Christian (11th, 21:25), Jon Janzen (19th, 21:55), Zach Magnuson (25th, 22:05), J. Michael Hiebert (27th, 22:10), Alex Jost (38th, 22:52), Matthew Klenda (41st, 23:19), Clint Schneider (44th, 23:30), Lance Kliewer (52nd, 24:23), Victor Rogers (53rd, 24:27) and David Ratzloff (70th, 26:54).
For the girls, Kim Spencer placed 27th among 31 runners in 20:07 and Alysha Claassen was 29th in 21:05.
Coming-Hillsboro will take its No. 1 ranking to the Berean Invitational on Thursday. Races at Harvey County East Park will begin at 4 p.m.
“It is nice for the guys to be recognized for their hard work and the good season they’re having by being ranked No. 1, but they know there are a number of other good teams in the state,” Holmes said.
“We’ve got to continue to improve and take each meet one at a time.”