ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF & TOM STOPPEL
When you’re battling for a berth at the state meet, even a good cross-country team needs to run on five strong cylinders to qualify.
The Hillsboro boys, ranked No. 1 in Class 3A this season, were less than full strength Saturday at the regional meet in Wichita, and just missed qualifying for the first time in six years.
“It was a tough day for the boys’ team,” coach Stuart Holmes said. “Obviously, they were disappointed to not have the opportunity to compete at state again.”
The Trojans’ lone representative at Wamego on Saturday will be senior Daniel Bookless, who placed fifth overall with a time of 17 minutes, 23 seconds.
“Congratulations to Daniel on qualifying as an individual by placing in the top 10,” Holmes said. “He has not only been our best runner this year, but also our most consistent runner, which is a credit to his mental preparation and competitive desire.”
The rest of the Trojan team will watch from the sidelines after finishing fourth among 12 teams. Wichita Trinity won the team competition with 82 points, followed by Hesston with 96, Wichita Collegiate 105 and Hillsboro 112.
The top three teams qualify for state. The Trojans had defeated both Hesston and Collegiate at the league meet a week earlier.
“Our guys know we had beaten Wichita Trinity by 1:57 in total time at Berean’s meet just a few weeks ago, but you’ve got to earn your spot in the state meet on the day of the regionals and we didn’t do that,” Holmes said.
On this day, freshman Isaac Leihy, who has been consistently among the top five scoring runners for Hillsboro this season, battled illness the entire route.
“Isaac did not feel up to par, didn’t run his regular race and it ended up drastically changing our team score,” Holmes said. “Thad (Holmes, freshman) and Ric (Johnson, senior) gave a great effort, passing a number of people in the last mile, but it just wasn’t enough to get us into the top three qualifying teams.
“I feel bad for the upperclassmen, who have worked most of the summer and throughout the season to get back to state and earn a trophy this year.”
Behind Bookless’s fifth-place effort, Sean Leihy finished 12th in 17:53, Cody McMillen 24th in 18:42, Nate Holmes 31st in 18:53, Thad Holmes 45th in 20:02, Johnson 49th in 20:10 and Isaac Leihy 69th in 21:52.
Eighty-two runners completed the 5-kilometer course at the Cessna Activity Center.
The Hillsboro girls, meanwhile, finished ninth among nine teams. Senior Carrie Schroeder led the Trojans with a 22nd-place finish in 13:58.
Following her were Jacque Fisher (40th, 14:50), Elissa Richert (46th, 14:57), Courtney Fast (53rd, 15:48), Greta Kliewer (56th, 17:04) and Megan McCarty (62nd, 18:41).
Sixty-two runners finished the 2-mile course.
“The girls should feel good about their effort at regionals-they all ran hard,” Holmes said. “Carrie, Greta and Jacque have been excellent leaders for the team. Their sense of camaraderie and team spirit were evident all year and were typified by Greta running and finishing her last race for the team despite being hobbled by a calf injury.”
As it turned out, Marion also will be represented at Wamego by one runner. Danielle Cope finished ninth in the girls’ race to make the top-10 cutoff at the Wichita regional. The Warrior junior completed the two-mile course in 13 minutes, 12 seconds.
“Danielle had a heart-breaking finish last year, where she just missed qualifying for state,” coach Rex Ostmeyer said. “But she walked away from that saying, ‘I’m going next year.’ She put her mind to it to make state this year and did it. She ran a really smart race and got herself in the top 10. I was really proud of her.”
Two Warriors just missed the cut in the boys’ race. Daniel Goentzel finished one place and two seconds short of qualifying, completing the 5-kilometer course in 11th place with a time of 17:50.
“Daniel was probably 10 feet behind the kid in front of him,” Ostmeyer said. “But he ran a great race and ran his fastest time ever.”
Just behind Goentzel, in 14th place, was Luke Bowers, who crossed the finish line in 17:57.
“He really ran strong as well,” Ostmeyer said.
Finishing behind Cope in the girls’ race were Tacy Taylor (21st, 13:58), Katie Hett (45th, 14:56), Emily Svoboda (57th, 17:09) and Elisa Gayle (61st, 18:37).
As a team, the Warrior girls placed seventh with 171 points. Remington won the team title with 49 points.
Also competing for the Warrior boys were Gavin Moore (17th, 18:26), Justin Heidebrecht (35th, 19:07), Matt Kirkpatrick (57th, 20:38), Ben Leppke (71st, 22:03) and Kerim Geldimuradov (82nd, 24:36).
The Warrior boys placed fifth as a team.
“This group has been a lot of fun,” Ostmeyer said of his squad. “They worked harder in the off-season this year than the years before, and that paid off for them. This really opened their eyes to how off-season work can pay off.”
Coming-On Saturday, Daniel Bookless and the rest of the Class 3A boys will race at 11 a.m. on the golf course in Wamego. Danielle Cope and the 3A girls’ race will start at noon.