Johnson out-duels nemesis
A little talk between coach and athlete did wonders for Casey Johnson's running resume last week. In fact, it did record-breaking wonders.
Johnson, a junior on De Soto's cross country team, not only won medallist honors at the Miege Invitational at Bishop Miege High School, but he also topped the field in course and meet record time.
"Casey and I talked after the Tonganoxie meet last week about running at the end of the race," De Soto cross-country coach Chris McAfee said. "We talked about digging down deep during that (last 90 seconds) part of the race."
Johnson, who finished the course in 16 minutes, 24.9 seconds, went out fast and set the pace from the start.
Mill Valley's Jay Matlack, a nemesis for Johnson during his high school career, ran with Johnson for much of the race. But it was Johnson who out-kicked Matlack down the stretch.
"Last week he let Jay go with less than 90 seconds to go in the race," McAfee said of Johnson's third place finish at Tonganoxie. "We wanted him (Johnson) to stay with him this week and see if he could out kick him.
"This week he was able to do it. It will be a very exciting league meet."
Donnie Gardner was able to escape the treacherous terrain of the meet with a ninth-place medal for the Wildcats, who finished the team race in seventh place with 148 points.
Gardner, who was clocked in a personal best time of 17:07 tried to stay with Johnson and Matlack during the race, but slid back some as the race wore on.
McAfee did, however, like the mentality and aggressiveness with which Gardner attacked the course.
"I think Donnie has a chance to medal at state this year," the coach said, "and that is how he is going to have to run."
Chris Peterson and Tanner McNamara finished within two seconds of each other but were out of the medal hunt. Peterson, who ran with an injured ankle, finished in 36th place with a time of 17:52, while McNamara ran the course in a 38th-best time of 17:54.
Matt Woywod (70th, 19:17) and Adam Wilcox (77th, 19:53) also ran Saturday for the varsity Wildcats.
For the girls, Morgan Frehe led the Wildcats to a seventh-place finish and 157 points in what McAfee called a tough field. The freshman was the only Wildcat to earn a medal at the meet, which featured Olathe East, Shawnee Mission South and Bishop Miege on the Kansas side, and St. Theresa's Academy and Pembroke Hill from the Missouri side.
Three of the top runners in the Kansas City area were also present at the meet.
Frehe ran a 14th fastest and personal best time of 12:58 pace De Soto.
"Morgan is starting to run faster to her potential," McAfee said. "Her confidence is getting there, so she is more willing to go out faster in meets."
Because Frehe went out faster in the race than she is used to, she was able to knock off some runners that beat her earlier in the year. But running the faster pace did cause her some problems.
Frehe almost slowed down as the race went on because she wasn't comfortable with the pace. But her competitive side wouldn't allow her to cave in.
"She ran well in the middle of the race, and still had a great kick in the end," McAfee said. "I think this is the beginning of good things to come."
Sophomore Carrie Wilbert was the second Wildcat to cross the finish line in a 25th-place time of 13:26.
Sullivan said Melissa Roberts ran a great race and finished in 30th place with a time of 13:31. Katie James (46th, 13:57) and Sarah Jokisch (65th, 15:21) also ran for the Wildcats.
De Soto's next meet is 4 p.m. Thursday at the Eudora Invitational.