Cross country girls pick up where they left off
Before the De Soto High School girls 2003 cross country season began, De Soto coach Chris McAfee had the usual concerns about how some of the runners would handle their new roles or if they understood what it would take to be successful.
But the Wildcats calmed his fears at Saturday's Topeka Hayden Invitational.
The team won the meet that featured four other talented cross country teams.
Salina Sacred Heart, the seventh-ranked team in 2A-1A, fell short of the Wildcats by a 46-56 margin. Olpe, which is polled as the second-best team in 2A-1A, finished fifth with 103 team points. Paola, which McAfee said was a solid 5A team, came in third with 65 points, while the 4A sixth-rated hosts finished fourth with 66 tallies.
"I feel really good about how they ran," McAfee said. "They definitely exceeded my expectations for the first meet."
Andrea Young led the Wildcat charge with a second-place finish in 12 minutes, 45 seconds. The sophomore fell behind Olpe's Michelle Stueve, whom McAfee said was one of the better runners in the state, regardless of class, before she was able to make up ground late. Stueve won the race in 12:21.
Carrie Wilbert took a different approach to the course. She had a great start out of the gate but had to hold on for her fifth-place finish.
"She is so close to breaking through and becoming one of the top runners around," McAfee said of the sophomore who finished in 13:29. "She let the race get away from her some but knows what she needs to work on."
Morgan Frehe (13:35) and Melissa Roberts (13:40) also earned medals by placing eighth and ninth, respectively. Katie James and Sarah Jokisch finished just out of medal contention.
De Soto finished fourth in the boys race but took home the individual medalist hardware.
Casey Johnson impressed his coach by winning the race in a personal best time of 17:23 on what may have been a long course.
"This is obviously one of Casey's best races," McAfee said, "and I think it is a sign of things to come. He seems to run up to his competition, so (Saturday's) Wamego meet will be fun to see where he is at."
Donnie Gardner (17:56) let the third- and fourth-place runners get away from him in the middle of the race on the way to his fifth-place finish. Had he stayed with them, McAfee thought Gardner would have finished third.
"He will learn more about racing and about himself and do well," McAfee said. "He is going to improve a lot during the course of the season."
Tanner McNamara rounded out the Wildcat medals by moving up throughout the race and finishing 15th in his first varsity race.
Adam Wilcox and Matt Woywod, another first-timer, finished the course 21st and 22nd, respectively. Sam Wilcox also ran the course for De Soto.
"Overall, we could have run better," McAfee said. "However, I feel like I know where we're at, and for our team this wasn't an indication of how good we are. The next couple of weeks will show who we are, and I think these guys are going to be pleasantly surprised."
De Soto travels Saturday to the Wamego Invitational, which starts at 9 a.m.