McNamara 17th, Boys sixth and state cross country
Inconsistency and poor race strategy dogged De Soto's boys cross country team all season.
But Saturday the Wildcats overcame both, grabbing sixth place at the Class 4A state cross country meet with a strong performance across the board.
Tanner McNamara led the Cats through the Wamego Country Club golf courses hills, finishing 17th with a time of 17 minutes, 12 seconds in his strongest race of the season.
McAfee complimented McNamara's patience in the race and his courage, leading the team despite missing a good portion of the season with the whooping cough, but the junior wasn't happy.
"At the two mile, I wish I had moved up a little more," McNamara said. "I got gapped from the guys I wanted to be with and I had to pick up the pace to catch up."
Not far behind, Adam Justice, 34th in 17:41, and Chris Dvorak, 37th in 17:45, helped push the Cats to their best state finish in 14 years.
"The guys, sixth place, I thought top seven would be about right for us," McAfee said.
Although he said he was happy with the finish, he still felt like the team was wrapped up in the atmosphere of a state meet. One hundred and five runners and the 12 best teams in the state can have that affect, and the course in Wamego adds a bit of an intimidation factor.
The course winds around the golf course carved out of the Flint Hills before finishing on a quick downhill slope.
"The guys were still a little bit nervous coming into it, but that's because we have a lot of new guys," McAfee said.
The course and the spectacle seemed to takes its toll.
Despite warning from his teammates all week, Justice, a state rookie, didn't have one of his better races.
He spent much of the race with Dvorak and the pair ran consistent, but didn't attempt any major moves forward.
"We were trying to explain about the intensity of the race and trying to prepare Justice," McAfee said. "But until you actually run the race and see what it's like, it's hard to be prepared. (Justice and Dvorak) weren't too far off medaling. In the last half of the race they didn't move well. That's something we try to work on and they didn't do well."
Dvorak was also slowed when he lost a shoe on the course.
"He felt like maybe if he had had both shoes, he might have run a little bit better," McAfee said. "He didn't give up any spots, which I was really proud of."
Jerin Riffel, Colin Jokish and Alex Wayne finished 73rd, 74th and 75th and Matt Woywod was 82nd.
The Cats held off Buhler but were a good distance back of Wamego.
Baldwin won the meet with 51 points and Abilene was second with 63.
De Soto finished with 166, 14 better than seventh-place Buhler, but 41 behind Wamego, which had 125.
"Next year we bring back six of them," McAfee said of his team, "so we're ready to come back and do it again."