Cats feed off focus, return powerful squad for ‘06
De Soto coach Chris McAfee wondered whether his girls team would make it to state in 2005.
The guys, he had high expectations for them from the start.
The boys team overcame a mid-season lack of focus to dominate the regional meet and advance to state for the second-straight year.
"I'm really proud of them because we lost a lot of really good guys from the year before and we had a lot of adversity," McAfee said. "Some of those guys just continued to do as well as they did. They just did a good job."
The squad placed sixth at the state meet in Wamego, but a glance down the team's order of finish shows that while sixth made for a proud finish in 2005, the '06 season holds substantially more potential.
The Wildcats lose just one senior, Alex Wayne, from the seven state runners.
Tanner McNamara, Adam Justice and Chris Dvorak led the Cats' late-season surge. After finishing a disappointing third at the league meet -- no runner making the top 12 -- the trio led much of the regional race at Hiawatha.
McNamara, who missed much of the season with a case of whooping cough, won the race to become McAfee's first regional champion. Justice was second and Dvorak was fourth as the Cats easily won.
McNamara was the only runner to earn a state medal -- he was 17th -- but all three could help the Cats challenge for a much higher finish next season.
"We had a long talk after league," McAfee said. "They just needed to understand they needed to be more focused. We got ourselves better focused and it paid off pretty good."
A season's experience could be the most important thing gleaned in 2005. McNamara had already run at state twice, but Justice, a junior, made his first appearance after battling to adapt to cross country races all season.
De Soto ran a sophomore, Jerin Riffel, and a freshman, Colin Jokisch, and should be more prepared next season.
The Cats also expect Lucas Slater, who missed time with ongoing stress fracture problems, to return next season.
"It's very exciting," McAfee said. "You wonder what could Tanner have done if he doesn't have whooping cough. Adam has a season under his belt and Chris, racing at that level, was awesome. Then we get Lucas back and he can run right there with them. That gives you four guys that are pretty darn good."