Former Wildcats run hard at Neosho
Donnie Gardner finished eighth in the Jayhawk East conference and Adam Wilcox was 31st in the conference at the Region VI cross country meet Monday in Garden City.
Gardner finished the eight-kilometer course in 29 minutes, 22 seconds. Wilcox finished in 33:29.
The pair, which graduated from De Soto in May and followed former Wildcat coach Darrin Schmitz to Neosho, said learning to run the eight-kilometer is the hardest thing about stepping from the high school ranks to junior college.
The course is five miles long, a significant jump compared to the five-kilometer, 3.1 mile course the athletes ran at De Soto.
Gardner was the top finisher from Neosho, beat in the Jayhawk East only by a pair of runners from Cowley County Community College and a strong contingent from Johnson County Community College. He was 26th in the race, which included runners from other conferences as well.
Wilcox was Neosho's sixth runner and both helped the team to a third-place finish in the Jayhawk East.
"It was one of the most punishing cross country courses I've ever seen," Schmitz said. "They had very steep hills and inclines, portions of it, they ran on sand. In a collegiate race I saw some people walking, that's how tough of a course it was. Donnie ran within a minute of his personal best."
Neosho has been ranked as high as 13th in the nation this year, and has consistently hung in the top 25 ranking.
"The team's being led by Donnie," coach Darrin Schmitz said. "He's a freshman beating a lot of sophomores -- a lot of very good sophomores. Him coming on at Garden City was fantastic."
Neosho finished eighth in the race as a team, but grabbing third in conference was a big step, Schmitz said.
"For us to get third in conference, that's a great thing," he said. "Two De Soto kids on a top-25 team, it's a pretty big deal. They both did a great job and they're both going to run at the national championships at this coming meet."
Gardner, Wilcox and the rest of the Neosho cross country team will run Nov. 5 in the National Junior College Athletics Association cross country meet at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence.