Boys third-place finish nets team’s first state trophy
Opinions differed Saturday among the De Soto boys cross country runners following their performance at the state meet at the Wamego Country Club golf course.
Some saw the day's race as a disappointment.
Others saw it as progress.
They were all happy to at least be taking a trophy home, however. Despite coming up short on a bid for a state championship, the boys team finished third and captured its first-ever trophy.
"I'm happy we got third, but I'm disappointed we didn't win," senior Chris Dvorak said. "We ran pretty hard and El Dorado pulled something out of somewhere and won.
"We got beat fair and square."
Tanner McNamara led the way, finishing 13th in 17 minutes, 40 seconds to earn an individual medal, but both Baldwin and El Dorado packed significantly more runners in the top 20 than De Soto did.
The Wildcats plotted all year to take down Baldwin and end the Bulldogs' streak of eight-straight Class 4A championships, and the two teams entered the race ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the state. El Dorado shocked everyone, however, blowing past De Soto and knocking off Baldwin.
El Dorado placed three finishers in the top 10 and cruised to the state championship with 63 points.
Baldwin was second with 70 and De Soto finished third at 94.
"We were pretty concentrated on Baldwin, but we went over El Dorado too," Dvorak said. "They were on our radar. Our main part of the race strategy was Baldwin, but it wasn't like we ignored El Dorado. Baldwin was just who we knew."
Cool but not cold and without a significant wind, Saturday was ideal for racing, but times were slow across the board. The boys five-kilometer course was altered from previous state races, and even changed from the layout the team ran on when it trekked to Wamego earlier this season.
The new additions included an extra daunting hill at the end of the trail and it all combined to significantly lower times.
McNamara earned a medal for the second-straight year with his performance and improved upon his placing -- he was 17th last year. Still, his time was nearly 30 seconds slower.
The winner of last year's race finished in 15:57. This year's winner -- Andrew Wagner of El Dorado -- finished more than a minute slower, at 17:02.
It made for a frustrating experience De Soto assistant coach Chad Brecheisen said, but not one his team could blame.
"It might have taken some of the top runners and moved them back because of the added strength needed to run up that big hill twice," he said. "Some of the guys, it kind of hurt them and it did shake some things up. It's still a great course, and everyone had to run it."
No, the Cats were just out-run, he said, adding that it's hard to see where the team could have made up the 21 points it needed even on the very best of days.
Lucas Slater followed McNamara, finishing 26th in 18:07 in his first state performance. Chris Dvorak followed soon after, finishing in 29th place and in 18:04, a step up from his 37th-place finish last season.
Jerin Riffel was next in 41st, sandwiched between a pair of Baldwin runners. He finished in 18:39, the exact same time he ran the course in a year ago, but 32 places better.
"I was pretty pumped up for the race, and I ran my best race of the season," Riffel said. "I'm glad we got third, and Baldwin lost, so at least someone beat them."
Colin Jokisch was fifth on the team in 48th place and in 18:39. Matt Woywod was 55th in 18:52 and Brendan Hudson was 78th in the 101-runner field, finishing in 19:33.
Baldwin's been the focus all season, and De Soto finished just two points back at last week's regional meet. But the Bulldogs showed they'd had an eye cast De Soto's way as well.
Purple-clad runners finished just ahead of De Soto runners up and down the line. Baldwin's Chris Elniff was second in the race and he had teammates finish 14th, 18th, 40th, 42nd, 61st and 71st.
"I'm frustrated. I'm having a bunch of people tell me to keep my head up and hopefully I'll realize what a special thing this is," McNamara said. "It's just really frustrating to work so hard for something and not have it happen."