Oh so close: Cats look ahead to Round 2
It's hard to come much closer, and the De Soto cross country team doesn't plan to try.
The girls team finished second at the Frontier League cross country meet by two points and the boys came in second, losing by 14 points.
Both teams were edged out by Baldwin, and Wildcat coach Chris McAfee said rather than bemoan the narrow margin, his teams are ready to make a few changes that could make up the difference and not just come close next time, but realize the team's goals.
"I was really pleased," McAfee said. "There wasn't anyone that ran bad. There's just something about the chemistry, the way they work and their attitude, and I like our chances."
Senior Lauren Karnitz led the Wildcat girls team, finishing third at the league meet in 15 minutes, 56 seconds.
Right behind her was freshman Carly Stanley. They rounded the final corner at the league meet at Rim Rock and ran down toward the finish line together, Karnitz pushing ahead in the first 100 yards, Stanley taking fourth place two seconds later.
Morgan Frehe finished seventh, crossing in 16:28 and Chesney Burgweger was ninth in 16:44.
Becca Roberts was 16th in 17:13, rounding out De Soto's top five, the only five whose scores are counted in the team competition.
Meanwhile Tanner McNamara was fourth for the boys, finishing the five-kilometer course in 17:12.
Lucas Slater had one of his best races, finishing eighth in 17:38 and Chris Dvorak was 13th in 17:46.
Matt Woywod and Colin Jokisch rounded out the top five Cats, finishing 20th and 21st, respectively.
It was a strong race McAfee said, one he said even in losing built confidence and ensured his runners they had real chances to knock off Baldwin, whose boys and girls teams are defending state champs.
He said that confidence comes from how truly close the two races were.
The Baldwin girls finished with 37 points, just ahead of De Soto's 39, but it didn't take much work to find several points that could be made up.
Frehe came up just short in a sprint for the finish at one spot. Roberts was three seconds behind another runner a little later. Burgweger ran one of the best races of her career and was just six seconds shy of one of Baldwin's runners.
"It's rewarding both for us looking at it from the standpoint that we could have run better and we're a couple seconds away, and that the kids ran hard and gave everything they had," McAfee said. "We have good runners and our kids have worked extremely hard and I just think we're good."
A point or a second here or there wouldn't have made the same difference on the boys side, rather McAfee said the team learned more about itself in the race.
Rather than have each runner stick to a certain pace, he said the team opted to try and keep top four runners -- McNamara, Dvorak, Jokisch and Slater -- up with the race's fastest group.
It worked to a degree and McAfee said had the race ended at the two-mile mark, it would have been De Soto accepting a trophy at the end of the day rather than Baldwin. But instead it will go down as a learning experience.
For some, like McNamara, it will be the basis of a new strategy Saturday at regionals, while for others, it will serve as proof that the way they were running was better.
"I think it was a heck of a lot closer than the score indicated," McAfee said. "The guys wanted to try a different race strategy. I didn't think it'd be best, but that we should try it just so we'd know. For some, it turned out to be good and for others it didn't.
"Now knowing that, if some people had run the strategy they regularly run, it would have been closer. It's going to be exciting."