Cat runners break through at season’s first meet
De Soto's preseason goals all involved running with the big boys at the Class 4A state cross country meet in late October.
The Cats decided not to wait, however.
De Soto aced its first test of the 2006 cross country season Thursday as the boys won the Anderson County Invitational and the girls finished second.
"We went in with a goal and we definitely met the goal we set for ourselves," coach Chris McAfee said. "The guys were very aggressive in the way they ran. We talked about that beforehand -- trying to execute the race plan -- and I don't think we really did the way we talked about it, but in the end it all worked out.
"They ran smart races and did a very good job."
Falling in the path of the Wildcat boys were league rivals Eudora and Louisburg and eight-time state champion, Baldwin.
The Cats didn't place a runner in the top three, but had three in the top 10, and six in the top 17.
The girls didn't finish with quite the same spectacular results, but finished just seven points behind defending champ Baldwin, and ahead of Kansas Highway 10 nemesis Eudora. The De Soto girls also claimed three of the top 10 places and had all seven runners cross among the top 25.
"We have a lot of room for improvement there," McAfee said, "but, I thought it was a pretty good start."
The day's surprises didn't lie just with the teams finishes, either. McAfee said while there's plenty of room for improvement, both the guys and the girls top finishers ran fantastic races.
Senior Chris Dvorak took the honor for the guys. One of the team's top threats since the 2006 track season, Dvorak had yet to truly break out and lead the team in a competition -- until Thursday.
Jason Rose of Louisburg won the boys five kilometer with a time of 17 minutes, 33 seconds and Joey Chino and Cody Burns of Eudora took second and third, respectively.
Dvorak finished fourth in 17:58.
"For him it might have almost felt surreal, for where he was running and how well he was doing," McAfee said. "Had the race been much longer I think he might have run down a couple of those guys in front of him.
"Chris ran incredible."
Senior Lauren Karnitz led the girls team, also crossing in fourth place. Heather Garcia of Baldwin and Brittney Graff of Eudora were first and second by a good distance, but Karnitz ran very close to Marmaton Valley's Stephanie King, finishing the four-kilometer course in 16:02, just seven seconds behind King.
"With Lauren, we've definitely changed her training this year. I felt like in the past she hasn't been strong enough to capitalize on what her strengths are," McAfee said. "That has paid off. She was very aggressive and she felt pretty comfortable."
Tanner McNamara and Colin Jokisch filed in behind Dvorak, finishing sixth and eighth, while Lucas Slater and Jerin Riffel also fought into the top 15, grabbing 11th and 13th.
Matt Woywod was 17th and Brendon Hudson was 27th.
"After this race I asked the guys how many of them thought they had a good race and only two of them said they could not have run better," McAfee said. "For guys to be saying 'Gosh, I ran so bad. I could have run better,' and for us to do so well in that first race and know we could score better, it was important. In their minds they feel like anything is possible for the rest of the year."
Morgan Frehe was sixth in the girls race with a time of 16:23 and was followed by Carley Stanley in ninth, Trish Roberts in 13th, Becca Roberts in 16th, Chesney Burgweger in 20th and Andrea Bosnak in 31st.
De Soto next runs at 9 a.m. Saturday in Wamego. It'll be an important race to see if the Cats can translate their hot start into a successful season, and it'll be an important race because Wamego won't only be the host of De Soto's second meet, but possibly its final meet also -- the state championship meet.
"We want to see the course so there are no surprises, especially for the girls going from two mile to four kilometers," McAfee said. "Also, with the competition, it will be good to help see where we are and what else we need to do."