Archive for Thursday, November 8, 2007

The math of sub-state

November 8, 2007

Now that the dust has settled in regards to the De Soto High School cross country team's disappointing (disappointing?) finish to the fall season, it's becoming easier and easier to look at the results in a positive light.

Under that light, there appears to be a lot -- a whole lot -- of hope for the future.

That the De Soto's girl team was remarkably young was obvious, but what exactly that meant wasn't immediately clear.

Looking back at results from last season it was obvious what engines drove the team.

Current De Soto sophomore Carly Stanley finished as the highest individual at state, but when the team was at its best -- last year's regional and state meets -- Frehe, Karnitz were joined by Stanley and the trio was inseparable on the course. All three medaled and all three combined to provide the muscle the team needed to win the state championship.

Their graduation didn't concern me a great deal early in the season as De Soto initially appeared to be able to replace them.

Heck, it seemed the Cats might even be able to one-up the departed seniors. De Soto put three in the top 15 at state last year, and at points this season it seemed they might be able to land at least three, maybe even four nearly that high.

That thought was borne from the idea that skill trumps experience, however. It's an easy assumption to make in cross country where most people think strategy goes as far as the tip of the sneaker.

If there was any lesson to take from the late-season letdown, it's that experience is king. All the mornings on the dusty roads around De Soto, all the hot afternoons on the boiling track in August -- that all helped. Nothing helps like three years at the state meet, however.

Karnitz and Frehe packed about as much experience as was possible. They had each made multiple trips to state in both cross country and track. They were wise enough to know a too-slow start didn't doom race strategy and neither did a too-fast one.

They knew how to race the course at Wamego, how to handle the hills, the crowds and most importantly, the pressure.

As they accepted the 2006 state championship trophy, they had combined to log six appearances and twice as many trips to the course in Wamego.

As this season's squad toed the line, it's top six finishers had combined for one state cross country meet and nine total races at the course.

It makes a difference. De Soto appeared to have a leg up on Baldwin heading into the final two weeks of the season. The Cats had beaten the Dogs early in the year and maintained their edge by claiming the Frontier League championship.

Baldwin stormed away to win both the regional and state, however. It comes as no surprise that leading the way was a senior and two awfully experienced juniors.

The Cats bring back five state-experienced freshman and an elite sophomore.

The added experience might not be enough to make the difference -- Baldwin returns six of its runners, too. It should definitely be enough to prevent another bewildering October disappointment, however.

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