Rim Rock’s hills take Wildcats both up and down
It's been a smooth ride for the De Soto girls cross country team for nearly a year now.
The girls won the state championship, then backed it up by opening the 2007 season with dominating performances against some of the area's best teams.
The team lost for the first time late in September, not anything to be ashamed considering the multi-state and giant-class status of the field. It wouldn't have been bad to lose Saturday in the Gold division of the Rim Rock Farms Classic, either.
For the first time in 12 months, the Cats came away genuinely disappointed, however.
De Soto finished 15th at Rim Rock -- far from what De Soto coach Chris McAfee had hoped for and step down from what he expected, as well.
"We ran pretty badly," McAfee said. "They thought they were ready to run, but they just weren't. No one ran very well. Even some of the girls who thought they ran well went back over and realized they hadn't.
"If that's not a wake-up call, there isn't anything that's going to wake us up. They need to understand they won't be able to just show up and run."
The weekend was far from a loss as McAfee said he was pleased with the boys' race.
The team finished 14th in a 26-team field, but in that finish McAfee said was a batch of solid races.
Jerin Riffel became the third different Wildcat to lead the team across the line, finishing Saturday's race in 51st place at 17 minutes, 50.2 seconds.
The time was two seconds slower than his mark from a week before, but well ahead of the times he was hitting earlier in September. It wasn't as quick as Riffel had hoped after he finished -- he'd been hoping to fall nearer his season goal of 17:30. There was still plenty of upside, however, starting with the fact that he said he ran as strong from beginning to end as he had all season.
"I felt really good," Riffel said. "I ran with the three top Baldwin kids. After I passed the second one, I went after the first one. He eventually took off, but I kept moving.
"This is my best season yet."
His attention to Baldwin's runners paid off as the Cats beat the Bulldogs, 15th in the race, 134 points to 166.
Two Baldwin runners finished ahead of Riffel, but three Cats piled in ahead of Baldwin's third runner and all seven crossed before it's fifth.
Cristian Dozier crossed just four seconds behind Riffel, finishing in 17:54. Colin Jokisch, nursing an injury, was 68th in 18:07 and Lucas Slater was 91st in 18:28.
Austin Hinchey was 103rd in 18:39.
"I didn't think we ran our best, but we ran pretty well," McAfee said. "Colin's got an Achilles problem and Trey (Lind) didn't run very well, but Jerin ran great today. Ry and Hinchey ran great.
"We were a couple guys away from finishing higher."
Freshman Lacey Erickson led the girls team, finishing 51st in 16:45. It was her first time as the team's top finisher and a good race, McAfee said. He cautioned, however, none of the girls' seven varsity runners emerged from the race overly excited or proud of the performance.
After Erickson, the Cats traveled in a pack, the next five finishing in a 16-runner, 15-second window.
Carly Stanley was 63rd in 16:56, nearly a minute off her season-best time. Chesney Burgweger was 71st in 17:05, Maddy Frehe was 75th in 17:09, Shelbi Petty was 78th in 17:10 and Hannah Jokisch, running her first race with the varsity team, was 79th in 17:10.
De Soto finished with 338 points, well back in the 20-team field. It was 104 points behind 10th-place Baldwin, which the Cats most recently beat by 13 at Wamego. Oak Park finished ninth with 242 points, nearly a 100 better than De Soto. A week prior, at the Kansas City Metro Championship, De Soto beat the same team by 50.
"We wanted to do better, but we have to establish that hey, it happens," McAfee said of the bad day. "We wanted to run better, but we learned from it.
"If we don't learn from that and get better, then Coach (Brecheisen) and I haven't done our jobs this year."
De Soto won't have an immediate opportunity to either capitalize or rebound. The Cats' varsity teams won't race Thursday at the Eudora Invitational, the junior varsity squads filling in for the varsity race.
Instead, McAfee said De Soto will spend the 12 days between Rim Rock and the Oct. 11 league meet -- also set to be run at Rim Rock -- training, recuperating and rehabbing a number of lingering injuries.