Boys hope solid effort leads to crown
If it's going to happen, it'll be because of Cristian Dozier.
So maybe that goes a little overboard -- in no way is all the pressure of the De Soto boys cross country team's dreams on the sophomore.
Dozier, who was second in Saturday's regional cross country race, is one of De Soto's three aces, though. If the Cats can hit with all three at the Class 4A state cross country meet in Wamego, they think they'll be sitting on one heck of a hand.
"Our top three guys are pretty much equal right now," De Soto junior Colin Jokisch said.
The strength of the 2007 Cats doesn't even come down to the three aces -- Jokisch and senior Lucas Slater joining Dozier in the designation.
Rather, it'll take a solid race from top to bottom, one similar to what the Cats have been doling out for the last three weeks for the team to come home with the first-place prize.
Jokisch, Slater and Dozier help give the Cats a chance to capture the trophy, though.
"We've been trying to preach to him that if he can stay right in there, he'll be able to run with Slater and Jokisch," De Soto coach Chris McAfee said of Dozier. "I don't think he was 100 percent convinced he could, but he did.
"We think the world of those top Baldwin guys -- think they're pretty good guys -- and he definitely threw himself in with the top runners in the state."
Dozier had his best performance of the season in one of the most important races, finishing the monstrous five-kilometer regional course south of Ottawa in 17 minutes, 43 seconds.
A factor all season, Saturday marked the first time the sophomore was racing for the lead down the final stretch. He came up just short, finishing three seconds behind Baldwin's Tony Weiss, but led the way for De Soto's 18-point team victory.
Dozier played soccer a year ago, so he's a step removed from the whole existing De Soto-Baldwin rivalry, but he came up big in helping push the Cats over their regional rivals in 2007.
Jokisch and Slater also both lived up to their billing at regionals.
Jokisch was fifth Saturday, finishing at 17:58, while Slater was sixth at regionals in 18:01.
Again, it was a team performance Saturday. Racing against a 13-team field, many of the competitors desperate to qualify for state, the Cats maintained their composure on one of the toughest courses they'll see.
The trail stretched around a hill near Ottawa, runners both starting and finishing on top but racing up and down the slopes multiple times. The uphill grind was enough to bring even the lead runners close to a walk as they swung their arms and chugged onward.
Jerin Riffel and Austin Hinchey finished 14th or 15th at 18:32 and 18:34, placing key points on a pack of four Baldwin runners close on their heels.
Ry Patton was 24th and Trey Lind 34th.
"They really ran well," McAfee said. "We came over on Monday and did a hill workout so they'd have a little bit of confidence on it. We've done a lot of hill work this year, not in preparation for this, but more for Wamego.
"How we ran on these hills makes us feel really good about state."
At state, Baldwin will again have the team's eye, but the Cats will also be focused on Mulvane, the team which beat both the Cats and the Dogs at the Wamego Invitational and is currently ranked No. 1 in Class 4A.
"We know when we get down to state we'll have to focus on someone other than just Baldwin," McAfee said. "We have a lot of respect for Mulvane, but we think we have a pretty darn good team."