Cats prove one of KC metro’s best
The De Soto cross country team registered for the Kansa City Metro Championships hailing from one of the smallest schools to even consider the notion.
The Wildcats, running Saturday in the gigantic 32-team fields, proved they belonged. The girls team failed to win for the first time this season, but finished sixth on the strength of Carly Stanley's 11th-place finish.
The boys were ninth, Colin Jokisch leading the way in 21st.
"It was the experience we wanted it do be," De Soto coach Chris McAfee said.
The girls managed a higher place, but it was the boys who raced nearest their ultimate potential, McAfee said.
Jokisch finished the five-kilometer course in 16 minutes, 55 seconds, a personal best and the ninth-fastest 5K time in school history.
The individual races were consistent down the roster, only senior Lucas Slater -- typically one of the team's best -- coming in with a below average time.
There's a certain strategy that comes with a 250-runner field, McAfee told his team in the days leading up to the event. Get out fast to avoid being locked in a big group, and slowly continue to work forward, passing the masses one by one.
Executing that plan helped the boys best 23 other schools, including big-class giants from both sides of the state line like both Shawnee Mission West and North, three Blue Valley schools, Bishop Miege and Frontier-League foe Gardner Edgerton.
"The guys did exactly what we wanted them to do strategy wise," McAfee said. "Lucas just didn't have a good day, but otherwise it was a great confidence boost."
Sophomore Cristian Dozier was the first Cat behind Jokisch, finishing 55th at 17:35. Junior Trey Lind was next, 60th in 17:40 and Jerin Riffel was close as well, coming in 69th in 17:48. Sophomore Austin Hinchey was 98th in 18:09, Slater 160th in 18:57 and Ry Patton 169th in 19:08.
The girls team entered hoping to employ the same get-out-early strategy. They were successful, too -- perhaps too successful.
Girls typically race one kilometer less than the boys, but Saturday's course covered the same distance. Still, De Soto's entire team sprang aggressively from the starting line, assaulting the new challenge and successfully clearing the early-race mob.
When they were finally safely away from the start, and for the races first kilometer, all seven Cats were in the top 20 of one of the most difficult races of the season.
"That wasn't really our plan," senior Chesney Burgweger said. "It wasn't good for some of us because it kind of shot our legs."
Some of the team slowed as the race wore on, falling back into more natural paces.
Others didn't. Stanley won her first career race two weeks ago at Bonner Springs and she maintained her momentum Saturday, staying within eyesight of the leaders throughout. She finished the longest race of her career in a school-record 19:48.
"Carly ran pretty darn well," McAfee said. "She was just 10 seconds out of fourth place, with is really good in a race like that."
Freshman Ellie Sheridan was close behind, finishing 34th in 20:29, and Maddy Frehe and Lacey Erickson piled in to finish 53rd and 54th, finishing at 20:45 and 20:48 respectively.
Shelbi Petty was 81st at 21:41, Burgweger 94th at 21:28 and Trish Roberts 130th at 22:02.
"I didn't feel very good personally, but everyone else did amazing," Burgweger said. "This was our first time running a 5K and we didn't know what to expect. Everyone got out and went after it, though.
"I'm so proud of the girls."
De Soto won't have to wait long to see how it applies its big-race lessons. The Cats will run in the single most challenging race of their season Saturday at the Rim Rock Farms Classic near Lawrence.
De Soto has become a regular at the prestigious race in recent years, but is upping the stakes for the first time. Both the boys and the girls teams will run in the elite Gold division, a step up from the team's typical blue-division spot.
"Once we got to the (4K) spot, we knew we had to be done, but we had to keep going," Burgweger said of Saturday's race. "When we go to Rim Rock, it's going to be a little relief. We'll be able to go faster, it will give our legs a little break and it will be good."
The girls race will start at 11:15 a.m., and the boys at 12:45 p.m.