SMNW boys runners sweat it out, slide into 6A state championships
Before the start of the Class 6A cross country regional meet Saturday at Shawnee Mission Park, Shawnee Mission Northwest coach Van Rose was asked about his boys team’s fourth-place finish at the Sunflower League Championships the previous weekend.
Knowing that only the top three teams at regionals advance to the state meet, Rose’s reply was succinct.
“That won’t be good enough today,” he said.
Well, it took until 10 minutes after the race to find out but, eventually, Rose discovered that his boys’ effort was good enough as the Cougars earned third place and punched their ticket to the state championships.
“We did as well as we can do,” Rose said after the race. “We were much improved over last week.”
Junior Kirk Bado paced the Cougars with a fourth-place individual finish in the 5K race in 16 minutes, 6.18 seconds, followed by fellow junior Clayton Henderson in ninth with a time of 16:26.55. Senior Anthony Yates and sophomore Nate Stearns finished 19th and 20th, respectively, in the 52-man field. Yates clocked in at a time of 16:59.36 with Stearns right on his tail at 16:59.83. Senior Garrett Pfau finished up the Cougar runners in the top half of the field with a 23rd-place time of 17:03.75.
After the race, team representatives milled outside the officials’ tent, waiting for the final results to be posted. Though the Cougars felt they had run a solid race, they still couldn’t be sure of the final outcome until the numbers were up. When they were posted, the Northwest runners found Shawnee Mission West in first with 46 points, Shawnee Mission South in second with 54 points, and the Cougars grabbing the final spot at state with 75 points — ahead of Sunflower League foe Lawrence High School which had 109.
“I’m glad to have another week of practice,” Rose said after the results were posted. “It’s a chance to go back to the state meet and see what we can do.”
Though the girls’ result was not as dramatic as the boys, the Cougars continued their marvelous season by taking second at the regional, just one point behind champion Shawnee Mission West. While the Vikings had 37 points and the Cougars 38, third place Lawrence Free State earned the third berth with 90 points.
The Cougar girls claimed four of the top 10 spots and six of the first 15. Senior Sarah Barnes led her pack in the 4K race with a time of 15:51.74, good enough for fifth place overall. Junior Katie Nelson finished in short order at sixth with a mark of 15:57.23 while senior Sarah Crawford came in right after with a seventh-place time of 15:59.44. Senior Jessica Johnson was the Cougars’ other top-10 finisher as her ninth-place finish came in at a time 16:00.76. Fellow senior Kelsey Poston took 11th with a time of 16:01.59, while junior McKenzie Iverson earned 15th by coming in at 16:20.29.
After the race, Rose could not speak highly enough of his girls.
“All year long, all throughout competitions, all through practice, we’ve had a group of eight,” Rose said. “And to me, that’s really nice because that means you can feed off each other and you don’t always have to have one person in front. You can switch around. It takes a lot of pressure off people when you can run in a group like that.”
Barnes, fresh off her fifth-place finish, spoke briefly about the course and her run.
“The course was great,” Barnes stated. “I ran it in the summertime, actually, so it’s always good to run it again. The biggest challenge was just, mentally, getting through it and knowing it was regionals, knowing my team was also relying on me.”
The Cougars will now use the rest of the week preparing for the final meet of the year — the Class 6A state championships to be held this Saturday, Oct. 29, at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence.
Both the Shawnee Mission North boys and girls teams finished out of the running for berths at Rim Rock. However, Indian senior Sam Yoakum was able to claim an individual entry through his 15th-place finish at regionals. Yoakum’s time of 16:41.58 beat out the other competition for the final position at the state meet.
After the race, North coach Ryan Colburn spoke about his team’s effort and that of Yoakum’s as well.
“Our team gave it everything they had,” Colburn said. “We couldn’t have done anything else. We’ve been a little banged up in the last couple of weeks, but this is, arguably, the toughest region in the state. It was so competitive.
“Sam knew he had to stick with that lead pack. That was his goal from the beginning. To be able to do what he did today, to keep improving from last week — that was big.”