August 7, 2012, 3:24 p.m. Updated: 8 August 2012, 12:00 a.m.
With such searing heat during the summer, the only time to hold a cross-country race is early in the morning.
That’s why the St. James Academy Crimson Club kicked off its first annual Kansas Cross-Country Cup 4K at 7:30 a.m. Saturday at Shawnee Riverfront Park.
Combining high school runners with adults and parents from around the area, the Thunder hoped this would start a growing summer tradition.
“It’s just a good way to gear up before the season starts,” St. James Academy cross-country coach Rob Harber said. “Our athletes have been working hard all summer and this is kind of a celebration of their summer running.”
It couldn’t have gone better for St. James Academy’s team as it recorded the top three times in the girls race.
The top runner was senior Sara Scherschlight, who posted a 17:07.84. Although a senior, Scherschlight is relatively new to cross-country.
“It was my first 4K, so I had no idea what to expect, but it was really fun,” she said.
One of the best 4A girls racers from 2011 was behind her in senior Alexa Van Lerberg (17:24.87). Van Lerberg said the two of them slowly started to pull away, but then she realized that she wasn’t going to catch Scherschlight.Sophomore Caroline Goode managed the third spot for the girls with an 18:26.30.
The run was held in two different starts, with both boys and girls under 18 squaring off against each other. Awards were given out to seven age groups, from under-13 to 65-and-over. The fastest of the bunch was Blue Springs junior runner Devon Sesler, who blew away the field with a 14:07.33.
“It’s been nice to be able to do races in the summer to get that competition going,” Sesler said. “It gets you ready for the high school season.”
Sesler’s closest opponent was Chad Ollendick from De Soto (15:03.32). The third fastest time of the day was Dan Kutterman in the 55-to-64 division (15:18.67). Many runners represented the Thunder, but the team also managed to draw in a few more participants in the athletes’ parents.
“I think they support each other,” Harber said. “The young people inspire the parents and I think the young people seeing their parents run, they’re very proud of that.”
The Riverfront Park area has struggled to get off the ground, but race director Chris Goode received permission from the City of Shawnee and put together a route in the low lying, flat area near the Kansas River.
“They kind of gave me free latitude to cut a course,” Goode said.
Putting this event together in about a month was difficult for Goode, but he managed to register more than 100 runners for the event. He said he hopes that this event can turn into a popular build-up to the cross-country season in the near future.
“We really want to make this a college showcase race,” Goode said.
For now, members of the St. James Academy community are happy with the turnout and the ability to help raise money for their athletic program.
“Hopefully it was a fun event and something they will be able to do next year, too,” Harber said.
Originally published at: http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2012/aug/07/st-james-cross-country-community-inaugurates-4k/