LAWRENCE, Kan.—As expected, the Bishop Carroll Golden Eagles made another spectacular showing at the state cross country meet Saturday at Rim Rock in Lawrence.
In the day's most exciting finish, seniors Kaelyn Balch of Carroll and Morgan Wedekind of Valley Center battled for first place.
Balch overtook Wedekind down the stretch and, with both runners leaning at the tape, held on for a victory by two hundredths of a second. (Click Here to see video of the photo finish)
"I just kind of noticed that up on the skyline she had a five-ten meter lead and I just had to give it my all," Balch said. "That won it. I had to finish by trying hard. I've never out-kicked anyone before. We had to go two-and-a-half miles to decide it."
It was a repeat for Balch, who topped Wedekind in 2011 for her first championship.
"It was torture," Wedekind said. "I really don't know who won. I was desperate and kind of tripped, dived across. I kind of saw that she was challenging from the corner of my eye."
Wedekind intends to run next year at Wichita State or Kansas State. She also plays basketball, but likes running better."
Balch who finished at 14:36:40 also has collegiate cross country plans.
"I'll be running D1 in college," Balch said. Before that she'll compete in the Nike and Footlocker races. While she hasn't decided on where she'll go to school, she has received numerous scholarship offers, including Wichita State, Missouri, Kentucky, Oklahoma State, Colorado State and TCU.
While it was her second championship, this one is special for Balch because it was her last race in high school.
"It's my senior year," Balch said. "And I wanted to give it my all and finish on the best note possible."
Although Balch's senior classmate Katherine Dillard finished a distant third, at 15:08.10, it was a personal accomplishment which also helped the Golden Eagles take second in team competition.
"I was going for third," Dillard said. "I had fourth the last two years so I wanted to get third. Even though I'm more focused on the team, I'm happy with it."
Next year, Dillard will go to Benedictine College in Atchison to run indoor and outdoor track as a nursing major, but she's has a variety of talents.
"I play the piano, that's something most people don't know about me," Dillard said. "I love being outdoors. I'm kind of a goal setter. For cross country you have to have mental toughness. It happens to be kind of what I do to stress release."
Carroll failed to repeat as team champions as St. Thomas Aquinas outscored them 50-58, pushing the Golden Eagles to second as Valley Center scored 86 for third.
Bishop Carroll Boys Take First
Led by seniors James Hampton and Gage Garcia, and sophomore Hunter Nance, the Golden Eagles repeated as Boys Class 5A State Champions.
Hampton took second overall with a 16:04.90 mark, six seconds behind Shawnee Mission South senior Curtis Cline's winning 15:58.80 run. St. Thomas Aquinas senior Nick Boyles was third at 16:07.50, followed closely by Garcia (16:15.70) and Nance (16:17.50).
Junior Henry Merth and also medaled as a 16th-place finisher and juniors Matt Arnold and Nick Martin gave Carroll additional scoring as the Golden Eagles finished with 45 points, ten ahead of second-place Aquinas.
Kapaun Mt. Carmel scored 88 for a third-place finish. Junior Nolan Hesse boosted the Crusaders with his seventh-place finish, two seconds behind Wichita West sophomore Dominick Fonseca. Senior Henry Moore also scored for Kapaun with his 14th-place finish.
North Boys Grab Second
Behind junior J'Quon Williams' surprising sixth-place finish, Wichita North took second in the Class 6A Boys team competition.
Junior Redskin classmates Tristyn Villa and Nico Hernandez also scored well, finishing 17th and 23rd, respectively, as North scored 92 points to finish second behind Shawnee Mission Northwest's 43 points.
Senior Colton Donahue of Stilwell-Blue Valley was the overall individual winner with a 15:22.40 mark, followed by junior Sam Guinn of Blue Valley Northwest at 15:41.10 and sophomore Stuart McNutt of Blue Valley West at 15:46.10. Derby's Brandon Lewis was the Wichita-area's best finisher, coming in fourth just a fraction of a second behind McNutt.
Lewis' 15:46.20 run was eight seconds shy of a personal best, but topped his previous Rim Rock best "by like 35 seconds."
"The competition," said Lewis about what makes the State meet special. "In other races, I don't have anybody pushing me. I can win with above-16 (minute) times. Here, they can pull me. I push much harder to take it myself."
The senior plans to rest before re-starting his training.
"I'm going to take time off and get ready for winter training," Lewis said. "It'll be base training, doing shorter runs, then building up mileage for track season."
He's undecided about where he'll go to school, but he plans to run in college.
"I'll probably stay close, in state or maybe one state away," Lewis said.
Williams was hoping to do well at state, but his sixth-place finish was a surprise.
"I was hoping to place in the top 20," said Williams, who finish only a few seconds off his personal best of 15:54. "It was a big improvement. 16:30 was my previous best before. I didn't come close before (today)."
Williams credits training with Villa and his teammates with the improvement.
"Tristyn trained with me," Williams said. "We've all come close together."
"I did OK," Villa said. "I finished well. I wish I gave it a little more, but I'm happy with my performance and with the performance of the team."
The difficult Rim Rock course figured into the outcome.
"The hills are definitely tough," Villa said. "Uphill is tough and downhill, too. Your legs get pounded. I feel like I wish I had pushed a little harder and gave Shawnee Mission Northwest a little more pressure."
"We took second," Williams said. "We were hoping for first so we're a little disappointed, but we'll have a chance to get it next year."
The "Runnin' Redskins" have developed a bit of a reputation on their way up the Boys 6A ladder.
"We don't mean it in a cocky way," Williams said. "We just mean it in a way that people know we're coming."
Cash Is Money
As expected, Shawnee Mission West senior Alli Cash was the dominant Girls 6A runner Saturday.
Finishing more than a minute ahead of the other runners, Cash left no doubt about who would take the gold, leaving juniors Alex Miller of Garden City and Alaina Schroeder of Manhattan to battle for second.
At 14:02.80, Cash bombed the difficult course at more than a half minute faster than her 2011 state championship time.
Miller eked out second place at 15:10.20, six-tenths of a second ahead of Schroeder while sophomore Deidre Walker of Maize claimed fourth at 15:12.30.
"You just have to mentally prepare for it," Walker said of Rim Rock's hills. "The hills kind of make it hard. You don't want to psyche yourself out. I actually like hills, but there are some of them here that are a tough part."
It was her second trip to state; she ran 15:16 as a freshman in 2011.
"It was more fun this year," Walker said. "I like the competitiveness. You run for yourself but you also run for a team. I like team sports. It's a self-improvement sport."
Olathe East took first in the team competition with 89 points, followed by Garden City at 100 and Shawnee Mission West at 113.
Donley Dominates for Gold
Salina-Sacred Heart senior Cory Donley stretched a big lead early in the Boys 3A race and coasted to an easy victory.
His 16:03.50 mark lead Beloit junior Alex Conn's 16:15.80 run. Senior Johnny Adamson of Pittsburg-SMC took third at 16:32.10.
Donley enjoys running and being outside.
"I really like being outdoors and going hunting," Donley said. "I started running competitively in fifth grade. It's a great stress reliever. It's a self-motivating sport. You have to focus within yourself."
Donley has been contacted by several schools regarding collegiate cross country scholarships, including Kansas State, Central Missouri, the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy.
Although he has made no definite decisions he says "I really like the Naval Academy."
Led by seniors Cordell Goering and Edgar Gutierrez, and sophomore Tommy Fink , Hutchinson Trinity Catholic took the 3A team championship with 75 points.
Scott Community finished second at 110 points followed by Norton Community.
Douglass Runs to Girls Championship
With solid times from underclassmen, Douglass took the gold in Girls 3A with 76 points, ahead of Norton Community's 94 and Salina-Sacred Heart's 121.
Freshman Klair Gibson paced the Bulldogs with her fourth-place overall finish at 15:52.50 while sophomore Suzie Wright's 15:59.20 took sixth.
Senior Sarah Wright added points with her 17th-place 16:33.10 race, as did junior MacKenzie McBeth's 20th-place 16:42.80 run.
Sophomore Jordan Puvogel was the surprise of the race, capturing the individual gold with a 15:30.60 mark, ahead of second place runner sophomore Emily Sechrist of Hillsboro at 15:35.10.
"My times really improved a lot this year," said Puvogel, whose had a personal best of 15:20 earlier in the season.
The difficult course full of hills played to Puvogel's strengths.
"I didn't think it was that bad," Puvogel said. "The hills are good for me; it's an advantage. I can get up hills quick."
Puvogel enjoys the rush from running.
"I like to run by myself and train," Puvogel said. "I like the adrenalin. It's a mental sport and I'm a mental person."