No one was more surprised to capture back-to-back state cross country championships than Winfield High senior Josh Hanna.
Hanna kept waiting for sophomore teammate Riley Osen, who had beaten Hanna head-to-head all season. But Hanna (16:25.45) outran his teammate Osen (16:33.83) with a season-best performance on the Class 4A state stage. Hanna had sustained a knee injury that sidelined him in July and August.
“It feels great to come back from an injury and take my title back again,” Hanna said. “I wasn’t sure I could do that at the start of the season.”
Hanna said he wouldn’t have performed at a high level without his teammate Osen.
“That helped a ton to have Riley to work out with,” Hanna said. “Riley pushes me every day and we were lucky to have each other.”
Hanna and Osen were confident they’d finish first and second.
“I know Riley is a tough runner and he made it tough on me,” Hanna said. “Usually, Riley breaks away from me in the last mile. Today, I took the lead with about a mile to go.”
Winfield placed runner-up (78) behind champion Baldwin (49), which was led by fourth-place finisher Dakota Helm (17:07.43) and eighth-place finisher Joe Pierce (17:16.22).
Winfield’s other runners who counted were Noah Camp, 14th (17:37.83), Tyler Wallace, 37th (18:07.4) and Drew Keller, 55th (18:26.72).
“Baldwin was a very good team and had we hit on all cylinders, Baldwin still would’ve beaten us,” said Winfield coach Torey Keller. “We were fortunate to have to have the right people at the right time. This senior class started as freshmen and had a chance to run for a state title. Winfield has a great season. They worked in the off-season.”
CLASS 4A GIRLS
Freshman sensation Cailie Logue of Girard surprised herself when she handled the state stage like a veteran. Logue (15:22.20) beat Pratt freshman Hallie Helfrich (15:53.41) and defending state champion Katren Reinbolt finished third (15:58.13).
“Our regional course at Ottawa prepared us really well for state because it was even tougher than Wamego,” Logue said. “I was hoping for a top 10 finish. I just wanted to compete the best I could. We did a lot of work to prepare for this.”
DeSoto captured the Class 4A team championship (56) followed by Baldwin (70) and Paola (90). DeSoto’s Meredith Wolfe placed sixth (16:01.65), Annie Schmucker was 13th (16:18.91) and Rebekah Burgweger placed 14th (16:19.04).
The Class 2A state cross country champions celebrated in different ways.
State champion Pedro Montoya of Ellinwood High celebrated his first state title with his teammates, who swept the school’s third consecutive team championship Saturday at Wamego Country Club.
Hillsboro’s Emily Sechrist captured her first Class 2A championship after winning the Class 3A title last year. But Sechrist competed as an individual since her team did not qualify for state.
Montoya ran a perfect race. He ran the day's fastest time (16:22.71) at Wamego Country Club to beat Washington County's Dylan Hodgson (16:51.52) and Ness City's Dray Carson (17:00.07), last year's state champion.
"The gold medal is a bonus. I put in the hard work. God does the rest. He gives me the ability and I give him the glory. I couldn't have this done without Him,” Montoya said. “My time wasn't the best, but it was a great race, my best race at state.”
Ellinwood scored 47 points to finish ahead of runner-up Maranatha Academy (82) and Leoti-Wichita County (117).
Ellinwood captured the fifth boys cross country championship in school history.
“Coach (Lyles Lashley) told us to think about your teammates when you are running,” Montoya said “Think about how to keep going even if you are hurting. Don't slow down. We trained to get used to this challenging course and it paid off.”
Ellinwood also counted Kyle Oglesbee, 13th (17:47.53); Morgan Feemster, 17th (17:52.69); Noah Leon, 25th (8:35.65); and Jacob Kasselman, 28th (18:45.94).
"Pedro ran a great, smart race," Lashley said. “They ran lights out all the way through and ran an incredible race. All the hard work paid off today."
CLASS 2A GIRLS
Hillsboro’s Emily Sechrist (15:39.51) edged past Maranatha Academy’s Lauren Harrel (15:44.52) in one of the tightest finishes of the day. She had captured the Class 3A title at Lawrence’s Rim Rock last year. Sechrist is Hillsboro’s only girls state champion.
Sechrist pushed past Harrel with a half-mile left and finished like champion.
“The race went really well,” Sechrist said. “A couple of girls took off really fast and I didn’t want them to get too far away. The hills always make my legs feel dead. But I felt pretty strong all the way. I knew Lauren Harrell was a great runner who would push me. She was so close. I wasn’t sure where she was, but I wanted to finish strong.”
Maranatha Academy (47) beat defending champion Berean Academy (66) and Ellinwood (92) which had placed runner-up three consecutive years.
Berean’s Wendy Busenitz placed eighth (16:33.74) and teammate Tiffany Wiebe finished 10th (16:34.09) to lead the state runner-up. Also counting for Berean were Alison Topham, 20th (17:14.50); Janet Busenitz, 23rd (17:24.11); and Carissa Slabach, 26th (17:30.76).
Ellinwood's Joanna Strecker placed fifth (16:24.17) and Abbie Reichuber placed ninth (16:33.88) to earn individual state medals.
CLASS 1A GIRLS
When Macksville surprised defending Class 1A girls state champion Greeley County at regionals, Greeley County coach Greg Cook was worried.
“We were terribly concerned and I knew the girls were awfully close to running the same times,” Cook said. “It was motivation for our girls. They focused on what they needed to do and the girls got the job done.”
The Jackrabbits (40) beat the Mustangs (49) for the Class 1A state title. Greeley County captured the Class 1A girls team title for the sixth time and for the fifth time in the past six years.
“We got a really good race from my No. 1 runner,” Cook said. “We got a great race from No. 2 runner. We got excellent races from Nos. 3 and 4. They stepped up and ran super today.”
Returning Greeley County state medalist Kelli Holthaus finished fifth (17:02.05). Also counting were Kashli Holthaus, 13th (17:35.42), Irelyn Elder, 27th (18:40.12) and Brooke Wineinger, 28th (18:40.63). The Jackrabbits first, second and fourth runners beat their Macksville runners.
“You are extremely pleased anytime you win a state title,” Cook said. “It makes you feel good, that work and those early morning practices were worth it.”
Macksville’s Lisa Penner finished sixth (16:50.0) after a third-place state finish last year. St. Paul's Jenny O'Bryan (16:13.47) captured the state title ahead of runner-up Taylor Tustin (16:26.71) of Grainfield-Wheatland.
Macksville’s other runners were Emma Stimatze, 19th (17:55.36); Anna Penner, 20th (18:00.07) and Magi Penner, 47th (19:12.07).
Macksville coach Mike Hullman said the Mustangs gave the Jackrabbits a wake-up call at regionals.
"They had a couple girls who ran better this week and the experience of winning state two years in a row," Hullman said. "We beat Tribune last week, but we knew they'd be tough.”
CLASS 1A BOYS?
Pike Valley’s Caden Callaway earned the state title (16:54.34) ahead of runner-up Henry Penner of Macksville (17:17.69) and the Panthers captured the Class 1A state cross country title (50) with just the minimum of four runners. It was a close battle for runner-up between Frankfort (58) and Natoma (59).
Penner started a fast pace, but Callaway passed him by the end of the first mile and never trailed again. Callaway finished runner-up to Centralia’s Lucas Koch last year.
“The pace was fast, but it was right where we needed to be,” Callaway said. “I had a good feeling, but I was nervous about the team championship. When I looked over coming down the last hill, I knew I had it won. It was a great double goal for us.”
Pike Valley’s other runners were Kameron Blanding, 9th (18:21.17); Dallas Looper, 21st (10:04.62); and Andrew Blazek, 49th (20:23.33). The Panthers had no margin for error with just four runners.
“I feel very fortunate because God blessed us today,” said Pike Valley coach Richard Cox. “We needed to have every runner run as well as they could. They ran really determined races today. It was good enough to win today. Our third runner ran really well and our fourth runner competed against the other No. 4 runners. They went out and achieved it.”