Great Bend girls, Maize boys win regional XC titles

Great Bend, led by senior Emilia Diaz (front left), packed up to easily win Saturday’s Class 5A...
Great Bend, led by senior Emilia Diaz (front left), packed up to easily win Saturday’s Class 5A regional cross country meet in Great Bend. (photo by Mike Courson)(Mike Courson)
Published: Oct. 24, 2021 at 5:44 PM CDT
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GREAT BEND, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Saturday’s Class 5A regional run was all about team glory for the Great Bend girls Saturday morning. Running at home, the Lady Panthers packed up to take five of the top-eight spots. The result was just 30 points for the regional title, followed by Maize South with 69 and Hays with 96 points.

In boys’ action, Maize edged out Maize South by just two positions with 38 points for the title. Newton took the final team qualifying spot in third place, beating Valley Center by 11 spots with 88 points.

“The strategy was to stick together as a team,” said Great Bend senior Emma Loomis. “That way it was really hard for other teams to beat us because there were so many of us. If it’s a pack of red passing someone, their confidence is just going to go down.”

Individually, Maize South has had plenty of success in recent years behind Alexa Rios, now a runner at Kansas State. Saturday morning it was Britton Kelly’s turn. The senior ran largely by herself to beat the field by 28 seconds in 19:16.05.

“I was expecting to win but I couldn’t have that in my head,” Kelly said. “I just had to make sure I was focused the whole time and stayed up.

Kelly finished 21st at state as a sophomore and moved up to 11th place last year. Next weekend she looks to move into the top-five.

Maize senior Zoie Ecord picked up the silver in 19:44.79, followed by Valley Center junior Hannah Grover in third with a time of 20:03.14.

Then Great Bend’s pack finished. Senior Emilia Diaz led the group in 20:17.80 for fourth, followed by sophomores Addy Nicholson and Eliana Beckham in fifth and sixth, respectively, both in 20:18. Lady Panther freshmen Diane Alvarez and Marissa Boone placed seventh and eighth, respectively, both in 20:19.

Salina South junior Olivia Mancino-Hinde qualified as an individual in ninth with a time of 20:20.13, and senior teammate Grace Allen also heads to state after an 11th-place finish in 20:46.24. Maize junior Abigail Grantham took the final individual qualifying spot in 13th with a time of 20:52.96.

Maize South junior Kendall Shields finished 10th overall in 20:38.30. Sage Pauly ran 16th in 21:16.90, and Emma Henderson ran 17th for the Mavs in 21:21.36. Greenley Brower picked up the final team points in 26th with a time of 21:41.03.

Esfeld wins individual title for Great Bend

If the team races on the boys’ side came down to the wire, the individual title did not. Great Bend junior Kaiden Esfeld pulled away to beat the field by 21 seconds in 16:29.13. Maize South seniors William Schaeffer and Vaughn Decker each crossed in 16:50 for second and third, respectively.

“The main plan was just to sit in the front pack, maybe ride by them or right behind them then just kick it in and take it,” Esfeld said.

Esfeld ran 31st at state as a freshman and 18th last year as a sophomore. After seeing some of his top competitors at the state track meet in May, Esfeld knows who to run with next weekend.

“I’m going to try to go out with the front pack and see how long I can sit there,” he said. “I’ll see how long I can hang and see which one of us has the best kick at the end.”

Like the Great Bend girls, the Maize boys packed up for the team win. Senior Aiden Werner led that charge in 16:56.54 for sixth, followed by junior Zachary Johnson in seventh with a time of 16:58.55. Sophomore Alexander Ayin placed eighth in 17:12.20, and senior Sebastian Castillo crossed two seconds later for ninth. Senior Eli Bothel ran 13th in 17:34.95, just six seconds ahead of the next Maize South runner to determine the team title.

Salina Central qualified two individual runners, led by senior William Griffith in fourth with a time of 16:54.54. Senior Izaac Leonard finished 11th in 17:28.67. Valley Center also snuck in two runners to state. Freshman Brock Moses placed fifth in 16:55.17, and freshman Dalton Moses was the last qualifier, finishing 19th overall in 18:07.60.

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