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Ruder third in 3A for TMP

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Ruder third in 3A for TMP

Published on -10/28/2012, 6:52 AM

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LAWRENCE -- Thomas More Prep-Marian senior Heather Ruder didn't end her cross country career with a gold medal wrapped around her neck, but she was satisfied nevertheless.

Ruder, the 2010 state champion, finished third in 15 minutes, 44 seconds on the 4,000-meter course Saturday at the Class 3A state championship cross country meet at Rim Rock Farm near Lawrence.

The 2011 champion, Hillsboro sophomore Emily Sechrist, was second in 15:35, and Hiawatha sophomore Jordan Puvogel earned the 3A crown in 15:30.

"I am (satisfied)," Ruder said regarding her illustrious cross country career. "It's been good every year. I've had good races and bad races like normal, but I'm actually real happy with how everything has gone."

Ruder finished in the top three every season she competed, placing second as a freshman, first as a sophomore and third as a junior.

Ruder ditched her strategy of staying on Sechrist's shoulder and out kicking her at the end. She let Sechrist and Puvogal gain some separation from her midway through and decided to run her own race.

Though it didn't result in a state championship, her plan did work. Her time Saturday was 31 seconds faster than the previous year at Rim Rock -- the first time 3A had run there -- and it was the fastest of her career at state meets.

"Sometimes I kind of let them go, because I know I have a kick at the end," Ruder said. "I didn't want to expend my energy there."

As a team, TMP finished ninth.

Senior Annie Mindrup was the Monarchs' second runner, finishing 56th in 17:56. Freshman Shelby Stouffer followed closely behind in 58th in 17:58.

Junior Kayla Walker and freshman Jordyn Manhart rounded out the team scoring in 74th and 83rd in 18:37 and 19:12, respectively.

Sophomore Grace Volker and junior Mikaela Flax also competed, placing 91st and 95th in 20:23 and 21:11.

Norton girls fall short of title

Last season, Norton cross country coach George Rossi knew his girls didn't have a shot of defending its state championship from 2010. Douglass was just too good, and its girls won with 21 points -- a near-perfect score.

This season, he thought his squad had a shot at unseating Douglass. The Bluejays came close but not close enough, falling again. This time, it was much closer, as Norton finished second with 94 -- 18 behind Douglass.

"Last year, we had no shot. We knew we had no shot," Rossi said. "This year, we thought maybe, but it wasn't meant to be. If we raced them 10 times, I don't think we'd beat them."

Douglass graduated much of its depth and ran most of the year without a fifth runner.

At the Class 3A regional at Gypsum-Southeast of Saline, Douglass produced a fifth runner, and though she struggled, Douglass' top runners carried the weight and won it.

Heading into state this year, Rossi thought there was a chance that fifth runner would be enough to drag Douglass below his squad in the team standings.

However, Douglass' top four earned all-state honors and lifted their team to the top, making up for their fifth runner's 68th-place finish.

"We ran way better than we did last year time-wise," Rossi said. "I'm disappointed we didn't get first but we did get beat by a better team. I'll give Douglass the credit on that one."

Norton sophomore Sierra Griffith was the lone Bluejay to earn all-state. She finished 18th in 16:38. It was her second all-state honor in cross country. She was 15th as a freshman.

She said she was happy with her race, especially considering she battled a stomach flu late in the week.

"We tried our hardest, and I think we did our best," she said. "I think (second) was as good as we could get."

Senior Julia Kent finished 26th in 17:02. Junior Darcy Bainter was 29th in 17:10, and junior Katelyn Engelbert, the team's top runner last season, placed 32nd in 17:18.

Freshman Molly Maddy rounded out the team scoring with a 37th-place finish in 17:31.

Rossi said in order to defeat Douglass, he thought his top three runners would have to finish in the top 20 to beat Douglass, but even if they did that, Norton would have still lost by two points.

"Their top kids are so stinking fast we can't keep up with them," Rossi said.

Rossi said his squad will have another shot next season, graduating only only two runners from this squad.

"The girls were not very happy, but they are coming to grips with it now," Rossi said. "I just told them to remember what it feels like to get second so it doesn't happen next year."

Norton's boys squad also brought home hardware, finishing third with a score of 123. Hutchinson Trinity Catholic High School won the team title with 75. Scott City was second with 110.

"I'm stoked that we got third place," Rossi said.

Norton junior Marc Miller earned all-state honors, placing 13th in 17:28 on the 5,000-meter course.

Freshman Brendon Frack was 22nd in 17:44, and junior Alec Hager was 30th in 17:55. Junior Dalton Vanover finished 45th in 18:25.

Norton's fifth runner has been a weak point for the Bluejays, but senior John Renner ran a personal best of 19:15 and finished 77th to help his squad.

"I told them last night nobody expects us to do much of anything, so go out, run your butts off and see what happens," Rossi said.

Phillipsburg sophomore Wyatt Ratzlaff demonstrated he was one of the state's best Saturday, placing seventh in 16:45. He was the top underclassman in the field.

He also qualified as a freshman last season, but didn't earn all-state.

"It was real special, because I've never ran that fast before (at state)," Ratzlaff said.

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