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SPOTLIGHT
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Indian boys finish third on home course

Published on -9/14/2012, 10:18 AM

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By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

Hays High School senior Ethan Fort said it can take some time to transition from running 1,600 meters fast to running 5,000 meters fast.

"It's a mental race," Fort said regarding the longer distance in cross country. "It's all in your head."

Fort, a 1,600 specialist in track and field, ran cross country this year for the first time in high school after playing soccer in the years prior. In track, he's run a 4-minute and 33-second 1,600, but in cross country, he struggled at first, battling illness and running 20:35 and in the low 19s at the first two meets.

However, he cranked out an 18:20 and 22nd-place finish on Thursday at the Hays High Invitational on the Indian Prairie Cross Country Course, placing as the team's third runner.

"Ethan had great workouts this week," Hays High head coach Jerold Harris said. "He looked great on Monday in our 800s, and he looked great on Tuesday in our little tempo/fartlek workout. You can tell he's starting to get confident again."

His finish helped the Hays High boys finish third in the 6-5A division with a team score of 84 points, defeating Western Athletic Conference schools Garden City and Great Bend -- two teams that beat them earlier in the year at the Great Bend Invitational.

WAC opponents Dodge City and Liberal finished first and second with scores of 53 and 74, respectively.

On the girls' side, Hays High finished sixth.

The Indians already had a number of strong runners, with five runners in the low 18s already, but as Fort continues to get better, he could provide some significant help on the boys' side.

Fort said Hays High's boys could surprise some people at the end of the season.

"We keep improving week by week," Fort said. "Our times keep dropping. I think we can definitely make some noise at regionals."

Senior Derek Drees was the Indians' top runner again, despite being sick early in the week and missing practice time.

He finished third in 17:17.

"(Drees) faltered a little bit at the two-mile mark," Harris said. "I thought he was going to get fifth or sixth, but when I looked at the results, he got third. He battled back and competed tough. ... Mentally, he is such a tough kid. He is a competitor."

Senior Josh Brungardt finished 19th in 18:16. Fort was 22nd in 18:20, and junior Kendall Kandt was 23rd in 18:23. Junior Landon Munsch rounded out the team scoring with a 25th-place finish in 18:32.

Junior Hunter Bizzell finished 34th in 18:57, and junior Austin Chambers, who's battled hip problems this season, was 46th in 20:08.

Chambers has run in the low 18s before though, so with Fort in the mix, the Indians have seven runners who are capable of running in the low 18s or faster.

"It just adds to our depth," Harris said.

On the girls' side, Garden City tied with Maize South with a score of 34, but won the tiebreaker due to having a faster sixth runner.

Hays High freshman Haley George was the Indians' top runner, finishing 21st in 16:16 on the 4,000-meter course.

Sophomore Summer Smith was 27th in 16:33, and junior Wendy Zimmerman was 33rd in 16:51.

Hays High's fourth through seventh runners finished in a pack: sophomore Mattie Schlaefli (37th, 17:03), junior Reagan Kaiser (38th, 17:05), junior Megan Dinkel (39th, 17:09) and senior Arin Pfannenstiel (40th, 17:19).

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