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State XC - TMP/HHS headed to Rim Rock

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

The Thomas More Prep-Marian High School boys' cross country team got off to a fast start at regionals last week in Ellsworth -- almost too fast.

"I made a stupid mistake and took out too fast," TMP senior Austin Dinkel said. "It hurt toward the middle of the race. Could have done better."

It wasn't just Dinkel, but the entire team that got off the line a little too quickly. However, it didn't hurt them in the long run as the TMP boys took second place to qualify for the Class 3A state meet Saturday at Rim Rock Farm near Lawrence.

This first trip to state is a long time in the making for Dinkel, who has been among the top runners for TMP all season.

"The last couple of weeks he has run really, really well," TMP cross country coach Matt Dumler said. "We got to have him get a good start. If we can do that he will be able to carry it. He's been in big races before so he knows what it takes to finish it. For him, I'd like to see him run smart and just get out and compete and leave everything out on the course."

For TMP to have a shot at a trophy (top 3), it will need a big day out of its top runner, sophomore Andrew Hess. Hess was the fourth individual qualifier at regionals with a 5K time of 18 minutes, 19 seconds.

"I want to see him go out and compete, run a good, smart race, and whatever happens, happens," Dumler said. "I think he can challenge for a medal, but being the first time he will be at Rim Rock, being the first time he is at a state meet, it's hard to say how he will react."

Collectively, TMP believes it will have a good chance at a top team finish with the depth it has. Hess has spent most of the season as the No. 1 runner, with Dinkel occasionally taking over. But the Monarchs have depth behind them, with numerous names having been the No. 2 and No. 3 runners this year, and it could be very advantageous to have all of them going as a team.

"That is huge. If you pack really well you will win a lot of meets that way," Dumler said. "They aren't afraid to run hard. And they pull each other along. It's fun to watch."

Experienced Norton looks for Class 3A crown

Norton is no stranger to the state cross country meet. The current group of senior girls will be making a fourth trip on Saturday and looks to repeat what they did as freshmen in 2010 -- win the state championship.

"It's anybody's game, especially this year," Norton cross country coach George Rossi said. "I don't think there are any dominant teams that are going to be there on the girls' side. If we run as good as we did Saturday at regionals I think we have a pretty good shot, but you never know."

The Norton girls are led by junior Sierra Griffith, who finished 4th at regionals and medaled with an 18th-place finish at state a year ago. She was also 15th at state her freshman year. Behind her are three seniors, all of which have been to state each year at Norton. Darcy Bainter, Katelyn Engelbert and Marisa Maddy all placed in the top 13 at regionals. Engelbert medaled at state both her freshman and sophomore years.

The Norton boys also enter state with a lot of experience and high hopes despite a rocky season. Injuries plagued them all year, and they have been without sophomore Brendon Frack, who would likely be the team's top runner if it weren't for a stress fracture in his leg that has kept him sidelined.

"There for a little while, in the middle of the boys' season, we were running pretty thin. But we got everybody back except for Brendon," Rossi said. "I think coming into regionals we were kind of the outside guys coming in. They really put it together at regionals. They ran really good and ran their best race of the year to get in."

The Norton boys are led by senior Marc Miller, who placed 5th at regional and 13th at state last year. Freshman Nate Hartwell has been a valued newcomer, placing 9th at regionals. Junior Dalton Vanover and senior Alec Hager also recorded top 20 finishes at regionals.

Hays High youth gets first taste of state

Coming into the season, Hays High School freshman Marie Reveles wanted nothing more than to be able to keep up with sophomore Haley George, the team's top girl runner from a year ago.

But heading into regionals last week, George was thinking the same thing about Reveles.

"That was my goal for regionals -- just to stay with her and maybe even try to beat her," George said. "I was really close and I was definitely proud of myself for that. But she definitely worked hard and she deserves what she got."

Reveles has been the Indians dynamite freshman and has been their top finisher in most races. She took 15th as an individual at regionals in Newton, finishing the 4K race in 16 minutes, 27 seconds, 10 seconds ahead of George. She will be heading to state for the first time, as will George, as individuals for Hays High. Joining the girls will be freshman Zachary Hopp on the boys' side.

"I really wasn't expecting to do what I did this year," Hopp said. "I was just hoping to make varsity and do what I could for the team."

Hopp took 14th at regionals with a 5K time of 17 minutes, 54 seconds.

The Hays High boys and girls each took fourth place as a team at regionals, missing out on a trip to state by one spot. As a consolation, Reveles, George and Hopp will represent the Indians in the Class 5A state meet on Saturday in Lawrence.

George is especially excited to be going after missing out on a trip to state by one runner last year at regionals.

"I think that haunted her," Hays High cross country coach Jerold Harris said. "She never said much about it but it bothered her because she really wanted to go to state last year.

"We talked to her about just getting out and hurting a little bit and not settling in the middle and saving anything. It was good. She ran like a tiger at regionals. She went out with the big dogs and she hung on and showed herself she could do it."

While Reveles entered the season with high expectations from the Indian coaching staff after catching their eye as a junior high runner, Hopp wasn't expected to contribute much as a freshman. With veterans like Landon Munsch, Austin Chambers, Kendall Kandt and Hunter Bizzell, there seemed to be little room for Hopp.

"Then Zach Hopp, he won our time trial then he was our lead runner in the first meet," Harris said. "Then at regionals he really ran possessed. He will be the first one to tell you God didn't bless him with much foot speed, so he will tell you he's just got to push through a race and take somebody's kick out of them."

All three Indians are entering state with the realistic expectations of simply learning.

Only George has ever run the famed Rim Rock course, host of the Class 5A state meet. Reveles and Hopp will be seeing it for the first time. The idea is not necessarily to medal, but to use this experience as a springboard into next year and beyond.

"I'm just looking forward to having fun," Reveles said. "I'm not expecting to place or win state because it's my first year. I'm just looking to get a feel for it with years ahead of me."