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State XC - Natoma earns team trophy in 1A

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

WAMEGO -- Natoma proved that even an eight-year layoff isn't an excuse not to perform well at state.

The Tiger boys, who hadn't fielded a cross country team since 2005, finished third as a team at the Class 1A state cross country meet at Wamego Country Club on Saturday.

"We had some kids that talked about it last year," Natoma coach Tom Ginther said. "We went before the board and they kind of turned us down. So we started getting some of these kids together and did a few fun runs and a few activities to kind of get involvement."

Ginther was also the coach in 2005, but stepped down to pursue other opportunities out of the district. Another coach was going to take his place before the program fell through.

With enough support this year, the Tigers' cross country team returned with eight boy runners and a ninth girl runner.

The Tigers only had one runner medal on Saturday, a 20th place finish by junior Jacob Chambray. He ran the 5K course in 18 minutes, 58.07 seconds.

"I ran my best time I have all year and I think that me and my teammates have had a great year," Chambray said. "Coming back with our team is great for our school and community. I'm proud of everything we have done."

With no experience to lean on, Ginther created a game plan that allowed the Tigers to "use their knowledge," meaning the other runners on the course. He had his runners pick out a couple of experienced runners in the crowd and try to mimic them as much as possible.

This paid off with a team total of 59 for third place. Pike Valley was the Class 1A boys champion with 50 points, followed by Frankfort's 58. Victoria took sixth place with 108 points.

Natoma's Joey Raat (19:23.09) and Bryce Ginther (19:24.72), son of coach Tom Ginther, finished 23rd and 24th, respectively.

"These guys have a lot of talent," Tom Ginther said. "Five of the boys play football, so they do double sports. We practice in the mornings from 6:30 to 7 o'clock, and practice while everybody else is sleeping. I'm proud of them. They've done a nice job."

Jacy Braun led Victoria with a 31st-place finish in 19:34.86, and Palco's Taylor Keller finished 32nd in 19:35.39.

Wheatland-Grinnell takes second in 1A girls

Taylor Tustin, a junior on the Wheatland-Grinnell girls' cross country team, isn't a stranger to state competition. She finished 11th as a freshman, was runner-up as a sophomore, and matched that with another second-place finish on Saturday in the Class 1A state meet. She ran the 4K course in 16:26.71.

The difference this year was she wasn't alone.

"This was the first year I had a team," Tustin said. "I made it to state all three years but I've never had a team. First year we've had a team and we make it to state and get a top three finish. So I'm really excited about that."

Wheatland-Grinnell hadn't had enough girls to field an entire team the last few years. But with an influx of talent, many coming over from the volleyball team, that all changed.

The Thunderhawks took third place as a team with 81 points. Tribune won with 40 points, with Macksville taking second with 49 points.

Jenny O'Bryan of St. Paul was the overall winner in 16:13.47, about 13 seconds ahead of Tustin.

"I wasn't so happy with my time, but my place, definitely. I was pretty happy with that," Tustin said. "I was hoping we would do good but I was really shocked we made it this far."

Hoxie's Madison Niblock medaled as well, taking 14th in 17:36.74.

Ness City's Carson falls short of repeat; Hawkins fifth

Not many people would be disappointed by a third-place finish in the boys' Class 2A state cross country meet, by not many people have the expectations of Ness City's Dray Carson.

"I know Dray, he just puts so much pressure on himself and will be the first one to admit that he wanted to defend his title," Ness City coach Patrick Younger said. "I still think he had a good race, but he's a competitive kid. In his mind, right at the finish, he didn't think he had a great race."

Carson, the defending Class 2A state champion, had to settle for third with a time of 17:00.67. He ran the same course in 16:13.20 last year.

The surprise came from Ness City sophomore Connor Hawkins, who took fifth in 17:21.42. Hawkins ran at state a year ago, but said he wasn't very committed at the time and didn't run a very good race.

But after a summer of training and eating healthier, Hawkins found another level this season. Having a state champion runner in Carson at his side didn't hurt either.

"He helps me a lot through training and his morale support, too. Whenever I feel bad on a workout he will say it's just mental, you can get right back into it," Hawkins said. "I have always taken off with him at every race and it just never turned out well. But it did today."

Ellinwood's Pedro Montoya took first in 16:22.71, while Dylan Hodgson of Washington County took second in 16:51.52. Ellinwood won the team title with 47 points.

Smith Center's Hunter Kline took 21st in 18:18.18, one spot shy of medaling.

In the Class 2A girls' race, Hillsboro's Emily Sechrist placed first with a 4K time of 15:39.51. Maranatha Academy won the girls' team title with a score of 47, followed by Berean Academy's 66. Oberlin-Decatur Community took 4th with 103.

Oberlin's Winter Polivka was the top area runner, taking 13th in 16:44.99. Oberlin's Caitie Shields also medaled, finishing 15th in 16:48.84.

Colby's Browne medals in Class 4A

Andrea Browne, a sophomore on Colby's girls' cross country team, can't forget her experience at state last year, as much as she would like to.

"Last year I went to state and I fell during it and didn't finish as high as I wanted," Browne said. "There were a lot of girls around me and I just kind of tripped."

Browne made the most of her second trip to state, finishing 10th in Class 4A with a 4K time of 16:06.51. Girard's Cailie Logue won the race in 15:22.20.

"It felt like it was a big accomplishment compared to last year," Browne said. "I came in a lot more confident I think, than last year. I knew what I was coming into. I don't really know if I expected to medal, but I didn't expect top 10."

DeSoto won the Class 4A girls' state title with 56 points, followed by Baldwin's 70 and Paola's 90.

Baldwin won the Class 4A boy's title with 49 points, followed by Winfield's 78 and Mulvane's 119. Goodland took 12th with 269 points.

Ace Arteaga was Goodland's top finisher, placing 68th in 18:45.12. Winfield's Josh Hanna won the race in 16:25.45.