State XC - Oberlin looks to break though with trophy
By NICK McQUEEN
The Oberlin-Decatur Community High School girls' cross country team has finished no worse than second place all season.
Most of those second-place finishes were to Norton, a Class 3A state qualifying team, and two second-place finishes to the Bluejays were within three points.
So it came as not much of a surprise to coach Pat Dorshorst when her Red Devil team picked up a victory at last week's Class 2A regional in Belleville.
They're using that as momentum to possibly collect a team trophy when they compete in the Class 2A state race at 11 a.m. at Wamego Country Club.
Oberlin is looking to improve on last year's fourth-place showing at state, and have put together a solid season.
"We've had a great season the whole way, and the freshmen have just been getting stronger and stronger," Dorshorst said. "And we've had great leadership from (state qualifiers from last season)."
Junior Winter Polivka, who broke into the 2A field last season with a third-place showing in 15 minutes, 40 seconds, paces the Red Devils. She led the way last season at state for an Oberlin team that finished with 155 points. However, the bulk of that team graduated, leaving just three runners -- Polivka, junior Catie Shields and senior Brittany Urban -- as the lone returners. Four freshmen have stepped into the mix.
"They all have really buckled down and done a great job."
The improvement culiminated in last week's regional when the Red Devils scored 25 points, nearly 60 better than runner-up Bennington.
"We knew we should do well if everyone ran to their potential," Dorshorst said. "We didn't know we would score that much lower than everyone else, but knew we had a pretty good shot."
Even though last year's teams that finished ahead of Oberlin (Berean Academy, Ellinwood, and Maranatha Academy) also won their respective regionals last week, Dorshorst said the Red Devils are much stronger than they were last year, and look to break through and earn a trophy.
"This year's team, we're a little bit stronger that that," she said. "We really have a goal to finish in that top 3."
As well, Polivka and Shields hope to improve on their third- and 14th-place finishes, respectively.
"Winter, a lot of people that haven't seen her run before think 'Gosh, that girls is going to die by the end of the race,' " Dorshorst said. "She doesn't, though. She is a very, very strong runner."
And Shields has shown great improvement in her finish.
"She doesn't come out quite as fast, but she holds steady," Dorshorst said. "And, she has been working on her kick. That has improved quite a bit."
Urban has improved her times from last year by about two minutes as well. The Red Devils third and fourth runners are freshmen; Sierra Hendrickson and Jakobi Blau.
Also in the 2A race, Hill City senior Leslie VanLoenen, who was 17th last season, has a chance to improve after finishing fourth in the Belleville Regional. VanLoenen was 10th as a sophomore and sixth as a freshman, so she can earn her fourth all-state nod. Plainville senior Cassidy Rathbun, who was 20th at state last season, finished seventh at the Belleville Regional. She is joined by teammate Brookly Eilers.
Out of the Meade Regional, Ness City senior Jessie Rubottom qualified for the fourth time. Rubottom was 14th as a freshmen in 2010, sixth as a sophomore and fourth last season.
In the 12:30 p.m. boys' race, Smith Center's Hunter Kine qualified fourth in the Belleville Regional in 18:17. And Ness City senior Dray Carson, who surprised with a state championship last season in front of Ellinwood standout Pedro Montoya, qualified second behing Montoya in last week's Meade Regional. The two will meet up for the final time in high school Saturday. Carson is joined by teammate Conner Hawkins.
In the boys' Class 4A race, a 10:30 a.m. start at Wamego on Saturday, Goodland will run its entire team. The Cowboys finished second at the McPherson regional with 77 points. Aaron Arteaga led the way for the Cowboys in a fifth-place 17:57, about 50 seconds behind the regional winner.
In the 4A girls' race at noon, Colby's Andrea Browne will compete. Browne finished third at the McPherson regional in 16:14.