TOPEKA — Robbie Schmidt knew that the Iliff Commons cross country course would present a stiff challenge in Saturday morning's Sunflower State Games cross country event.
That's exactly what the 20-year-old Schmidt was looking for as he prepares to return to Fort Hays State for his junior year.
"I really like that it's challenging, because at this point in the season this is where I come to test my fitness and overall mental fitness, as well," Schmidt said. "I think today was a really good test, with the heat and the hills, and I was able to mentally push myself and did pretty well."
"Pretty well" probably ranks as an understatement, with Schmidt winning the overall title in a 5-kilometer time of 17 minutes, 26.14 seconds, as 67 competitors finished the race.
Fifteen-year-old Alexander Holmes was second in 19:11.05, while Jared Reinke (21) was third in 19:29.12, Taegan Loy (17) fourth in 19:46.56 and Benjamin Letourneau (41) fifth in 20:03.90.
Schmidt, a multiple-time Class 4A state placer in cross country and track at Hayden, will report for fall practice at Fort Hays State in mid-August and said he's ready to get back to work.
"With the way training's going, I'm really looking forward to the season and looking to help out the Tigers the best I can," he said. "I think this year, with me focusing more on my mentality and how I think, this year is going to be a little bit different."
Schmidt is also expecting a big fall from Fort Hays as a team, with the Tigers coming off a third-place MIAA finish a year ago. Schmidt said the team's balance will be the key.
"We're all equally good, we're all equally talented, and we all work together and push each other, and doing that it doesn't really matter who is the top guy, we're just going to be focused on being a team this year and do the best we can as one," Schmidt said.
Former Fort Hays State runner Ashley Turpin, a 2007 Perry-Lecompton graduate, captured the women's title in 22:41.65, winning by nearly two minutes.
Turpin, who lives in Lawrence, was a sprinter in high school and college before moving to longer distances.
"I transitioned pretty quickly from being a sprinter to distance after my competitive career was over," the 30-year-old Turpin said. "I mean, you can run distance forever.
"I just want to stay in shape and enjoy the community and the courses and all these wonderful people."
Turpin also won the Sunflower State Games cross country title in 2015 and said she enjoys competing at Iliff Commons, regarded as one of the area's most challenging courses.
"I love the course, I love the people," she said. "Amazing people come out to run really hard races, so that's really cool. Also, my parents live a few blocks from here, so it's an opportunity for them to come watch me race."
Taryn West, 16, finished second behind Turpin in 24:36.53, while Jamie Johnson-Shaffer (36) was third in the women's division in 24:53.80. Autumn Sass (13) was fourth in 26:32.93, while Anna Phelps (15) rounded out the women's top five in 27:14.78.