VICTORIA — Judging by where his runners were positioned at the start of the varsity girls race in Thursday’s Hays High Invitational at Sand Plum Nature Trail, Hays High coach Jerold Harris wasn’t overly encouraged.


But Harris had to applaud where the runners finished, with the Indians taking second place as a team in the 6A-5A division.


Hays was paced by a trio of freshmen — Arely Maldonado, Brenlynn Albers and Mika Zimmerman. Overall, Maldonado (21:33.7), Albers (21:36.9) and Zimmerman (21:44.2) finished eighth, ninth and eleventh. They were fifth, sixth and seventh in the 6A-5A division.


"I was concerned with our girls early. I didn’t think we got out well," Harris said. "But I tell ya, we must have ran extremely tough in this middle portion of the course and the end.


"At the (beginning), boy, (Salina) South was ahead of us and Dodge was really spanking us. Then the girls just moved up and wound up being second, so, man, I’m really pleased with that."


The HHS girls also got top-15 finishes in 6A-5A from Brynn Kinderknecht (14th, 22:06.0) and sophomore Jaycine Watson (15th, 22:09.05).


Harris said he’s encouraged by the depth and parity on the girls team.


"What’s exciting is they’re going to continuously turn over, so we don’t know who our second, third, fourth, fifth will be. Now, we were without are No. 1 today, Amelia Jaeger. That hurt us a little bit, but she’ll be back with us next Thursday."


Plainville’s Chayse McCullough placed first in the boys Class 4-1A division with a 17:21.8 while Ellis’ Samuel Pyle was second in 17:44.6.


Colby’s Lara Murdock took second overall and was first in the Class 4A-1A division, posting a 19:55.8.


Dodge City’s Serenity Larson was the top overall runner in the girls varsity race with a 19:51.8, while Salina Central’s William Griffith was the top boys’ finisher in 16:47.5.


The TMP-Marian girls were led by sophomore Sophia Allen’s seventh-place finish in 22:18 in the Class 4A-1A division. Senior Abby Rueschoff (22:42.3) was 11th in 22:42.3.


TMP sophomore Braydon Binder placed 10th in the Class 4A-1A boys division, finishing in 18:43.


Oakley won the girls 4A-1A team title while Norton won the boys 4A-1A team title.


Harris said he’s been impressed with how his freshmen girls have contributed quickly to the varsity level.


"We’ve been surprised, very happily surprised at our freshmen girls," Harris said. "They really exceeded what we thought they would do."


On the boys side, freshman Leo Hernandez paced HHS with a ninth-place finish in 17:44.5. The HHS boys took fourth in the 6A-5A division.


"Last year we took the bottom spot here and this year we beat a couple of teams with our freshman," Harris said. "We struggled to break 20 minutes last year, and now we’re putting a couple JV runners under 20 and our varsity runners are running well, so the future is really bright for Hays High cross country with the group of freshmen."


After the uncertainty, Harris said it’s been a great feeling for to get three meets under his team’s belt.


"We started our summer running on June 1st, and in the back of your head, it’s like ‘I hope we get to have a season, I hope we get to have a season,’ " Harris said. "It was really kind of almost emotional at the Great Bend meet to listen to the gun go off and see a cross county race. For us to be able to host one on a beautiful day, on a beautiful course. it’s really been a blessing."


Harris said the Hays High girls are eyeing a trip to state this year while the boys are looking to improve on last year’s regional finish.


"Our girls really need to be thinking about regionals and qualifying for state," Harris said. "I really think we have a girls team that deserves to be at the state meet. Our guys team, last year’s we were ninth of nine (in regionals). We just need to set a goal of being in the top of the six, and if other things happen, we’ll sure take that. We just need to go in and start beating some teams and gaining some experience."


Team scores


6A-5A girls


Dodge City 31, Hays 47, Salina South 73, Garden City 90, Salina Central 139, Newton 148.


4-1A girls


Oakley 44, Norton 48, Ellis 59, TMP 61.


6A-5A boys


Garden City 44, Dodge City 46, Newton 80, Hays 99, Salina Central 101, Salina South 127.


4A-1A boys


Norton 41, Hoisington 51, Ellis 53, Colby 80.


Individual results (Top 15)


Boys


6A-5A


1. Griffith, Salina Central, 16:47.5; 2. Landeros, Dodge City, 16:51.6; 3. Marquez, Dodge City, 17:01.6; 4. Chappel, Garden City, 17:06; 5. Hoff, Garden City, 17:10; 6. Schmidt, Newton, 17.7; 7. Leonard, Salina South, 17:42.9; 8. French, Salina Central, 17:44.3; 9. Hernandez, Hays, 17:44.5; 10. Gurrola, Garden City, 17:56.6; 11. Craig, Garden City, 18:02.1; 12. Ulteras, Dodge City, 18:14.3; 13. Chavez, Dodge City, 18:38.9; 14. Casados, Garden City, 18:25.8; 15. Anderson, Newton, 18:30.9.


4A-1A


1. McCullogh, Plainville, 17:21.8; 2. Pyle, Ellis, 17:44.6; 3. Wolf, Hoisington, 17:47.9; 4. Doss, Hoisington, 18:03; 5. Weber, Oakley, 18:10.8; 6. Wildeman, Norton, 18:12.7; 7. Schoenberger, Oakley, 18:20.6; 8. Flax, Ness City, 18:24.7; 9. Terhaar, Colby, 18:42.5; 10. Binder, TMP-Marian, 18:43; 11. Urban, Norton, 18:46.3; 12. Bieker, Ellis, 18:51.8; 13. Goss, Norton, 19:01.1; 14. Hipp, Hoisington, 19:01.5; 15. Shaw, Ellis, 19:23.2.


Girls


6A-5A


1. Larson, Dodge City, 19:51.8; 2. Sosa, Garden City, 20:16.8; 3. Rodriguez, Dodge City, 20:55.7; 4. Allen, Salina South, 21:09; 5. Maldonado, Hays, 21:33.7; 6. Albers, Hays, 21:36.9; 7. Zimmerman, Hays, 21:44.2; 8. Ridgway, Dodge City, 21:46.1; 9. Yates, Dodge City, 21:51.9; 10. Orozco, Dodge City, 21:52.1; 11. Strang, Salina South, 21:57.5; 12. Arnold, Salina South, 22:03.8; 13. Mancino-Hinde, Salina South, 22:04; 14. Kinderknecht, Hays, 22:06; 15. Watson, Hays, 22:09.5.


4A-1A


1. Murdock, Colby, 19:55.8; 2. Russell, Ellis, 20:20.2; 3. Chavez, Colby, 20:34.8; 4. Bailey, Norton, 21:37.9; 5. Johnson, Oakley, 21:47.9; 6. Bosserman, Oakley, 21:51.1; 7. Allen, TMP-Marian, 22:18.9; 8. Metcalf, Colby, 22:22.7; 9. Kohl, Ellis, 22:24.4; 10. Hall, Norton, 22:32; 11. Rueschhoff, TMP, 22:42.3; 12. Allison, Oakley, 22:46.5; 13. Rumback, Norton, 22:55.7; 14. Montes, Oakley, 23:06.1; 15. Eberle, Ellis, 23:09.7.