CLASS 3A STATE: Hugoton Sweeps Boys and Girls Titles

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Hugoton High School forged its way on to the list of state cross country champions in a big way on Saturday, winning two in one day at the Kansas Class 3A state championships at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence.

Senior Miguel Martinez placed third and junior Abraham Garcia was fourth to lead the boys' squad to victory over two-time defending champion Halstead. Sophomore Ethan Fox also was ninth as Hugoton scored 52 points to Halstead's 66.

About two hours later, the Hugoton girls team played copy-cat, winning an intense team fight with Hiawatha for the Class 3A girls championship. Abby Heger (6th place, 20:47) led Hugoton, which scored 74 points to 82 for Hiawatha, which got a state runner-up finish from Elizabeth Kettler (19:23).

They are the first two state cross country championships ever for Hugoton High School.

"It is exciting; the kids have worked hard all year, both boys and girls," said head coach Nick Rodriguez. "We've had a really good season. The kids were excited to come here, kind of a new place for us. We hoped we'd get both, but you still got to come here and battle just like everyone else does."

Hugoton moved from Class 4A to 3A in late September, but knew taking on Halstead, a proud two-time champion, was not an enviable task.

"We knew from the get-go when we dropped to 3A that we had to be focused and ready to go," Rodriguez said. "Beating them last week, we woke them up a little bit, but when we got here today we were just focused."

The girls individual race was exciting as Celia Biel from Hutchinson-Trinity built a big lead then fought her way to the finish -- collapsing as she crossed the line in a time of 19:17.

"It's crazy, my feelings are out of this world, more than I ever could have imagined winning state would feel like," an ecstatic Biel said, surrounded by family and supporters. "I've worked for it for so long, now it's finally mine. It's so surreal."

"Really what got me to the end were all the memories of my morning runs, getting out practicing with my team, just putting in all the work. I wanted to run for my school, I wanted to run for myself, I wanted to run it for God. That's really what got me to the finish line. Just ran with my heart the entire time."

A hard-charging Kettler was second in 19:23, followed by a pair of freshmen: Hannah Burks of Beloit (19:40) and Lexi Kats of Norton Community (20:18). Lexia Jamison of Perry LeCompton rounded out the top five with a time of 20:43.

Kingman's Robert Pearce was a wire-to-wire winner in the Class 3A boys race, building about a 20 meter lead at the mile mark and keeping his closest pursuers at a safe distance. The sophomore won in 16:40 while William Bailey of West Franklin was the runner-up in 16:55. Hugoton's Martinez (17:01) and Garcia (17:05) took the next two spots and Riley County's Brett Kulp finished up the top five with a time of 17:12.

"I knew there were a lot of fast guys out there today and they were really competitive, so I thought I had to get out early and run them out from the start," Pearce said. "It was really good."