Council Grove's Kodi Downes runs down the final straightaway to win the junior high boys' race.
The last week of the regular season is one where many schools like to hold out their top runners to rest up with league, regionals, and state on the horizon. That, however, was not the case for the 14 teams that made the trip to the cold and blustery Osage City Golf Course for Thursday's meet. For these runners, there were statements to be made, home turf to be defended, and rivalries to be rekindled.
As usual, the junior high races led off the day. On the girls' side, Wellsville's Karizma Shay led the way in 13:12, with Audrie Davis of Rossville coming through in 2nd at 13:34. On the boys' side, it was a familiar sight as Council Grove's Kodi Downes (11:31) and Northern Heights' Cooper Hamlin (11:59) went 1-2 by a wide margin for the fourth time this year.
The high school girls race was a battle early on. Silver Lake freshman Mariah Farmer has been quietly posting solid times. Her 4th place finish last week doesn't seem like much until you notice that the 20:19 showing puts her in the top 5 in 3A. Alongside Farmer at the front was West Franklin's Emma Bailey, another rising freshman in 3A. This isn't the first meeting between the two, and they've actually got a bit of a rivalry going. Bailey led early by a step or two, but Farmer took over shortly after the mile mark. At the halfway point there was a long straightaway into the wind. Farmer powered into it, open a lead large enough so that both leaders had to take the blunt of the wind. The move was a game-changer, and Farmer would slowly extend her lead for the rest of the race, finishing in 19:55. Emma Bailey settled for second in 20:16. Meanwhile, a battle was raging for 3rd place. West Franklin senior Bailey Leach had held the bronze medal spot for the majority of the race, but Rossville's Julia Streit had closed the gap and made the pass along some switchbacks with a quarter mile to go. Leach, runner-up in the 800 last spring, showed her speed on the homestretch to take it back, finishing in 20:29. Streit was 3 seconds back in 20:32. Anderson County's Rayna Jasper rounded out the top 5 in 20:53. The team race was tight. The team title came down to the 5th runners of Rossville and Silver Lake. Rossville's Alexis Zabala edged Silver Lake's Kristen Rakestraw by 1 second to take the team title by a score of 52-53. Anderson County was nipping at their heels with 56 points. The Bulldogs had a strong 6 and 7, displacing scoring runners on every team. West Franklin packed 3 in the top-10 but did not post a team score.
On the boys side, Silver Lake had something to prove. Osage City's golf course is one of the flattest the Eagles run on, and they were determined to put down some solid times to show they belong in the conversation for a 3A title. Star Freshman Kamryn Kaniper was held out of the race, so everyone had to step up a little. A pack of 4 settled to the front by the mile mark, Kyler Kaniper, Mason Brokaw, Gabe TenEyck, and Cameron TenEyck. Four became three by the time they reached the windy backstretch, but the Eagles continued to work together. A chase pack of Kyle Haner (West Franklin), Walker Stromgren (Osage City), and a slew of Anderson County runners was starting to creep a little closer, though. The Silver Lake machine fell apart late in the 2nd mile, and the race got interesting. Stromgren smelled blood in the water and moved up with Kyler Kaniper at the front just past the two-mile mark. Haner and the Anderson County boys had found themselves with the rest of Silver Lake's team giving chase. Heading back into the wind late in the third mile, Haner had moved into 3rd, followed by a pair of Silver Lake runners and Anderson County's Riley Hedges. At the front Kaniper opened his lead to 15 yards and would hold on to win in 17:24. Stromgren finished in 17:30. Silver Lake's Cameron TenEyk (17:33) took the bonze medal, while his brother Gabe (17:36) took 5th. Kyle Haner (17:34) was sandwiched between the two in 4th, and Riley Hedges (17:38) was just a couple seconds behind in 6th. Silver Lake took the team title with 44 points over Anderson County, who had 68.