Battle at the Orchard | Karr Classic Recap

Nolan Redeker of Olpe won the 2019 Karr Classic.

Lots of runners like to celebrate a job well done on race day with some ice cream after the meet. At Northern Heights, though, that's not acceptable. They prefer a different treat: an apple cider slush from Bob Karr's Orchard. The Orchard, located 7 miles North of Emporia, is home to nearly 1000 trees, 12 beehives, 9 holes of mini-golf, and 1 cross country course. Fifteen schools converged on the small agricultural site last Thursday for a good old-fashioned cross country throwdown. In what could be the strangest part of 2020 yet, there was perfect weather for the first time in the meet's 24-year history. As far back as anyone can remember, there have been mud puddles, heat advisories, or rain delays every year. This time, though, it was sunny, 77, and low humidity, perfect conditions for breaking records.

The first race of the day was the middle school girls. Osage City 7th grader Emery Speece was the early favorite and took the crown with relative ease. Wabaunsee 8th grader Payton Wurtz was second in 13:53, blowing away the rest of the 8th grade field by over a minute. Jaiton Bosse was the third girl across the line, emerging from a pack in the second mile and finishing in 14:21.

Next up was the middle school boys. 8th Grade was dominant in this one, taking the top 4 spots. A trio of Council Grove Braves were at the front early, but Hartford's Cody Cleveland ran a smart race and moved past Brycen Palmquist (12:45) by the mile mark and later Valentin Mascote(12:43), holding off a kick from both to take 2nd in 12:41. Cleveland wasn't able to close the gap on Levi Waring, however, who won his second race of the season in a personal best of 12:18. Behind those four was a promising 7th grader in Olpe's Kaleb Arnold, who finished in 13:08 to win the younger division.

The high school girls' race was the culmination of a four-year domination of the meet by two runners: Cornerstone's Evie Gentry and Olpe's Macy Smith. In prior editions of the meet, these two went 1-2 as freshmen, 1-3 as sophomores, and 1-2 again as juniors. Gentry has one victory while Smith has two. This is likely to be the final meeting between the two, so this race was for all the marbles. Smith took out fast, putting 30 yards between her and the field at the mile mark. Gentry led a chase pack that included Wabaunsee's Rebekah Stuhlsatz and Council Grove's Jordyn Picolet. The gap behind this group was almost insurmountable already, so everyone knew who the contenders were. Smith pounded the second mile, stretching her lead beyond 30 seconds. The chase pack broke apart at about the two-mile mark, with Stuhlsatz emerging in second and Gentry in 3rd. The order at the front didn't change in the final mile, and Smith took the crown in 20:23, 57 seconds faster than here a year ago. Stuhlsatz finished in 21:17, Gentry in 21:37, and Picolet in 22:04. To round out the top-5, Wabaunsee freshman Sienna Jones flashed a kick at the end to beat Osage's Gracy Smith in 23:24. Team-wise, it appeared that Osage City had this meet on lockdown in the first half, but Wabaunsee's runners put together a strong second half of the race and picked up a lot of points to pull off a 38-39 victory.

The boys race was another one for the books. Defending meet champion Nolan Redeker looked to repeat after cruising to a 45-second victory a year ago. He found out early on in this one that it wouldn't be that easy this time. He found himself caught up in a battle between two talented runners that hate losing to each other: Mission Valley's AJ Rubio and Council Grove's Kodi Downes. The two youngsters took the race out in a first mile of 5:02. Redeker let them have their fun, smartly taking a more conservative start but still keeping contact. At a pace that fast, it is usually safe to assume the leaders won't hold it for much longer. Redeker was just biding his time until it was his turn to make a move. He waited patiently for the leaders to wear themselves out. Another minute goes by, then two, then four, and suddenly the Olpe senior has a problem: Downes and Rubio aren't slowing down. In fact, Downes, fully aware of Rubio's finishing speed, puts on a move to separate himself right around the two mile mark, hitting it in - get this - 10:13. The fast pace was finally starting to take its toll, though. The freshman looked worse for wear, and Rubio was not looking much better. Redeker, despite being on pace for a gigantic PR, was still looking relaxed. Things felt like they were in slow motion during the third mile, all three runners just trying to hang on after blasting off early. Nolan Redeker was able to overtake the Mission Valley sophomore with a quarter mile to go but couldn't overcome the gap set by the freshman. Kodi Downes won it in 16:20, making him one of the fastest freshmen in the last decade, and it's only week 3. AJ Rubio flashed his finishing speed to take silver in 16:26, edging out Redeker's 16:27. Cooper Hamlin from Northern Heights was fourth in 17:31, another remarkable freshman performance. He was pushed by teammate Jerrod Campbell, who finished 5th. In the last 10 years, Kyler True had the best time at this meet, clocking 16:35 as a sophomore. With 3 runners under that time, this may have been the fastest and most competitive Karr Classic ever.

Things were equally close in the team standings. With the race spread out as much as it was, it was difficult to count team points. Lyndon, Osage City, and Cair Paravel all had 3 runners in the top 15, so they looked to be the favorites. Osage had the best 4th man, but Cair Paravel had the top #5. Lyndon had a couple athletes pick up points with a kick, but in the end, Cair Paravel scored 63 to Osage's 65 and Lyndon's 66.