Mission Valley's AJ Rubio and Silver Lake's Cameron TenEyck led a battle start to finish at Thursday's Osage City Invitational. Check out this photo and more by Alex Walters here!
It's crunch time for Kansas cross country, the last week of the regular season. There aren't many big meets during week 6, but one that has been growing over the years is the Osage City invitational. The Indians host their meet on the Osage Golf Course which surrounds a small reservoir. The waterfall-like spillway is always a greeting to teams as the busses approach. However, that waterfall was not in action Thursday, as the often wet and cold meet was as hot and dry as you'll find in mid-October. One major factor of the day was wind. There are two long northbound stretches during the race, one at halfway and one in mile 3 that are usually into a punishing North wind. However, with the warm South wind in play, these runners had wind at their backs for those two key points in the race.
Leading off the afternoon was the Jr. High girls race. It was a showcase for Osage City's Emory Speece, who entered with a 4-meet winning streak and the #1 7th grade time in the state. She extended that streak to 5 with a dominating 12:30 performance. The battle for second, nearly 75 seconds back, was tight, as Osage's Jaiton Bosse closed late on Silver Lake's Tessa Gerber. After some encouragement from her coach, Bosse made the pass with about 200m to go, however, Gerber found another gear to retake the silver medal by 1 second in 13:44.
Next up was the middle school boys, which featured some of the best in the state as well. 3 of the top 5 3200m runners of the season were in this race. West Franklin's Hunter Bailey was the early leader. Lebo's Caleb Durst was on his tail about 10 strides back when they went over the main bridge during the first mile. Behind the leaders was a pack of five or six runners battling for 3rd. Durst continued to hang around throughout the next several minutes, but was unable to put a move on to reel in the West Franklin 8th grader. Bailey won in 11:32, while Durst came through in 11:39. Council Grove's Levi Waring, the other elite middle schooler of the race, was 3rd in 12:20.
The co-ed junior varsity race was the last race of the day, but we'll touch on those before getting to the varsity races. Anderson County had what looked like the deepest team, sweeping the top 3 spots and Anthony Childers taking the race with a 19:54. The girls side was a similar story, with two bulldogs in Emily Coles and Emily Moyer crossing together to win in 26:06.
The Varsity girls race was an exciting one if you enjoy team scores. There were 6 full teams in Thursday's contest and 5 of them were in the hunt to win it. Just before the mile mark it looked like Osage City had the lead, but Silver Lake had two near the front in Mariah Farmer and Aubrey Bahner. West Franklin, who didn't score as a team, had junior Lily Judd leading the race at the mile mark. Farmer would take over shortly after, but the team points rested on the shoulders of her teammates.
Along the backstretch of mile two, Anderson County had picked up a few spots to take the team lead, but it was still too close for comfort. As they rolled into mile 3, Silver Lake began to emerge as the team leader. Their 3-4-5 runners had run smart and were holding pace while their competitors fell back. Anna Ruby moved into the top-10 and Kristen Rakestraw and Jersey Manhart were working together to pick off runners left and right. The Eagles would go on to win it with 46 points, led by a 1-2 punch from Farmer(20:54) and Bahner(21:08). West Franklin's Lily Judd settled for 3rd with a season best of 21:30. Rossville's Julia Streit(21:39) and Santa Fe Trail's Ashlynn Rowe rounded out the top-5.
In the boys race, we finally got to see if Anderson County is a contender or a pretender. The bulldogs currently sit at 5th in 3A, but have been under the radar with performances either not being submitted or coming from inaccurate courses. The flat, fast, and accurate Osage City course would be a perfect indicator of where runners truly stand over 5000 meters. As the race began, an early battle emerged between Silver Lake's Cameron TenEyck and Mission Valley's AJ Rubio. West Franklin's Kyle Haner was along for the ride, hanging a few seconds back from the leaders at the mile mark. Silver Lake had 3 at or near the front, but were again struggling to find strong 4th and 5th runners to score well. Anderson County was packing up early to have the team lead, but West Franklin has been finishing races well, so the race was still up in the air.
With the wind at their backs at the halfway mark, TenEyck was still leading with Rubio on his shoulder. Haner had dropped back but held strong in 3rd with a strong lead on Silver Lake's Kamryn Kaniper and Mason Brokaw. Northern Heights junior Jerrod Campbell was in the mix as well. Crossing the two-mile mark, Rubio had fallen back a few strides and put on a surge to get back on TenEyck's shoulder. This would happen a few more times during mile 3, most notably with ½ mile to go he overcame a 10-stride gap to get in position for the final kick. Both runners have shown flashes of speed this season, but Rubio had more in the tank. He put TenEyck in the rear-view mirror en route to a 6-second victory in 16:42. Kyle Haner was able to hold on after a fierce finish from Jerrod Campbell. The two crossed in 17:37 and 17:39, respectively. Rounding out the top-6 was the pair of Silver Lake sophomores with Kaniper finishing in 17:48 and Brokaw in 17:50.
As expected, West Franklin did pick up points in the latter part of the race, but it wasn't enough to topple Anderson County. The bulldogs packed 4 in the top-15 to take the meet with 67 points. The Falcons were second with 78. Both teams, along with 3rd place team Silver Lake, will be favorites heading into their league meets, and each still carry hopes for a trip to state.
Check out the full meet results here!