Central Heights played it smart on Saturday, moving up and winning big.
(Photo by Brandon Ngo)
Class 2A has had some of the greatest storylines in 2023, and they all wrapped up in a flash on Saturday morning at Wamego. Nothing was set in stone on the starting line, with a multitude of individual and team contenders coming in with high hopes for both races. The girls' race was the second of the day, while the boys' race was the penultimate one at the Wamego Country Club.
The girls' race was billed as a clash of several athletes looking to fill the void left by 13-time 2A champion Chesney Peterson. Eureka's Rose Buck was the first to throw her hat in the ring and take the lead. During the mile-1 switchbacks, Wabaunsee's Payton Wurtz went to the front, having just a step on the lead pack at the mile mark. The long, unforgiving inclines of the middle mile made them pay, though, as the pair faded to 5th & 6th during the second stanza. Smith Center's Madison Howland, just a freshman this year, opened up a lead. Ellis standout Avery Boydston stayed somewhat attached, but never could close the gap in the last mile. Howland pulled away to win in 18:38, 36 seconds ahead of Boydston. Central Heights senior Emma Cubit moved up well throughout the race, finishing 3rd. She was followed up by Sterling's Faith Ekart, and then Payton Wurtz. Rose Buck held off the chase pack for 6th.
The team standings were very difficult to distinguish during the race. No team really stood out, alluding to the fact that this ended up being fairly high-scoring. Sterling looked good with 3 in the top-15, but their 4th and 5th runners were 60 spots back. Remington & Salina-Sacred Heart, both podium teams last year, seemed to be going at it again. Both just had 1 runner in the top-20, though. The team race was won in the 20s and 30s positions, where Sacred Heart clustered Gracy Dorzweiler, Lauryn Mikkelson, & Eva Matteucci all within 5 spots to finish scoring at 85 and bury Remington's hope of winning. The Broncos still managed to hold off Sterling for second place 106 to 125.
The boys' race was out hot. Logan Keith wasn't messing around when he cooked a 5:05 first mile. Somehow even more surprising, though, was that the pack was going with him! Ell-Saline had a pair on his heels with Carson Fouard & Garrison Zerger. The KC Christian duo of Andrew Schumacher & Spencer Mumford were the ones to worry about, though. They emerged as serious contenders in the second mile, with Schumacher taking over at about halfway. The senior Panther was on a mission of his own, coming through two miles at 10:08, even faster than Keith's blistering first mile. Suddenly, Lane Boyer's 2007 course record was on alert. 15:42.99 was the time to beat, and he was exactly on that pace.
Logan Keith held on strong after the quick start, still in second place. Had anything happened to Schumacher, Keith was next in line, still holding off Mumford. The hills began to break the pace of the field as they started to feel the first mile coming back to haunt them. Like Emma Cubit on the girls' side though, Cody Hammond was coming on strong for Central Heights. In fact, so were Connor Burkdoll and Owen Miller. Suddenly, the Vikings looked to be leading the team race with three in the top-10.
As he came down the homestretch, Schumacher was running on fumes. There was no ferocious sprint to the finish, just a continuous burn down the final hill. He had clearly expended his energy as evenly as possible, but even with a perfect race, he was just short of the course record, running 15:46.4. Nonetheless, he was crowned 2A champion, and had the best performance in history of any 2A boy on the Wamego Country Club.
Cody Hammond continued to move up, climbing into 2nd place by the final stretch. Logan Keith held off Spencer Mumford for 3rd, while Garrison Zerger rounded out the top-5.
Central Heights kept Miller and Burkdoll in the top-10, giving them a solid start in the team scoring. Meade and KC Christian also packed two in the top-10, so points were going quick. Hutchinson-Trinity had three runners in medal positions, and also had the best 4th and 5th runners. They even put their 6 ahead of Central Heights' 5. It wasn't enough to overcome the Viking power up front, though. Central Heights took the 2A title with 67 points. Trinity was #2 with 80, and Meade rounded out the podium with 90.