It was a region stacked with ranked teams – three in the Top 10 and five in the Top 20. After placing near the bottom last season the improvement was vast this season. Especially consider ing that Barton standout Samson Laari nearly won the meet, taking second by the narrowest of margins.
To give an idea of how tough the Region VI Championships in Colby Saturday was consider that Pratt Community College entered the meet ranked No.14 in the NJCAA and finished 8th in the 12-team event.
Host Colby Community College and Allen County battled for the team title as expected. The two were tied at No. 6 in the NJCAA poll entering the meet and didn’t disappoint. Running on its home course Colby won the meet with 40 points followed by Allen with 55. It was quite a ways back to third, where Hutchinson finished with 130 points, edging a pair of ranked teams. Butler, No. 12, and Highland, No. 8, both finished with 133 while Barton took sixth with 158.
“We are moving in the right direction,” Coach Parker Cowles said. “Last year the men placed 12th. We moved to sixth. That’s great but we have a long way to go as we move forward.”
Laari just missed the region title, taking second behind Colby’s Michael Kinuthia. Laari finished the 8K course at the Colby Country Club in a time of 24:45.4 just 1.3 seconds behind Kinuthia’s time of 24:43.1. The next closest runner was 15 seconds behind.
Laari, a middle distance runner extended into the cross country for the first time this season, averaged less than five minutes a mile on his way to the runner-up effort. His mile average at the meet was 4:58.9.
Two more Cougars turned in great runs at the meet with Wyoming freshman Devyn Brotherton earned All-Region honors with his 11th place finish. Brotherton finished in a time of 26:33.7. Tony Perez, a freshman from Texas, took 26th overall with a 27:32.8.
“Sampson Laari and Devyn Brotherton were both great,” Coach Cowles said. “I know Sampson really wanted the win but he gave it everything and came up two seconds short.
“Devyn ran great. As a freshman the transition to racing 5 miles can be difficult, but he is learning. To earn All-Region and All-Conference honors in his first season is a great start. I expect big things from him as we move forward.”
The Cougars final four team runners kept in a good pack but it was back from the top three runners by a good distance. Abilene freshman Marcus Pastran led that pack with a 66th place effort in 28:57.2. Darrius Salmond gave Barton its team total as the fifth runner with a time of 29:21.4 – good for 72nd place.
Rounding out the Cougars team was Dodge City freshman Elder Colindres in 74th with a time of 29:26.9 and McPherson sophomore Brady Holler in 76th with a time of 29:28.2.
Also running as an individual was Tyler Thornton, finishing 83rd in a time of 29:54.8. Great Bend freshman Kole Stiner also ran but was unable to finish the race due to an injury.
Next up for Barton will be the NJCAA national meet at Shadow Hills Golf Course in Lubbock, Texas. That meet will take place Nov. 8. Currently Laari has turned sixth best time this season for the NJCAA men according to the Hill-N-Dale performance list.
“Nationals will be (Colby’s) Kinuthia’s last race at the NJCAA level, and I know Sampson really wants to be in front of him, so I am sure he will give it all he has,” Coach Cowles said.