BY JIM MISUNAS
WAMEGO – The breaks swung Ellinwood’s way for the Eagles’ second 2A girls state cross country championship at Wamego Country Club.
The St. John boys were a tough-luck 1A state runner-up by one point 42-43 to state champion Sharon Springs-Wallace County.
The Ellinwood girls scored 102 points to edge past WaKeeney-Trego (110) and Bennington (127).
Ellinwood coach Andrew Cherry treated his girls to a big surprise when he announced the results.
“There were lot of tears, hugs and applause,” Cherry said. “It was a nice surprise, but I knew we had a chance. Things worked in our favor.”
Ellinwood’s Erin Hammeke (20:40.5) improved 19 seconds at state to place fourth and Ashtin Klepper (21;15.9) earned 11th to give the Eagles a pair of top 20 medalists.
“It was my best race. It was beautiful running conditions,” Hammeke said. “It started out super-fast, and it was hard to stay mentally tough. The pace finally settled in after that start.”
Eight of the top 20 medalists ran as individuals, so it was tricky to guess team points.
Cherry wasn’t sure, but knew points would be close. Sarah Hammeke (22:27.7) finished 33rd; Courtney Cook (23:35.4) 49th; and Lauren Petz (24:53.5) 64th.
Gracie Schlessiger (25;12.7) finished 71st.
It was Petz who delivered an inspiring finish to pick up valuable team points.
“Lauren ran the best race she has all year. It was a nice finish,” Cherry said. “Lauren took off and had a strong finish in her last mile.”
Sarah Hammeke and Courtney Cook were ninth-graders on Ellinwood’s state champion in 2015.
“It’s pretty special to have Sarah and Courtney be part of two state champions,” Cherry said. “The support we received really helped the girls. We saw football and volleyball players, parents and grandparents here.”
Trego’s Helen Giefer (19:30.0) earned medalist honors.
1A BOYS – The St. John boys earned a 2A state championship two years ago by one point. This time, the math didn’t work in their favor.
The Tigers featured fifth-place medalist A.J. Miller (17:39.7) who improved 15 seconds and 13th-place medalist Mason Osborne (18:08.1).
“It’s a hard course with a lot of hills. This is the fastest time I’ve run at this course,” Miller said. “I did good, but it’s a team game, so we needed all of us out there competing. As a team, we ran well.”
Osborne matched his expectations.
“We competed hard and ran our best today,” Osborne said. “There’s not much you can say when you get beat by one point. We tried our best and put forth our best effort. It’s a tough course. We ran good times.”
Wrangler Walker (18:46.6) placed 23rd and Trey Fisher (18:53.6) earned 25th, narrowly losing a place to Axtell’s Simon Schmitz (18:53.6), who was ruled a fraction ahead of Fisher.
That’s how close it was.
“Trey ran a great race and lost a photo finish. We were right there,” said St. John coach Joel Delp. “We didn’t come out on the right side today. I’m proud of our guys. Our boys were disappointed to come that close. Winning at the state level is difficult and it doesn’t take much to change the outcome."
Delp knew it’d be a tight team race.
“It’s a great lesson that every point and every place matters,” Delp said. "Finishing as the state runner-up is a great accomplishment.”
The St. John Tigers won seven meets, losing only to 4A state champion Buhler and 1A state champion Wallace County.
"We're going to miss our seniors Mason Osborne, Wrangler Walker, Cashe McVey, Hunter Hanson and Ethan Huston. They were great runners and outstanding leaders. They will continue to encourage our team next season. Our boys and girls teams had a great season. They’re outstanding individuals who are willing to work hard. They do a great job of representing their school and community.”
Delp appreciated the town's support.
"A large group of St. John supporters cheered on the Tigers," he said. "We greatly appreciate all of the support that we have received from our parents, school and community this season.”
Stafford's Cayden Brozek broke through with a 11th-place state medal in 17:59.9.
Macksville’s boys placed ninth. Running were Jacob Suiter, 50th, 19:59.8: Andrew Cross, 53rd, 20:04.8; gabe Woolf, 64th, 20:58.9; Kyler Evans, 71st, 21:41.1;Trey Britton, 72nd, 21:41.5; Grant Frank, 82nd, 24:18.7; and Harley Bladske, 83rd, 24:20.0.
1A GIRLS – The Macksville girls nearly snared a trophy, but placed fourth. Abigail Ibarra (22:32.8) earned the 20th state medal. Also running were Itzel Garcia, 21st, 22:35.8; Karen Hall, 45th, 23:37.7; Krystal Marquez, 54th, 25:29.2; Lydia Mendez, 66th, 26;31.1; Caren Holguin, 69th, 26:57.5; and Kaylee Hottovy, 79th, 28:57.1.
“This course tested us. The girls ran as well as they expected,” said Macksville coach Mike Hullman. “We beat all the regional teams that finished ahead of us. Our fourth-best runner helped us gain those additional points.”
2A BOYS – Ellinwood’s Jonathan Whisnant (18:06.4) earned the 19th 2A state medal.