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GBHS Lady Panthers claim 3rd straight Cross Country 5A Regional Title, Tavon Stroup qualifies for State
Panthers captured their third consecutive 5A regional title by 50 points.
2023 Cross Country Regional Champions
Great Bend High School cross country team celebrate after winning the 2023 KSHSAA 5A Regional title at Lake Barton Golf Course in Great Bend on Saturday morning. Pictured from the left are Teah King, Teegan Guerra, Morgan Beckwith, Marissa Boone, GBHS XC coach Lyles Lashley, Addy Nicholson, Kate Welcher, Eliana Beckham, Sienna Smith, and Bella Long. - photo by Hugo Gonzalez

LAKE BARTON — Great Bend’s third-place regional medalist Addy Nicholson led five of the top eight finishers as the Panthers captured their third consecutive 5A regional title by 50 points. The Panthers accomplished the feat without No. 2 runner Makenzie Premer, who bypassed the meet to compete in the substate volleyball meet.

Nicholson felt Premer’s presence throughout the race. 

“I ran my own race and finished the race where I wanted,” Nicholson said. “But I missed having my side partner Kenzie (Premer) with me. At the beginning, I could see her, and I said, ‘yes.’ Everyone stepped up and ran better than we expected. I’m very pleased. We’re excited for the state meet. Everything was good today.” 

The Panther girls feature six runners with state experience at Rim Rock Farms. The Panthers have finished third and fifth in 5A the past two years. 

Third-place Nicholson, 19:06.0; led a pride of Panthers across the finish line. Nicholson was followed by fifth-place Marissa Boone, 19:23.16; sixth-place Sienna Smith, 19:41.91; seventh-place Morgan Beckwith, 20:00.51; and eighth-place Eliana Beckham, 20:12.17. 

“This was my best time at Lake Barton,” Boone said. “I felt stronger and more prepared for this race. My second and third miles were really important. The last mile is always tough to finish. Our team was excited, and ran a strong race today. We all tried to meet individual goals rather than trying to run in a pack today.” 

From the year’s first meet at Lake Barton, time improvements were Beckwith, 1:34; Smith, 1:20; Boone, 49 seconds; Nicholson, 48 seconds; and Beckham, 46 seconds. 

“The girls are your 3-peat regional champions,” said Great Bend coach Lyles Lashley. “Addy Nicholson set another school course record. All the girls ran lights out. The girls’ school record on the course was 19:43 and the team average today was 19:41. Morgan Beckwith stepped up big-time, and ran a big lifetime PR.” 

Salina Central’s defending state champion Katelyn Rupe (17:21.18) cruised to 5A regional medalist cross country honors ahead of teammate Kaylie Shultz. Rupe (18:02.05). Rupe won the 5A state meet by 2:25 last year. 

Four top 20 state medalists return for defending 5A champion Lenexa St. James, which scored 31 team points with six of the top 11 runners at the Topeka regional. 

“Our expectation is to compete to the best of our ability,” Lashley said. “We’ll match up and do what we can to bring home a big trophy. St. James is the favorite until you beat them at the state meet.” 

Great Bend’s Tavon Stroup delivered a spectacular career-best fifth place finish (17:03.26) to qualify for the 5A state cross country state meet.

 “Tavon Stroup is heading to state,” Lashley said. “Tavon has matured and learned how to race. He ran smart and took care of business. He ran conservative and made sure he qualified for state.” 

Rounding out the Panther finishers were 20th-place Braylon Moore, 18:14.59; 27thplace Bradon Suppes, 18:43.82; 36th-place Anthony Lawrence, 19:09.04; and 49th-place Parker Coleman, 20:14.77. Time improvements from the first meet Lawrence, 2:02; Suppes, 1:26; Moore, 1:18 and Stroup, 1:15. 

“I was happy. Braylon Moore and Bradon Suppes ran awesome races in their last-ever race,” Lashley said. “Braylon ran 26 minutes and Bradon 23 in their first freshman meet. Today, they ran 18:14.59 and 18:43.82.”