LAWRENCE – Chapter one is in the books. And if the opening chapter is any indication the remaining chapters should be extremely entertaining.
Great Bend High School’s Kerby Depenbusch completed his freshman season with a seventh place finish at the Class 5A state championship Friday at Rim Rock Farms in Lawrence. By finishing in the top 20 he earns all-state honors.
Depenbusch was the highest placing freshman at the meet. The only finishers ahead of the standout freshman were four seniors and a pair of juniors.
“Kerby looked strong throughout the race,” Coach Todd Kaiser said. “The next few years he has an opportunity to put his name in the record books at Great Bend High School.”
Great Bend had a pair of girls earn a spot in the state meet as wel. Mary Williams and Karen Razo both finished in the middle of the pack in an extremely competitive race to cap off successful seasons.
Depenbusch navigated the 5K course in a time of 16:30.5 just 3.5 seconds from a top five effort. Blue Valley West senior Stuart McNutt blew away the field with a winning time of 15:24.5. Teammate Connor Bost finished well behind McNutt in second with a time of 16:13.0. Salina South senior Tristan Irish was third in 16:20.5 - just 10 seconds ahead of Depenbusch.
His time was the third best ever by a Panther at state meet at the Rim Rock course, bested only by Sloane Kern in 2006 (16:25) and 2005 (16:27). The 2006 season Kern was the state champion.
Depenbusch started the race in fourth place and held the spot for a good portion of the race. But as the runners came up the final steep heel Depenbusch was in 12th with a half mile left. He found that next gear up that hill, passing five runners to finish seventh.
The 7th place effort was the highest place by a freshman in Great Bend history. Depenbusch has a chance to become just the third runner at GBHS to earn all-state honors four straight years. He would join Cameron Chambers and Tanner Marshall with that distinction.
In all 16 freshmen earned a trip to the state meet with Depenbusch besting them all but one by at least 30 seconds. Only Hunter Henderson of Shawnee Heights was closer than 30 seconds, placing 27th with a time of 16:58.2.
“Kerby is a hard worker,” Coach Kaiser said. “He is dedicated to his craft and I expect him to only get better the next three years.”
St. Thomas Aquinas won the 5A title with a team total of 58 followed by Blue Valley West with 81. Western Athletic Conference foe Liberal took ninth with 222 points.
On the girls side Williams closed out her career at Great Bend by placing 57th in the 104 girl field. She ran the 4K course in 17:00.4. Razo, a sophomore, was right behind Williams in 60th with a time of 17:07.3.
“The girls race was extremely competitive,” Coach Kaiser said. “Mary ran 17-flat and was 57th. To have that many girls run in the 15’s and 16’s on that course tells you just how competitive is was. Both our girls ran really well.”
For Williams it closed out her career at GBHS in cross country while Razo earned her second trip to state as a sophomore.
“I am very happy for them,” Coach Kaiser said. “Mary got an opportunity to finish her career at state and Karen has made two years in a row. They both laid it on the line.”
St. Thomas Aquinas senior Emily Downing edged freshman teammate Margaret Pigott for individual crown by one second. Downing ran a 15:06.2 while Pigott finished in 15:07.2. The two led St. Thomas Aquinas to a dominating team title with 19 points finishing 1-2-4-5-7. St. James Academy was second well back at 103. Maize South was third at 104.