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Panthers' valiant effort earns runner-up trophy
Top six runners improve their time
gb state cc
The Great Bend Panther girls earn the runner-up 5A state cross country trophy.


LAWRENCE — Great Bend’s girls earned a shiny KSHSAA 5A cross country trophy with improved times from 2022. 

Great Bend’s best effort on a bone-chilling morning earned the runner-up 5A state cross country trophy behind defending state champion Lenexa St. James. 

The Thunder (68) finished behind the Panthers’ first three runners. But St. James earned the championship trophy and a 10-point victory behind their fourth and fifth runners.

The Panthers’ top six finishers all improved their state times from 2022 at Rim Rock Farms. The Panthers finished a 3-year run with three regional and three Western Athletic Conference titles and second, third and fifth-place 5A state cross country finishes. 

Fifth-place medalist Addy Nicholson (19:01.7) improved by 16 seconds to break the Rim Rock school course record. Eighth-place medalist Marissa Boone (19:11.1) improved 21 seconds. Sophomore Sienna Smith earned 13th-medalist honors (19:37.6) and improved 1:22. Karen Razo was the first Panther runner to break 20 minutes at Rim Rock.

“It’s a special group of girls. We had four girls who broke 20 minutes on that course,” said Great Bend coach Lyles Lashley. “I was happy for them. It’s good to see that improvement from last year, and when we ran Rim Rock earlier this year.”  

Lashley was disappointed for a split second when he realized the Panthers had narrowed an 80-point gap against St. James to 10 points. He believed the girls exhibited the heart of a champion.

“We lost by 80 points last year with the same top five runners counting for us with Makenzie Premer going down,” Lashley said. “I was proud of the girls for fighting. They gave it everything they had and laid it on the course. The improvements they made from last year time-wise and place-wise were amazing, a testament to thei hard work.”

Other time improvements were 29th place Morgan Beckwith (20:06.2), 1:37; 35th-place Eliana Beckham (20:31.1), 3 seconds; and 64th-place Kate Welcher (21:36.5), 1:24. Makenzie Premer (21:59.3) placed 75th, but did not compete at state in 2022.

“Addy and Marissa made a heck of a charge,” Lashley said. “That’s amazing for Sienna Smith placing 13th as a sophomore.”

The Panthers’ next trio also made strides.

“Morgan Beckwith hadn’t broken 21 minutes two weeks ago, but she stepped it up and ran 20-flat at regionals and 20:03 at state,” Lashley said. “Eliana Beckham went out too hard, but you can’t fault anyone for taking a chance. She was excited and ready to go, and still ran 3 seconds faster than last year.”

The Panthers’ seventh runner Makenzie Premer faced the bad luck of battling an on-the-course health condition. Lashley suspects Premer’s heart rate was too low for maximum racing. Lashley was amazed that Premer finished the 5-kilometer race despite being forced to slow down.

“When you start, you want your heart rate at 120-130 beats per minute and go from 120 to 200,” Lashley said. “When she got going she (probably) started at 70-80 beats per minute. Her body went into shock a little bit.”

Two of the Thunder’s four top 20 finishers showed improvement from 2022. Sixth-place Katie Price (19:03.7) improved 36 seconds and 11th-place Katelyn Menghini (19:21.28) improved 42 seconds; but 16th-place Quinn Hays (19:41.9) was 22 seconds slower and 20th-place Annie Wilken (19:52.2) was 11 seconds slower. 

GREAT BEND BOYS — Great Bend sophomore Tavon Stroup (17:17.3) placed 50th in the 5A boys division. Stroup started with a brisk pace, which eventually hurt his time.

“Tavon went out fast, and slowed a little bit after the first mile-and-a-half,” Lashley said. “But he came out and fought and ran a faster time than earlier in the season at Rim Rock.”

Lashley believes Stroup has seen his potential the next two years.

“Tavon matured as the season went through. He ran smarter races,” he said. “The talent is there. We can be talking about a top 20 state finish in the future.”  


TEAM SCORES—1—Lenexa St. James 68; 2—Great Bend 78; 3—St. Thomas Aquinas 103; 4—DeSoto 125; 5—Blue Valley Southwest 152; 6—Topeka Seaman 171; 7—Andover 175 

TOP 20 MEDALISTS—1—Katelyn Rupe, SC, 17:36.11; 2—Kaylie Shultz, SC, 17:58.88; 3—Rylin Miller, Seaman, 18:36.73; 4—Isabella Ross, BVSW, 18:58.33; 5—Addy Nicholson, GB, 19:01.66; 6—Katie Price, St. James, 19:03.63; 7—Madelyn Wallace, Andover, 19:04.35; 8—Marissa Boone, GB, 19:11.07; 9—Arely Maldonado, Hays, 19:18.16; 10—Sophia Spinello, Aquinas, 19:18.68; 11—Katelyn Menghini, St. James, 19:21.28; 12—Alex Laurie, BVSW, 19:36.96; 13—Sienna Smith, GB, 19:37.56; 14—Avery Reynolds, BVSW, 19:38.79; 15—Addison Gillespie, DeSoto, 19:40.31; 16—Quinn Hays, St. James, 19:41.82; 17—Brooke Bundt, DeSoto, 19:43.96; 18—Amelia Hermann, KMC, 19:45.09; 19—Lilly Mauk, Aquinas, 19:49.21; 20—Annie Wilken, St. James, 19:52.11

GREAT BEND—29—Morgan Beckwith, 20:06.2; 35—Eliana Beckham, 20:31.1; 64—Kate Welcher, 21:36.5; 75—Makenzie Premer, 21:59.3