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Panther runners eye state hardware
kerby depenbusch1A
Kerby Depenbusch


LAWRENCE — Great Bend’s regional champion Kerby Depenbusch (16:10.3) is the top returning finisher from 5A state cross country after his fifth-place finish in 2016.
Depenbusch (16:00.0) and teammate Connor Griffith (16:31.0) placed first and second at the Wichita regional.
Two-time state medalist Depenbusch will lead the Panthers at 10:35 a.m. Saturday at Rim Rock Farms. The forecast is for a high of 50 degrees.
“I have lots of confidence. I’m going to give it a shot,” Depenbusch said. “I’ve run it multiple times, twice a year. I’m comfortable with the course. I felt good running at Rim Rock this year. That’s one of the best races I’ve run there.”
St. Thomas Aquinas regional champion Ethan Marshall (15:42.9) placed 41st last year. Maize South’s Bruce Merriman is also a 5A contender.
“You always try to run an even-paced race,” Depenbusch said. “Usually, at Rim Rock, you get out fast. I ran an even race at Rim Rock and that helped me this year.”
Great Bend coach Lyles Lashley has confidence his top two runners will set an aggressive pace.
“We have two guys up front with Kerby Depenbusch and Connor Griffith,” said Lashley. “Kerby turned the tables on Maize’s Nathan Jones who beat him at Junction City. Kerby ran a smart race. He’s a savvy runner who puts himself in a good situation. Kerby’s goal all along is to win it. On a great day, he could win the thing.”
Griffith is also a top 5A medalist contender.
“Connor is race savvy,” Lashley said. “He listens to the plan and executes it well. He’s enjoyed a strong summer. I look for good things from him as well.”
Eight-time state cross country champion St. Thomas Aquinas is heavily favored to win its fourth straight boys title.
The Panthers won their Rim Rock Crimson division Sept. 23. Depenbusch (16:24.5) was followed by runner-up Griffith (16:29.6), Sage Cauley (17:31.5) and Joshua Tomlin (17:34.6). Ryan Nicholson missed the Rim Rock meet.
“I like our chances of doing well,” Lashley said. “Our next three ran around 17:30 at Rim Rock. Our pack needs to be around 30th place if we have a chance for a trophy. We can make a shot for a trophy run if we can get those guys around 17:15, a 15-second improvement.”
The Rim Rock course features hilly terrain, which favors the Panthers’ style of training.
“I love the course because it plays into what we do all year,” Lashley said. “We run a lot of hills during the season. Our guys love to run in cold weather. They are excited.”
Depenbusch said his teammates will perform well.
“Our team has run amazing,” he said. “I believe we’ll turn some heads at state.

GREAT BEND (regional results)—1—Kerby Depenbusch, 16:00.0; 5—Connor Griffith, 16:31; 19—Ryan Nicholson, 17:22; 20—Josh Tomlin, 17:24; 22—Sage Cauley, 17:25; 30—Collin Hammond, 17:50; 46—Ray Kuhlman, 19:01
GREAT BEND (regional results)—8—Aubrey Snapp, 20:34; 11—Paloma Sandoval, 20:58

2006—Sloane Kern—5A
1982—Stephen Spillar—6A
1981—Stephen Spillar—6A
2001—Great Bend—5A 
2000—Great Bend—5A
1999—Great Bend—5A