LAKE BARTON — After Great Bend’s Paloma Sandoval captured her first-ever cross country title, teammate Connor Griffith completed the Panther sweep at Thursday’s Great Bend Cross Country Invitational at Lake Barton.
Sandoval (21:54.95) was followed by teammate Aubrey Snapp (22:01.57) and fifth-place finisher Baleigh Fry (22:28.27) as the Panthers ran effectively together in a tight pack.
Sandoval’s first career victory was her second-best time behind her fastest time at regionals two years ago. But she considers it her best race in 85-degree heat on a challenging cross country course.
“It’s my second-fastest time, but it’s the best I’ve felt in a race,” Sandoval said. “It was hot, and it’s one of the best runs I’ve ever had.”
Sandoval was pleased she was able to run her best on a hot day.
“I was very surprised,” she said. “At practice, I hadn’t been doing my best. During the race today, I knew I had to be tough and keep going. It was great to see my teamamtes with me. It was very exciting that we ran as a pack and stayed together.”
Snapp’s first time running a 5K, was a terrific surprise.
“I was scared,” she said. “I didn’t know what it was going to be like because I’d never run the 5K before. The first meet, you get out there and compete and see what you can do. It was really good.”
Griffith said his off-season training provided the confidence to compete at a high level. Griffith’s personal best time (17:06.43) beat his 15th-place time place (18:36.9) by more than 90 seconds.
Kerby Depenbusch, the Panthers’ most enthusiastic cheerleader encouraged Connor Griffith every step of the way. Depenbusch, a three-time state qualifier, is recovering from a stress fracture. Depenbusch has placed fifth and seven at the Class 5A state cross country meet.
“I thought I had a chance because coach Lyles Lashley pushed us during the summer,” Griffith said. “I was hoping to stay up with whoever was in first.”
His strategy worked perfectly when Griffith pushed past Salina South’s Keetan Munsell with about 400 meters left in the race after staying right him from the outset.
“My main focus was to win the race, but earning a PR was a big plus,” Griffith said. “I was really pleased with both my time and my finish.”
Great Bend’s other top 15 medalists were Ryan Nicholson, ninth (18:02.0); Sage Cauley, 11th (18:11.62) and Josh Tomlin, 13th (18:16.54). Ray Kuhlman placed 23rd (19:14.51) and Justin Owen finished 29th (19:38.07).
Garden City scored 29 points to beat Great Bend (57) for first place.
GREAT BEND INVITATIONAL
At Lake Barton
GIRLS TEAM TOTALS—1—Garden City 23; 2—McPherson 51; 3—Hays High 61; 4—Salina South 78; 5—Maize South 139
TOP 15 MEDALISTS—1—Paloma Sandoval, GB, 21:54.95; 2—Aubrey Snapp, GB, 22:01.57; 3—Makayla Longoria, GC, 22:03.23; 4—Natalie Hedlund, Mc, 22:05.02; 5—Baleigh Fry, GB, 22:28.27; 6—Georgia Kohlhorst, GC, 22:37.65; 7—Abby Murrell, GC, 22:43.0; 8—Alex Anderson, Wichita SE, 22:43.7;
9—Yesenia Maldonado, Hays, 22:46.34; 10—Parker Atkinson, Hitchinson, 22:46.78;
11—Haley Kraus, SS, 22:51.61; 12—Jacqe Lewton, Hutchinson, 23:01.08; 13—Raegan Linenberger, GC, 23:05.28; 14—Brooke Navarro, GC, 23:11.79; 15—Lexi Williams, Hutchinson, 23:20.42
GREAT BEND—34—LaCora Bryant, 24:59.18
BOYS TEAM TOTALS—1—Garden City 29; 2—Great Bend 57; 3—Hutchinson 101; 4—Salina South 127; 5—Hays High 141; 6—McPherson 145; 7—Wichita SE 158; 8—Maize South 161
TOP 15 MEDALISTS—1—Connor Griffith, GB, 17:06.43; 2—Keetan Munsell, SS, 17:10.94; 3—Javier
Cervantes. GC, 17:27.63; 4—Alex Mora, Hutchinson, 17:34.88; 5—Kam Wildeman, GC, 17:42.17; 6—Sotero Salazar, GC, 17:42.49; 7—Ethan Fisher, GC, 17:43.31; 8—Jesus Quintero Enriquez, GC, 17:56.13; 9—Ryan Nicholson, GB, 18:02.0; 10—Noah Cole, Hutchinson, 18:02.22; 11—Sage Cauley, GB, 18:11.62; 12—Javyn Contreras, GC, 18:13.78; 13—Josh Tomlin, GB, 18:16.54; 14—Dawson VonFeldt, HH, 18:22.53; 15—Mario Bustillos, GC, 18:42.46
GREAT BEND—23—Ray Kuhlman, 19:14.51; 29—Justin Owen, 19:38.07