Hosting the first cross country meet of the season has its perks.
For the Manhattan Indians, running a course they’ve practiced many times helped propel them over the hills and valleys at Warner Park Saturday, as the boy’s team took first place and the girls were a close second behind Lawrence.
Head coach Susan Melgares said tough conditions, including those hills, were tough on everyone.
“Saw a lot of kids really battling,” she said. “The conditions were really challenging today, and that’s cross country. You expect to have challenging conditions. But with the heat and the hills, we were really still battling.
“You can see their faces, they’re tired, and there’s a long way to go and they’re still out there fighting.”
Leading the way for the boys was junior Chris Melgares, who finished first overall in 16:50. Taking third was senior James Leblow with a time of 17:07.94. Michael Melgares (17:25.95) and Isaiah Koppes (17:26.34) were not far behind, finishing sixth and seventh. Sophomore Isaac Blankenau (18:11.81) rounded out the boy’s medalists in 20th place.
The boy’s team finished with a score of 37, which was 20 points ahead of second-place Wamego. Topeka Seaman finished third in the team standings with a score of 91.
“I thought it was an awesome start to the season,” Melgares said. “For the guys to win – they haven’t done that since 2008. So that is a really nice kudos to them. Working hard, having four guys in the top seven is just huge and very exciting to see their hard work pay off.”
On the girl’s side, junior Alaina Schroeder finished first overall in a time of 15:26.14. Freshman Christina Wankum (16:48.42) finished fifth overall in her Manhattan cross country debut. Megan Ochoa (17:19.42) and Lauren Wankum (17:22.54) finished in 12th and 14th place, respectively.
The Indians finished second in the team standings with a score of 53, while Lawrence won with a 51. Senior Emily Van Natta won the JV race with a time of 17:09, which would have been good for ninth in the varsity race, enough points difference to beat Lawrence.
“Girls also placing second was really good in a tight battle with Lawrence,” Melgares said. “We had a quick JV time that might have helped us in the ‘A’ race, but as it was, to be in such a tight race with Lawrence – one of the top teams in the state – you can’t complain.
“We’re not trying to peak on Labor Day weekend. We want to peak at the end.”
After putting in a ton of work over the winter and summer, both teams are poised for solid seasons. Melgares said she didn’t have too many surprises, even though this is the first meet of the year.
“I expected the kids to be running strong,” she said. “They’ve been doing the work, so it’s neat to see it get validated here.”
The Indians continue their season with a trip to Emporia next Saturday.