In Manhattan’s quest for four straight league titles, head coach Susan Melgares knew the girls’ team was going to have the toughest battle.
With one of her top runners in Megan Ochoa out with illness, the rest of the team was going to have to step up and make up the difference.
After watching the race unfold, Melgares and her coaches weren’t convinced they’d done enough, but the Indians finished in first with 58 points ahead of Junction City, who took second with 65.
“Watching the race, all the Manhattan coaches thought we didn’t win just by looking at the race,” Melgares said. “I thought we could be third, maybe in fourth. Afterward, the Hayden coach said congratulations and I still didn’t think we won.”
Eventually, Melgares got the word that her team won. Combined with another dominant effort from the boys’ team, the Indians managed to sweep both league titles for the fourth consecutive year, while sweeping both individual champions for the second straight year.
Melgares said Saturday’s league championship and the next two weeks at regionals and state are the meets her team has been preparing for since the end of last season.
“We’re approaching that second peak of the season,” Melgares said. “We had a smaller one in the middle where we were aiming to do well in those meets. But this is what we’ve been training for. The summer goals we set were about these meets. I felt like the kids really competed well. We had a nice pack. Our two through five runners a good portion through the race.”
On the girls’ side, Alaina Schroeder won the girls’ race in a time of 14:52.26, with Cara Melgares taking fourth (15:39.46). Taylor Efurd (12th, 16:42.42), Molly Bollman (20th, 16:52.40) and Mackenzie Gwinner (21st, 16:52.74) rounding out the team score for the Indians. Katherine Culbertson (27th, 17:10.60) and Maddie Ross (37th, 17:35.78) also had good races but didn’t count towards the final team tally.
“We knew Megan was sick, so at that point it was going to become much more challenging,” Melgares said. “We had many girls, Taylor, Molly, McKenzie that have done some switching around, but ended up being our three, four and five runners today. And they ran fierce. And finished fierce. We were passing people late — it was another instance where we won the race in the last part of it. It was definitely fun to get that win.”
The Manhattan boys’ team improved upon its finish last year, with only Washburn Rural’s Justin Montney breaking up the Indians sweep as a team. Chris Melgares won the race (16:06.78), with Josue Alvarado (2nd, 16:26.52), Jack Keeley (3rd, 16:26.83) and Jackson Schroeder (4th, 16:27.34) all finishing in order. Isaiah Koppes (6th, 16:51.86) rounded out the scores for Manhattan, with Nick Bandy (8th, 17:02.49) and Michael Melgares (12th, 17:26.29) running solid races but not counting towards Manhattan’s team score.