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Manhattan sweeps league meet

By Grant Guggisberg

Saturday was a day of sweeps for the Manhattan High cross country teams.

Running their home course at Warner Park as hosts of the Centennial League meet, the Indians won both team titles and both individual titles, backing up their top-five state rankings.

But with thunderstorms rolling through Manhattan just hours before the races were scheduled and an ominous forecast for the rest of the day, just getting the races in became an issue.

“The mud wasn’t too bad - it could have been a lot worse,” Manhattan coach Susan Melgares said. “We don’t mind a little bit of mud in cross country. The hard thing was not really knowing until 8:30 if we were going to run the meet at all.”

Once the races got going, everything went Manhattan’s way.

The boys were especially dominant, winning by 54 points over the two teams tied for second-place behind them with a 22.

“The guys scoring 22 points - that beats anything we’ve done before at the Centennial League,” Melgares said.

The girls’ race was more competitive, with Manhattan taking first with a team score of 41, 10 points better than second-place Washburn Rural.

“The girls had a little bit of a challenge there from Hayden and Washburn,” Melgares said. “But we had kids step up and run tough.”

Chris Melgares won the boys’ race in a time of 16:40.61, with James Leblow right behind in second in a time of 16:53.67. Alaina Schroeder won the girls’ race in a time of 15:19.45. Chris Melgares’ win marks the first time Manhattan has won the individual Centennial League title, much less having its top two finish at the top.

The junior was quick to point to the team title as most important.

“It really just means that I helped out my team,” he said of the win. “We wanted to get as many in the top five as we could. We got three there and our next couple guys were right there, so it was really cool to see us pretty much dominate the whole team race.”

Michael Melgares (17:09.13) finished in fifth place, with Isaiah Koppes (17:18.49) right behind in sixth. Isaac Blankenau (17:30.14) finished in eighth, with Cale Benne (17:49.14) in 16th place. Nick Bandy (18:06.77) rounded out Manhattan’s top seven with a 25th place finish.

Leblow was happy with the way Manhattan competed, but is still focused on his ultimate goals.

“We have to keep our focus on regionals and state,” he said. “This is just one step on the way. It’s my senior year and I’m proud of these guys, because we worked harder than everybody else out there.”

On the girls’ side, Schroeder took top honors but Christina Wankum finished in third in a time of 15:54.04. Megan Ochoa (16:46.14) took 10th, with Emily Van Natta (16:50.63) in 12th. Toula Sweeney (17:01.99) finished in 15th, Emilie Liebe (17:11.70) taking 19th. Lauren Wankum (17:20.91) rounded out the Indians’ top seven with a 23rd place finish.

Schroeder said the inclement weather ended up being a positive in her mind.

“It almost makes it more relaxed,” she said of the weather. “It’s not perfect conditions, so you just go out there and run.”

Spirits were high after the race, as the Indians celebrated this milestone before beginning to prepare for the coming weeks at regionals and state.

“We’re all really happy,” Schroeder said. “The team — everyone is in a great mood right now. It’s awesome.”

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