For whatever reason, the annual trip to Joplin, Missouri, for the Southern Stampede Invitational has coincided with tough running conditions the last few years.
Between heavy rains and unbearable heat, the elements have limited how good some of the times have looked in the multi-state event.
This year, with fair temperatures and sunny skies, the times dropped.
“After one hot and muggy year, one rainout and a flood last year,” Manhattan coach Susan Melgares said, “we finally had perfect course weather and great competition.”
Facing stiffer competition in Joplin, the boys’ team rose to the challenge, placing three runners in the top 10 and six in the top 15 to cruise to a top finish in the team standings. Manhattan finished with a 39, with second-place Bentonville (Ark.) far behind with 113 points.
Chris Melgares set a new school record with his third-place finish in a time of 15:38.91, breaking Reid Buchanan’s record of 15:46 set in 2010. Behind him were Michael Melgares (8th, 16:00.14), Jack Keeley (10th, 16:02.60), Josue Alvarado (12th, 16:16.10) and Jackson Schroeder (13th, 16:16.91). Despite excellent runs from Isaiah Koppes (14th, 16:20.13) and Nick Bandy (25th, 16:42.91), their scores did not count toward the Indians’ team score because each team takes only its top five times.
“Very notable, the boys averaged 16:02 through five,” Melgares said. “They made up a lot of ground in the second half of the race. We were not winning after one mile, but we were winning at the end. We still have work to do — this is an awesome achievement. We’ll enjoy it, but we have a lot of work to do.”
On the girls’ side, Alaina Schroeder took fourth overall in a time of 18:26.85 to lead the way for Manhattan. Cara Melgares (13th, 19:21.28) and Megan Ochoa (15th, 19:29.58) were both in the top 15 for the Indians, with Katherine Culbertson (78th, 20:54.12) and Taylor Efurd (88th, 21:09.91) rounding out the team score. Molly Bollman (100th, 21:23.74) and Rachel Beach (117th, 21:36.95) rounded out the varsity group.
All of the girls’ times are inflated because the girls ran a 5K on Saturday instead of the usual 4K that the boys run.
Manhattan finished third in the team standings with a score of 179. Cor Jesu Academy (Mo.) took first with a 145, with Bentonville (Ark.) in second with a 174.
Based on how well the teams performed against much tougher schools, Melgares was pleased with both teams after the races.
Manhattan travels to Lawrence to run at Rim Rock next week.