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MHS cross country ready to compete

By Joel Jellison

After working hard throughout the winter and summer months, members of the Manhattan High cross country teams finally got to show off their work on Saturday in the Running of the Pink and Blue at Bishop Stadium.

The runs also gave a good look into how the teams will look this year, including who will run in the front seven for each group in the Manhattan Invitational on Sept. 3 at Warner Park.

On the boys’ side, Chris Melgares was first at 16:48.22, while James Leblow was at 17:27.37. Daniel St. Amand was third, Anfernee Kelly was fourth and Konner Cool was fifth. Keith Naranjo was sixth and Nick Bandy was seventh.

Manhattan High coach Susan Melgares said she was pleased with the way her boys’ team looked.

“We had seven under 18 minutes, which is really good,” she said. “Our pack time was just a little over a minute through five, so for five kilometers that is very solid, and I look for those to close as we proceed. This is the best summer training we’ve ever had, especially on the guys’ side.”

Melgares said after the boys’ team just missed state after finishing outside of the top three at home last year, it served as motivation for the returners to see that it wouldn’t happen that way again.

“I know nobody really enjoyed the regionals and how they turned out last year and I think that did fuel a lot of winter training and summer training,” she said. “You think about that and how you felt on that day and you want to change things, so I think that was a big motivator for several of the guys.”

Melgares said she is impressed with the way the guys have worked together on the offseason. Even more impressive was the strides that were made by runners like Naranjo, who has progressed from the lowest part of the team as a freshman, to a captain as a senior.

“Keith is one who has really improved over the years,” she said. “He tells me, but I don’t remember this, that he started as the last person on the team. He has really remained motivated and worked hard, and all those guys aren’t just running together, but they get along really well together too.”

The second seven guys were Brady Hendricks, Zane Hayden, Chris Davis, Michael Melgares, Issac Blankneau, Nick Heldt and Zach Minton.

All seven of those runners also finished at times under 20 minutes, and Melgares said they are runners who would be good enough to make up a varsity team at some other schools.

“Our kids could run on a lot of varsities,” she said. “We will be solid there and a lot of them were out in the summer too, and I just love when that hard work pays off.”

On the girls’ side, sophomore newcomer Alaina Schroeder took the win at a time of 16:47.16, while freshman Megan Ochoa was second at 16:53.61. Caitlin Heldt was third and Emily Van Natta was fourth. Katherine Culbertson was fifth, Lauren Wankum was sixth and Emilie Liebe was seventh. Six of the top seven runners were sophomores.

Melgares said although their varsity girls are young, they do have a lot of experience.

“Caitlin, Emily Van Natta and Alaina Schroeder have all been at state competitions before,” she said. “Emily has been at several, Alaina is new, but she was third in the 2-mile last year in track, so they have had experience in high level meets, and some of them are people who have worked hard and risen through the ranks.”

Noticeably absent from the race were a couple of juniors, including Jessica Smith, who Melgares said did not run due to health reasons. She said she expects her and the others to be at full strength soon.

The second seven out of the girls race were Alyssa Smith, Maddie Ross, Taylor Efurd, Josie Rozell, Kayla Faust, Katy Van Nevel and Olivia Gehring.

The boys’ race came out a 28-28 tue between the Pink and Blue teams, but Chris Davis 10th place finish as the sixth runner for the Pink team decided them as the winners.

The girls’ race was won by the Pink team, 24-31. Melgares said she likes to keep the races close, and she will be looking to even it up next time around.

“The way the team selection went, I’m going to have to look because their were some surprises,” she said. “I like to keep it close so I feel like I can feel good about part of this until next year, and I can close the gap then.”

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