Another race, another dominant win.
Saturday’s regional cross country race in Junction City brought more of the same for the Manhattan High boys’ team, putting them one step closer to their ultimate goal of a state title.
With a third-place finish in the girls’ race, Manhattan will send both teams to the season’s final meet of the year at Rim Rock Farm next week in Lawrence.
“It is always exciting to get both teams to state,” Manhattan coach Susan Melgares said. “I remember the challenge that it has been in the past and I don’t take it for granted that we will have full teams at practice next week.”
Manhattan got another authoritative performance from its boys’ team, which will easily be the favorite in the Class 6A race next weekend. Manhattan placed five in the top six and finished with a team score of 17, well ahead of Wichita North, which took second with a 71. Oddly enough, North has spent most of the year as the No. 2 team in 6A behind the Indians in the coaches poll.
The Indians’ Chris Melgares won the individual title, finishing with a 16:08.18. Behind him were Jackson Schroeder (2nd, 16:18.05), Jack Keeley (3rd, 16:23.73), Isaiah Koppes (5th, 16:37.53) and Josue Alvarado (6th, 16:40.61). Michael Melgares (9th, 17:00.81) and Nick Bandy (10th, 17:03.00) also finished in the top 10 to round out the dominant varsity squad.
“The boys have run to win in every race they have competed this season,” Melgares said. “That isn’t going to change. For them to have such a decisive performance really says a lot, and should give them confidence for next week.”
On the girls’ side, Alaina Schroeder took third overall (14:58.53) to pace the Indians, which finished in third place with 70 points, right behind Maize with 68. Lawrence Free State won the meet easily with a 32 team score
“I was really happy to get the girls through,” Melgares said. “We knew Free State is really strong this year and Maize had already beaten us twice. Those teams were one and two in the last state ranking. The cool thing about today was that Maize only got us by two points. We’re hoping that we’ll continue the trend of improvement next weekend.”
Cara Melgares took seventh place (15:33.24) in the girls’ race to help bolster the score, with Megan Ochoa (10th, 15:57.73), Taylor Efurd (21st, 16:37.05) and Molly Bollman (29th, 16:59.91) rounding out the varsity score. Mackenzie Gwinner (36th, 17:10.51) and Katherine Culbertson (42nd, 17:26.62) ran hard but did not contribute to the varsity score.
Melgares said the course at Milford Lake is picturesque, but tough on runners.
“The JC course is beautiful, with Milford Lake in the background, but it’s challenging,” Melgares said. “There are some hills, including a tough uphill finish stretch, but our kids are familiar with it, they have confidence and run well there.
With a week before the state race, Manhattan will try and prepare as much as it can for the challenge ahead.
“We will do some sharpening work next week,” Melgares said. “Stay relaxed and rest up to prepare for the state meet.”
Manhattan will run in the 6A boys’ race at 12:50, with the girls to follow at 1:05 on Saturday in Lawrence.